Cultivating Culture: How to Build an Identity that Benefits Your Organization

Building a culture that encourages collaboration, innovation, and efficient workflows will help you attract and retain top talent.

Over the last few years, the discussions surrounding company culture have become a bit overwhelming. We’ve heard leaders talk about creating a sales culture, a customer-centric culture, a growth-minded culture, and a coaching culture. Culture, culture, culture…are these cultures du jour really just a set of initiatives sitting under an undefined culture? Let’s explore how to truly cultivate your corporate culture and why it matters.

The Benefits of Positive Company Culture

Why does culture matter and why is it important to get it right? Company culture plays a pivotal role in shaping employee engagement and the overall success of the business. Building a culture that encourages collaboration, innovation, and efficient workflows will help you attract and retain top talent. A supportive culture positively impacts employees’ physical and mental health, which makes them far more likely to stay with the company.

When employees feel connected to the company’s culture, mission, and values, they perform better, too. Happy employees are more productive, creative, and resilient. A great culture is also beneficial to your brand identity. Positive word-of-mouth spreads, enhancing your reputation in the industry, and attracting customers, partners, and investors.

These are a few basic strategies to help build a better culture:

  1. Clarify your core values and seek to ritualize practices that align with your purpose.
  2. Prioritize communication by encouraging open dialog among team members.
  3. Recognize and celebrate wins and positive behavior.
  4. Create opportunities for skill development, training, and career advancement.
  5. Provide flexible work arrangements and empower employees to manage their work independently.
  6. Prioritize employee well-being by offering resources for mental health support.

You can build a solid culture following these steps, but will it be impactful? Will it be lasting? Will it fall into the strategic initiative trap?

The Creative Path to Building Culture

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to building a unique company culture. The most successful companies offer employees something unique that’s tied directly to, and reinforces, their corporate values. Here are a few ideas and examples to get you started:

Be Bold

Be Inspiring

Be Creative

Don’t Fall into the Strategic Initiative Trap

Building a company culture and creating a strategic initiative are both important aspects of running a successful business, but they are not the same thing. Here are the key differences:

  • A company culture is the set of shared values, beliefs, norms, and behaviors that shape how people work together and interact with customers, partners, and other stakeholders. A company culture influences the employee experience, customer satisfaction, and the brand reputation of the business. A company culture can be intentionally designed and nurtured, or it can emerge organically and implicitly over time.
  • A strategic initiative is a specific project or program that aims to achieve a certain goal or objective that is aligned with the overall business strategy. A strategic initiative can be related to improving a product or service, entering a new market, launching a new campaign, or implementing a new technology. A strategic initiative requires planning, execution, monitoring, and evaluation to ensure its success and impact.

Therefore, the main difference between building a company culture and a strategic initiative is that culture is about creating and sustaining a desirable organizational environment, while the strategic initiative is about pursuing and accomplishing a concrete outcome. The two are not the same, and they are not mutually exclusive. They can and should influence and support each other. For example, a positive company culture can foster innovation and collaboration, which can enable more effective strategic initiatives. Conversely, a successful strategic initiative can reinforce and enhance the company culture by demonstrating its values and goals. To create a sustainable, inspiring, and impactful working environment, ensure that your culture is clearly defined and that strategic initiatives support and align with that defined culture.

Final Thoughts

Building a strong culture is an ongoing process. Avoid chasing after the latest culture du jour and focus instead on instituting values that align with your organization’s mission statement. Put yourself in your employees’ shoes and brainstorm ways to make their experiences more positive. Get creative, think outside the box, and have fun with it. Remember that when you’re excited about the culture you’re creating, there’s a good chance that your employees will be, too.


Lisa Fagan
Lisa Fagan is a vice president of Global Leadership for GP Strategies Corporation and focuses on expanding leadership development, employee engagement, and coaching and mentoring services with current and new clients. She has been serving in this role since August 2018. Prior to joining GP Strategies, Fagan was responsible for strategy deployment, growth, and business management. She has built and deployed growth strategies, managed global and national sales teams, designed and executed alliance programs, built and managed client advisory boards, and revamped alternate distribution channels. She also has designed sales processes and implemented sales operational support systems for continued growth and capacity management.