Written by Guest Contributor: Rae Steinbach

Today’s businesses strive to create great workplace cultures to motivate staff and drive higher performance. Before they can do this, however, they need to understand what workplace culture means and how they can engage their people.

Back in 2015, the Harvard Business Review published an article entitled “How Company Culture Shapes Employee Motivation” that provides a handy description of company culture:

“Culture is the set of processes in an organization that affects the total motivation of its people.”

Conceptually, then, workplace culture links the ideas that company success and employee motivation are deeply entwined. The value of workplace culture is circular: engaged employees want to create successful companies, and thriving companies keep employees engaged.  

Whether they monitor engagement through regular performance appraisals, weekly feedback sessions, or other management strategies, it’s crucial for companies to keep their finger on the pulse staff satisfaction.

In order to engage employees, companies need to understand what motivates them. Studies have shown that workers have six key motivations:

  1. Play: Employees work because they enjoy their jobs.
  2. Purpose: Employees are motivated because they feel their jobs have value.
  3. Potential: They fulfill their tasks because their jobs might lead to better opportunities.
  4. Emotional Pressure: Employees complete their work goals because it’s expected of them.
  5. Economic Pressure: They show up to work because they need income.
  6. Inertia: Employees work out of routine and habit.

These motivations easily group into positive forces: Play, Purpose, Potential. Similarly, there are the negative ones: Emotional Pressure, Economic Pressure, and Inertia. Successful companies create opportunities that support the positive forces and attempt to eliminate the negative ones.

Engage Employees With Positivity

The prime indicator for a good workplace culture is whether or not employees feel the work they do has value. Companies enable engagement by encouraging employee input, recognizing performance, and communicating how their success contributes to the success of the company, in addition to personal gains.

Questions For Employees To Develop Positive Workplace Culture

The best resource for companies to create better workplace culture is their own employees. Bringing staff into the culture discourse itself helps initiate a positive culture.

Staff members often see and feel things about the day-to-day operation of businesses that executives might not know or understand are issues. To understand what these issues are, business should ask employees for their input.

  1. What do employees consider their own accomplishments?

Understanding where employees are finding value in their work is key to providing more opportunities for them to continue to achieve.

  1. What would make the workplace more enjoyable?

Employees that look forward to going to work are more productive and creative. Finding the “pain points” in the workplace environment and then solving them can make the day to day more pleasant.

  1. How can management provide better leadership?

Opening a dialog between management and staff improves teamwork. When employees feel that leaders can take advice, they feel that their thoughts and ideas matter to the success of the company.

  1. How do employees think their coworkers perceive them?

Asking employees to be self-reflective encourages teamwork and honesty in self-review, prompting them to do better.

  1. How do employees view other employees?

Issues of fair treatment, lack of cooperation, or skill concerns can often drag down teams. Leaders can identify under-the-radar top performers or co-workers that are difficult to collaborate with through employee feedback.

  1. What development opportunities does the company offer–or what opportunities are missing?

All employees want to grow and develop in their positions. Mentoring and encouragement are key to demonstrating the company cares and will lead to lower turnover and higher job satisfaction.

  1. How do employees think the company’s products and services can be improved?

Employees should care about the company’s offerings just as much as leadership. As “on the ground” workers, they can offer unique insights to leadership and will feel more commitment to the company when they have a voice.

  1. Where do employees wish they excelled more?

In line with other development issues, employees want their skills to be utilized. Having more opportunities to grow and execute inspires engagement and creativity.

The answers to these questions have a two-fold value. First, companies can understand whether their goals and values are shared by their staff members, and, secondly, companies can identify areas for improvement for employee engagement.

By keeping in tune with their employees and acting on their concerns, companies provide cultures that encourage engagement and produce higher success rates.

Companies can start creating a better workplace culture by demonstrating they care about the issues. Above all, the primary signal to employees that a company has a positive workplace culture is whether or not the company values their work and their input.


Rae Steinbach is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, Rae returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing, of course. Follow her on Twitter
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