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Identifying and Shaping Existing Workplace Culture

Alicia Wilde

Organizational culture can have a serious impact on the bottom line. According to an often-cited study by Harvard Business School professors, companies with “performance-enhancing cultures” saw a staggering 682% revenue growth over an eleven-year period. But, as Deloitte has reported, fewer than one-third of executives really understand their company’s culture, despite 86% believing it to be of great importance. Pinpointing and shaping workplace culture clearly isn’t something the C-suite can, or should, do single-handedly. This is where HR steps in. For new HR teams, it’s essential to start off on the right foot. Here’s how to assess and influence your organization’s culture to establish a positive and long-lasting one.

Beyond the Beanbag Chair

Company culture is about much more than beanbag chairs and company-sponsored happy hours. As defined by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), organizational culture “consists of shared beliefs and values established by leaders and then communicated and reinforced through various methods, ultimately shaping employee perceptions, behaviors and understanding.” It’s all about the value systems your company upholds and acts upon.

While fun office benefits can be a manifestation of these value systems, arbitrary perks that aren’t grounded in strongly-held beliefs don’t mean anything. In many cases, they’re just distractions from underlying cultural shortcomings. The last thing you want to see is a group of disgruntled employees lounging around the office flex space, fiercely resenting their employment with you. To get ahead of positively shaping workplace culture, you have to articulate your company’s value systems first.

Defining Core Values

Even without writing them down, all companies hold and demonstrate certain values. As SHRM explains, these show up socially, materially and ideologically. Social culture can be seen in how colleagues speak to and about each other and how supervisors relate to their direct reports. You can examine your values and culture in a material sense by looking at the goods or services you create. And any mottos or ideals expressed around the office demonstrate your values in an ideological sense. When defining organizational values, take stock of these three aspects of your company’s culture. Dig deep and speak with a variety of constituents for a 360-degree perspective on your existing culture.

You might find that certain beliefs are fundamental to the way you do business, while others are holding you back. Find out which values work and which ones don’t. Work with senior leadership to articulate and, if necessary, rewrite your core values. Put them into words and refine the phrasing until it feels right.

Reinforcing a Positive Culture

Once you’ve codified your values, think strategically about how to get these across in a meaningful way. As SHRM’s definition points out, culture starts with leadership and trickles down throughout the rest of the company. For this reason, the C-suite and HR teams must act as role models, living out the values you’ve identified as central to your company culture. Human resources professionals can exhibit these values in a variety of ways. You can start by celebrating behaviors and achievements that reflect core values in action. In the long term, work to align benefits and rewards with your value systems and develop interview questions that assess cultural fit.


Achieving a spectacular company culture takes time and concentrated effort. But here are some tips new HR teams should remember when they begin shaping workplace culture:

  • First, work with leadership to articulate your organizational values.
  • Communicate these values across the company and lead by example.
  • Ground any perks and benefits in your company’s values.

Request a free JazzHR demo to find out how automation tools can save your team time and energy, so you can focus on cultivating a positive workplace culture.

Alicia Wilde


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