Strategies to Improve Workplace Culture in 2021

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April 2021

The term ‘workplace culture’ is used across a variety of different contexts. Broadly speaking, it can be defined by how a company’s structure, values and approach to leadership encourages (or discourages) people to succeed in the workplace.


A positive workplace culture motivates people to go beyond minimum expectations. This means they are more likely to take an active role in driving their organisation forward, leading to successful innovation and long-term growth.


Company culture is also a crucial part of talent acquisition. 46% of people regard workplace culture to be a very important factor when considering employment options. A positive workplace culture will attract more candidates with fresh, desirable skills to your company’s door. It’s also critical to employee wellness and morale, which both play a large role in staff retention.


But how can you spot signs of toxic workplace culture and tackle it head on to maximise your business’ potential? Let’s take a look at some useful tips.

How do you define workplace culture? 


A company’s culture is formed by shared values and beliefs, combined with collective assumptions and group norms within the workplace. This common belief system encompasses various elements such as the work environment, a company’s mission statement and goals, leadership style and workplace ethics. This mutual understanding and sense of unity puts every employee in the driving seat of a company’s success. 

Does your company have a ‘toxic’ workplace culture?


The dread of an alarm on a Monday morning is a fairly universal phenomenon, but if that dread lingers like a dark cloud for the rest of the week, that’s a surefire sign of toxic workplace culture. A negative workplace culture leaves employees feeling demotivated, unappreciated and burnt out. This has multiple long-term consequences, including decreased productivity and high employee turnover.


3 examples of negative workplace culture

Employees don’t feel like part of a team

There are many reasons why there may be a lack of cohesion within a team. Poor communication is a primary example, as is the ‘siloing’ of individuals and their areas of expertise. At its worst, toxic workplace culture can cause members of the same team to feel at odds with each other, competing to gain a lucrative new position or to win the approval of their leaders.

People are afraid to raise issues with their leader

People should feel comfortable asking for help from their managers when needed. Unfortunately, there are times when leaders can be irritated or downright hostile to those in need of assistance. Managers can also be unwilling to accept that there is a problem, either due to being too ‘solutions-focused’, or a refusal to acknowledge flaws in a strategy or plan of action.

Progression and development has stagnated

When people are going above and beyond for their organisation, they want to be rewarded with new opportunities. The chance to progress through the ranks and gain new skills is a sign of appreciation. Employees should be treated as assets to be encouraged and nurtured. If there is no clear roadmap for progression, this indicates that managers don’t value their employees’ individual goals. 

Strategies to improve workplace culture


When people are recognised for their contributions, they take pride in their work and are motivated to put their best foot forward. Therefore, a positive workplace culture is an integral asset for a company’s long-term growth. According to Deloitte, 83% of executives believe having engaged and motivated employees is a vital part of a company’s success. Here are some useful tips on how to create a healthier workplace. 

Define company values

Company values are the pillars that define your business. They are the driving factors behind your company image; guiding everyone on how to communicate with colleagues, customers and the community. Setting transparent core values ensures that employees understand exactly what is expected of them. 


Creating a set of values is the easy part. The hard part is implementing them across an organisation. It is the responsibility of managers and directors to set the example. If employees see leaders adhering to company values, they will be more inclined to do the same.

For example, the Totem app helps teams promote company values by recognising peers with ‘Kudos’. Kudos is used to praise those who best represent a specific company value. This helps to make recognition for embodying company values an integral part of workplace culture.

Encourage communication and transparency

Harvesting open communication in the workplace can help develop trust. It also provides a greater sense of security for employees and customers alike, offering space to discuss problems, insights and offer immediate solutions. 


Honest communication requires leaders to not only share successes but also areas of improvement. The key is not to be unnecessarily critical but to encourage people to learn from previous challenges. According to Hubspot, 50% of employees believe sharing team performance data has a significant effect on overall positivity. 

Share feedback

More than 75% of employees believe that feedback is valuable. Constructive criticism and positive reinforcement can go a long way in helping employees recognise how their performance aligns with company values. 


Feedback also needn’t be a one-way street. Too many companies believe that it is only team members, and not leaders, who stand to benefit from constructive feedback. Therefore, managers should ask team members to evaluate their leadership. This will promote a sense of mutual respect, and employees will appreciate that their input is valued.

Being flexible and embracing autonomy

Micromanaging is a shortcut straight to toxic workplace culture. Hovering over employees is not conducive to productivity, instead it makes them feel restricted and uninspired. It’s important for managers to put trust in their team and remember why they hired them in the first place. Allowing more freedom of choice, letting go of the standard 9-5 schedule and encouraging decision making helps employees feel valued and independent.


At Totem, we understand the importance of a positive workplace culture. That’s why we have developed a company culture platform for effective team communication, as well as rewards and recognition amongst peers.

No matter where your team is located, the Totem platform can ensure teams remain connected. As well as this, managers have access to a range of Culture Insights, so they can measure and evaluate company culture and employee engagement.

Want to enhance your workplace culture with our company culture app?
Request a demo of the Totem platform today.

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