A good company culture inspires employees

A well-functioning company culture not only boosts the company’s performance – it also lets employees enjoy their work. But what does ‘company culture’ actually mean and how can it be developed and maintained?

Imagine this: The boss rings the HR department explaining that the staff seem to be lacking motivation and need cheering up. The situation calls for a day dedicated to well-being at work, consisting of fun activities like Nordic walking.

‘But if the lack of motivation stems from the work itself, a spot of mingling is not going to fix the problem. Instead of just patching over the issue, you should be looking to identify the root cause of why your staff are not happy. Often the problem lies with management and the company culture’, says Company Culture Designer Heli Rautjärvi.

A company culture is founded on the organisation’s goals

But what does ‘company culture’ actually mean? Rautjärvi explains the term through its etymology. The Latin word cultura means caring for the soil and cultivating it. 

A farmer tills his land differently depending on what he intends to grow: potatoes, cereals or vines. 

‘Just like the farmer, an organisation also has specific goals. Those goals are what form the basis of the company culture - what kind of a culture will help us to achieve our goals.’

In other words, a company culture is not about putting bean bags in conference rooms or becoming a self-managing organisation, but about identifying what the company does and why, and what methods are needed to achieve this. 

Rautjärvi lists the cornerstones of a company culture:

  • The organisation’s conception of human nature. What are our beliefs about people?

  • The organisation’s values. How do we work?

  • The organisation’s mission. Why do we exist?

  • The organisation’s vision. Where are we headed?

The company culture should guide everything that the organisation does: Whom do we recruit? What is taught during the onboarding phase? How do we communicate? What do we reward? What do we celebrate together?

But how does culture affect well-being?

Rautjärvi mentions a survey called ‘State of the Global Workplace’, which was conducted by Gallup and studied employee engagement.

‘Twelve per cent of Finns are engaged at work. Another 12% feel unhappy at work for whatever reason, and also spoil the atmosphere for others. The remaining 76% are living for the weekend and come to work just to watch the clock tick.’

While Rautjärvi believes that people are fundamentally curious and competent, she maintains that the company culture plays a role in determining how engaged they are at work – whether they give it their all or just do the bare minimum.

There are many people who are dutiful, diligent and conscientious at work. However, a well-functioning company culture makes individuals feel appreciated and motivates them to give even more of themselves.

‘A good company culture inspires employees to start showing initiative, creativity and passion – qualities that cannot be tapped into with a carrot and a stick.’

All this benefits the company and shows in its bottom line, but is also in the employees’ interests.

‘As work engagement increases, so does employee well-being.’

3 steps towards a better company culture – Rautajärvi’s top tips:

1. Stop and think: What does the company need to achieve? What is required of the company culture for the company to succeed? The management team should focus on the cornerstones of the company culture (above). Individual teams are in a good position to identify what should be taken up, what should be abandoned and what should be approached in a new way to reach the objectives.


2. Building a company culture is not a one-man job. Put your heads together, ask questions and listen. Think about establishing a special organisation-wide working group to coordinate your company culture and monitor, for example, whether your desired company culture is reflected in every element of the life cycle of an employment relationship. Individual teams can help to analyse whether meeting procedures and other routines support your desired company culture. And if you need help, you can turn to experts such as Leidenschaft.


3. Keep your company’s core mission and strategy clear in your mind at all times. You cannot build a company culture in isolation from the business, as the role of the former is to bring the strategy of the latter to life.



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