Organizational culture is a powerful force that influences how people behave and perform. It consists of employees’ values and assumptions about themselves, colleagues, and clients. Culture gives us a sense of identity, belonging, and meaning. It shapes our work by influencing how we interact and communicate with others. Research shows that happy employees are more productive and engaged — while disengaged workers lose money. Disengagement costs billions annually through increased absenteeism, higher turnover rates, lower job satisfaction, and reduced productivity.

Culture is a force that guides and molds behavior.

Culture consists of values, beliefs, and assumptions. When you think of culture as an organization’s shared set of beliefs about itself, it becomes clear that culture influences how people behave in the organization. Leadership teams often have straightforward tools available to shape culture:

  • We can influence how people think about themselves and each other.
  • We can develop processes to facilitate growth.
  • We can share knowledge about how our teams work.
  • When necessary, we can even use incentives (or disincentives) to get people moving in a positive direction.

Culture is essential in organizations because it gives people a sense of identity, belonging, and meaning.

  • Culture is important in organizations because it gives people a sense of identity, belonging, and meaning.
  • Culture binds the people of an organization together. If you have a shared way of thinking and behaving, you will have the right conditions to grow company culture.
  • Culture also makes your organization unique. Each organization’s unique culture defines it as different from others. This difference informs internal factors (such as retention and engagement) and outside factors (recruitment and reputation).

Culture can help ensure that people want to come to work, contribute their best, feel appreciated and understand why they are there.

People want to feel valued, work to contribute to something bigger than themselves, feel like they’re part of a team, and make a difference. They also appreciate when they are appreciated. Culture can help ensure people come to work, contribute their best, feel valued, and understand why they are there.

Culture also helps people understand how to best fit in and improve their performance and well-being.

It’s important to note that culture is not just about the workplace—it’s a shared set of beliefs and values that influences how people behave in all aspects of life. As such, it can either be an enabler or a barrier to change. It can be both in the same situation. Culture is not static; it evolves as more people enter your organization with new ideas, experiences, and perspectives. A strong sense of purpose also contributes to the evolution of culture through shared beliefs. Poor performance often results in an erosion of trust among team members (also known as groupthink). When this happens, your company may have built up too much “corporate inertia” for change to happen quickly—but it won’t stay that way forever!

When embarking on a culture change, the question is not ‘are you ready?’ but ‘how do we start?’

It’s important to note that the answer isn’t necessarily going to be “the right way.” As you get started, there may be missteps or even mistakes—but if your approach is thoughtful and responsive to feedback from your team, this can help build trust. If you’re thinking about devoting resources and time toward improving your company culture, there are many things you can do before investing too deeply into it. Start small: try one experiment at a time before making significant changes across the board to gauge how people react and whether they feel their voices are heard. The first step is always creating a safe space for employees who want their concerns heard. Also, ask questions that encourage critical thinking about what’s working (and isn’t). When everyone feels comfortable giving honest feedback—and hearing others’ ideas—you’ll be able to identify potential problems early on rather than waiting until they’ve snowballed into more significant issues later down the line

Appreciative Inquiry starts with asking questions about what should be celebrated – like an organization’s values or behaviors of the best leaders it has had.

Appreciative Inquiry starts with asking questions about what should be celebrated—like an organization’s values or behaviors of the best leaders it has had. The questions used in Appreciative Inquiry are ‘What works?’ and ‘How can we do more of this?’

  • What is working well? – What are we doing that is producing positive results?
  • How can we do more of this? – What things could be done better if we made them a priority (instead of focusing on individual firefighting problems)?

Why is it so hard to change organizational culture when everyone agrees you need to?

It’s not that people don’t want to change, but they do fear it. It’s the same reason why some people are hesitant to try a new restaurant or travel somewhere unfamiliar. To understand why this is, let’s consider an example:

  • When you started working at your company, did you ever note how much time was spent in meetings? If so, did you also feel frustrated by them?
  • How often have you heard “that person doesn’t fit our culture” or “they’re not a good fit for us”? What does that say about our culture and whom we choose as part of it?
  • Do we celebrate in-house events like birthdays and anniversaries, or does everyone feel like outsiders on those days?

If these questions resonate with you, imagine how difficult it would be for a new joiner. It is a new environment where they may not feel welcome or accepted by their peers and colleagues. And as for the current staff, changes might be hard to execute because employees often view themselves as resistant to change, afraid of losing what makes them unique, or uneasy about doing something different from everyone else around them.

Organizational cultures build up over time through repeated interactions between employees, managers, clients, and suppliers.

The result is called a “culture norm” or shared belief system: all inform the company’s values, behavior, and ways of working. Organizational culture is not just about having fun at work; it also helps define the rules of engagement for everyone involved in an organization. It influences how people should interact with each other, customers, and suppliers.


Culture is often misunderstood as something that happens invisibly and cannot be controlled — or as something that springs forth directly from a handbook or one person’s personality. In reality, building culture is a long-term, conscious process. It can be grown and nurtured by people communicating and working together in mutually beneficial ways. This engagement over time leads to higher productivity, increased retention, better reputation, easier recruiting, and overall well-being for all involved.