What Makes a Great Organizational Culture?

By Eric Dickmann

April 14, 2019

Best Place to Work, Culture Code, Empowerment, Engagemet, Flexibility, Giving Back, Growth, Mentoring, Organizational Culture, People, Recognition, Solid Communication, Strategy, Trust

What is the best company to work for, according to recent surveys? Fortune Magazine named Hilton as the number 1 best place to work in 2019. CEO Christopher Nassetta explained that their business is people. They rely on great talent who show passion in their work. Hilton focuses on creating an exceptional workplace. It emphasizes building a great organizational culture.

Organizational Culture is how a business defines itself. It's the values, beliefs, and morals it holds. In a nutshell, it's what the organization stands for. A strong organizational culture helps make employees feel they belong to something bigger. It can transform an employee into an advocate. When the culture is clear, different perspectives work towards a shared goal. Diversity is celebrated as employees are unified toward a common purpose. It ultimately builds better collaboration and teamwork. What then makes a great organizational culture?

Organizational Culture

A Documented Culture

First, you should have a documented culture statement. HubSpot famously coined it a Culture Code. A culture code defines your core values. It talks about what the company believes. Most importantly, it explains why you do it (values) and what the company is trying to achieve (mission). The code should be a formal document, something employees can reference with ease.

The code needs to be defined but also on display by the company's leaders. Values need to be practiced and lived from the top down. The culture will start to manifest itself as everyone works with a common purpose. It should be visible in the actions of employees and the environment they work in, not just on display on a poster in the conference room.



A company is only as good as the people it keeps. Every department is comprised of employees with different personalities and specializations. They are the brainpower of the organization. Hiring the right employees can make or break your business. When evaluating candidates, seek someone dedicated to their career but compatible with your company culture. Skills can be taught. However, if someone's personality and aspirations aren't in alignment with the company's values, they won't be a positive contributor to the organization's culture.


A great organizational culture advocates frequent and clear communication for everybody. Effective communication helps foster a good relationship among members of the organization. Clear communication builds trust and helps everyone understand what's happening in the business.

Joe Gardner wrote for CEOWorld some suggested tactics to achieve good communication:

  • Open your line of communication with the employees. Make an effort to connect. It’s a great way to make team members appreciate one another. It keeps them focused, motivated, and engaged at work. For example, do companywide announcements go out through email or a blog that allows for comments and engagement?
  • Implement collaboration processes. Ensure that processes and workflows are in place. It can make the flow of information from person to person as smooth as possible, both upward and downward.
  • Utilize technology as a communication strategy. Technology helps in creating a shared information environment at work. It makes the flow of information faster and easier.
  • Center your culture on transparency. Make an effort to connect with your employees and encourage them to come to you with feedback, questions, or concerns. Emphasize that if everyone stays honest about what’s working and what isn’t, your processes will improve that much faster.

In business, there is often very little information that needs to be kept secret. Avoid the temptation of restricting the flow of information as a power play.


A great organizational culture does not exist without a strategy. A company needs a plan of action with clear timelines and priorities. A strategy is a map used to steer the organization into making the right choices. It reinforces the company’s core values and helps maintain focus on the right priorities. Each area of the business or department should have its own strategic plan. The plan reflects the department's unique responsibilities in line with the company's overall strategy and objectives. When you take time to define your strategy, you can plan how to maximize your resources to provide the greatest return


Employee engagement is a critical element of a great organizational culture. The more an employee feels like a contributor in their workplace community, the more they engage. Employee engagement results in lower turnover, higher morale and increased job satisfaction. To boost employee engagement, there are several behaviors to consider:

Brent Gleeson in Forbes recommended several steps to boost employee engagement:

  • Walking the walk. Leaders should model their desired behaviors. The company's values should be clearly on display by the leadership team.
  • Put everyone in the right role and encourage learning and growth. Sometimes great employees start out in the wrong role. Understand their strengths, weaknesses, and invest in their future. Growth is one of the biggest factors in engagement.
  • Be transparent. Transparency gives employees a sense of deeper investment. It enables them to be part of something larger than themselves.
  • Task meaningful work. Doing something that matters and gives one a sense of satisfaction.
  • Play together. Having fun together breaks the routine and encourages collaboration. Employees spend more time with their work colleagues than they do with their families. Find ways to help them build meaningful relationships with their co-workers.
  • Volunteer together. Working together for the good of the world can make a difference. It can also help support the company's overall mission and values.

Companies should go beyond the traditional bonus system to entice and keep employees. Moreover, this can contribute to making a great organizational culture. Employee Recognition motivates employees to perform better and complain less. Recognition may be a cash reward. It may also be a paid time-off, travel perks, food or a wellness bonus. To be effective, it should be timely and authentic. Sometimes it's a simple as acknowledgment. Employees want to feel they are making a positive contribution and feedback shouldn't be saved only for their annual performance review.


Trust is the cause and effect of a great organizational culture. Build a relationship by believing that everybody will do the right thing. Make your employee feel trusted. Let them own responsibilities and allow them to make decisions. Be transparent and objective.


Creating a better workplace culture means allowing your employees to make decisions. Empowered employees who pave their own path of success are loyal and committed. Providing employees with the tools and resources they need makes them more productive. It will result in stronger job performance and commitment to the organization.

Micro-management and a lack of autonomy are often cited as reasons for dissatisfaction with a company. Managers need to be especially mindful not to fall into these managements traps. Instead, build trust by empowering employees.


A great organizational culture is not stagnant. The culture must evolve to stay relevant. The workplace is very different than it was just 10 years ago. Flexibility allows company's to adjust working conditions to best suit the needs of its employees. This helps companies provide a more positive work-life balance. Happier employees have higher productivity and engagement. Don't let HR build rigid policies. While some rules and structures are important, flexibly treats employees as individuals and assets, not FTE's to be managed and policed.


Growth is a developmental process that contributes to a great organizational culture. Providing growth opportunities improve the quality of an employee’s work experience. The company also benefits from developing workers to their full potential. Commitment to learning can be in small steps. You might set up a book club. Opt to subscribe to online learning programs. Create a personalized management training course. However growth opportunities are offered, it's important for employees to know that if they invest in the company, the company will invest back in them.


Mentoring allows you to utilize your greatest resources, the experience of others. It is professional socialization. A mentor provides personal support to facilitate success. And developing talent contributes to a company's growth. Mentoring should be encouraged at all levels of the organization. Everyone can benefit from the experiences of others.

Giving Back

An organization is also a part of a community. A great organizational culture has a social responsibility. Volunteer your time and your skills. Help repaint a playground. Visit residents at a care center. Offer to help your neighbor. Donate to your favorite charity. Search online for other ways to give back. Giving back contributes to a common good without the expectation of a reward. It's a tangible way to demonstrate your values to the community.


What makes a great Organizational Culture? It's a Culture Code Communicated by Engaged and Empowered People working together and Growing. Learn from Mentors. Recognizing Achievement and Giving Back to the community.

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About the author

Eric Dickmann is the founder of The Five Echelon Group, host of the weekly podcast - The Virtual CMO, and a CMO On Demand for a variety of small and midsize companies. An executive leader with over 30 years of experience in marketing, product development, and digital transformation, he has worked with large, global companies and small startups to develop and execute marketing strategies and bring innovative products to the market.

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