How Organizational Culture Influences Employee Behavior

Explore how organizational culture shapes employee behavior, with insights on improving engagement, innovation, and open communication for a thriving workplace.

Matthew Reeves

CEO of Together

Published on 

November 30, 2023

Updated on 

Time to Read

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65% of millennials and 52% of Gen Xers prioritize organizational culture over salary when measuring their job satisfaction.

Your organizational culture determines the kind of candidates you attract, how long they stay with you, and their level of engagement and performance while they work with you. It is the single most powerful factor that determines the growth of your organization.

What is organizational culture?

Organizational culture defines the shared values, beliefs, and behaviors that shape how employees act in a company. It's seen in how leaders handle crises and how teams meet new challenges. Organizational culture can either be positive or negative.

  • A positive work culture is characterized by supportive leadership, open communication, and shared values between the employer and employees. It results in high engagement, improved well-being for employees, and high productivity.
  • A negative work culture is marked by a lack of support from the leadership, poor communication, and a mismatch between employer and employee values. It results in diminished employee morale, and an environment that often leads to high stress, low engagement, and increased turnover.

HR professionals, managers, and leaders must have a thorough understanding of organizational culture as it drives recruitment, retention, brand identity, and employee engagement. A good culture boosts job satisfaction, productivity, and innovation. A poor one causes high staff turnover and low morale. So, understanding and molding this culture is vital for a healthy workplace and achieving organizational goals.

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What is the relationship between organizational culture and employee behavior?

Sometimes, you come across people that bring out the best in you. The same goes for organizations. Some organizations make you feel motivated to the point where you want to contribute to different projects outside the scope of your job, while others make you want to minimize your efforts. That is how organizational culture influences employee behavior. 

A positive culture makes you feel included and heard. Employees in positive work cultures want to be productive and stay with the organization in the long run. Employees in negative work cultures feel invisible, burned out, and are therefore less engaged and productive. In fact, as McKinsey reports, more than 60% of negative workplace outcomes are due to toxic workplace behavior, underscoring the impact of negative work cultures on employee engagement and productivity.​

When developed the right way, organizational culture is more powerful than organizational rules and regulations.

5 Ways in which organizational culture influences employee behavior

Leaders who understand culture, and its effects on employees, can build a positive, inclusive, and innovative work environment, aligning employee actions with organizational goals. If you want to see how your culture is impacting your employees, keep an eye on the following factors:

1. Engagement and productivity

A positive and empowering culture creates a sense of belonging and motivation among employees, leading to higher productivity. If you see that motivation is down across teams in your organization, and your employees are not as engaged as you want them to be, take a closer look at your company culture.

In 2022, only 32% of US employees were engaged at work and 18% were actively disengaged. Meanwhile, some organizations achieved up to 70% engagement by using their culture and values to guide their business decisions. The lesson – live your values and you will see higher engagement and productivity. Besides living your values, you can improve engagement in the following ways:

  • Identify areas that negatively impact engagement and productivity with the help of employee feedback. This way, you can act on the feedback and address the issues affecting your employees’ morale.
  • Invest in training programs for leaders and managers that emphasize emotional intelligence, effective communication, and employee motivation techniques. Equip them with the skills to create a more engaging and productive work environment.
  • Organize team-building activities, cross-departmental projects, and inclusive decision-making processes to enhance teamwork and collective ownership of company goals.

2. Job satisfaction and retention

A supportive and appreciative culture helps in retaining top talent by making employees feel valued and satisfied with their roles. 54% of people quit because they don’t feel valued by their employers.

If your retention is low and most of your employees are not satisfied with their roles, you may have a culture where employee contributions and well-being are often overlooked or undervalued. To change that, take the following steps:

  • Implement regular recognition programs or platforms where employees can be acknowledged for their contributions.
  • Encourage feedback from employees on their experiences and suggestions for improvement. Act on this feedback to show that their voices are heard and valued.
  • Offer training, wellness, and mentorship programs to demonstrate a commitment to the overall development and health of your employees.

3. Innovation and creativity

If your employees have stopped coming up with new ideas and do not offer suggestions to improve current processes, systems, and products, your culture may be suppressing their creativity. 

A culture that encourages risk-taking and values new ideas promotes innovation and creativity. Such an environment allows employees to think outside the box and contribute unique solutions, driving the organization forward.

To create a culture that cultivates creativity, take the following measures:

  • Create spaces and opportunities for brainstorming and experimentation, and openly celebrate creative efforts and innovative thinking.
  • Set aside time for creative projects and give your employees the resources to take new initiatives. Atlassian does this by giving their employees 24 hours each quarter to work on anything they want.
  • Implement rewards or recognition programs to acknowledge and incentivize creative contributions and breakthroughs.

4. Communication and teamwork

Do you think your employees communicate openly? Are they hesitant to share feedback or relay how they’re feeling? If not, your culture may be part of the problem.

A culture of open communication is marked by clear, honest, and free sharing of ideas and information. In this environment, everyone feels safe to speak their mind, give and get feedback, and talk about issues without fear. It builds trust, improves teamwork, and helps in solving problems and making decisions effectively.

To create a culture of open communication:

  • Practice open and transparent communication yourself. Share information freely, be approachable, and encourage questions and discussions.
  • Establish regular meetings, town halls, or discussion forums where employees can voice their opinions, share ideas, and raise concerns.
  • Introduce anonymous feedback tools or regular surveys to allow employees to express their thoughts and feelings candidly. Act on this feedback to demonstrate its value and importance. Organizations that listen to their employees are 12 times more likely to retain them.

5. Collaboration and knowledge sharing

A positive work culture encourages employees to share their expertise with others. In such a culture, information flows freely across different departments, and people feel motivated to expand their own skills and share what they learn with their colleagues. 

Does that sound like your organization? If not, here’s what you should do:

  • Plan regular team-building exercises and cross-functional projects that require collaboration and knowledge exchange.
  • Introduce collaborative tools and platforms that facilitate easy sharing of information and ideas.
  • Acknowledge and celebrate teams and individuals who exemplify collaborative behavior.

But how do you actually implement this advice? A mentoring program can help! 

A structured mentorship program, powered by Together’s software, helps you match mentors and mentees to create a culture of collaboration and continuous learning. And, to make mentorship a part of the workflow, there’s Together for Teams. With the mentoring platform embedded inside Microsoft Teams, employees don’t need to switch between apps and feel like they are getting distracted by leaving the Teams environment. Mentors and mentees can find and approve matches right in Teams, while also getting notified about upcoming sessions through Teams DMs or emails, whichever they choose.

The role of mentoring in building a positive work culture

Mentoring plays a critical role in building a positive work culture. It facilitates knowledge sharing, enhances skill development, and strengthens relationships within the organization. Through mentoring, experienced employees guide and support newer team members, promoting a culture of learning and growth. This process accelerates professional development and creates a sense of belonging and purpose among employees.

Mentors act as role models, embodying the organization’s values and reinforcing its cultural norms. Their insights and feedback help mentees navigate workplace challenges and integrate more effectively into the company culture. Additionally, mentoring encourages open communication, builds trust, and enhances collaboration, further reinforcing the work environment.

For organizations looking to implement or improve their mentoring programs, Together offers a comprehensive solution. It facilitates seamless mentor-mentee matching, ensuring alignment with organizational goals and cultural values. 

Embrace mentoring to cultivate a thriving work culture in your organization. Sign up for a demo today.

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