Cultivating a Sought-After Workplace Culture

Talent is attracted to your company based on the culture and image your organization presents, which is visible from the outside. But a sought-after culture starts on the inside. What is seen on the outside is merely an expression of what is really happening on the inside. To create a sought-after culture, you must first stabilize your internal environment to cultivate a thriving culture.

At Actualize Consulting, our commitment to creating a sought-after culture of wellness translated into a three-year turnover average of less than 1%. The last 17 job offers we extended to new talent were accepted with zero declines, a testament to how a people-centric approach translates to a sought-after culture, which in turn attracts top talent.

“A sought-after culture is an inside job.”
~Kerry Wekelo

So how do you cultivate a thriving sought-after culture?

Culture is more than a word; it is the pulse of your organization, your family, and your way of being. A thriving culture is one that supports a positive workplace and keeps your employees happy and motivated. Recent studies by Harvard researcher Shawn Achor bring credence to the happiness leads to success concept stating, “If we can get somebody to raise their levels of optimism or deepen their social connection or raise happiness, turns out every single business and educational outcome we know how to test for improves dramatically.”

World-renowned happiness expert, Nic Marks, who invented the Happy Planet Index says, “Companies with great cultures are rewarded with loyal enthusiastic employees who are more productive, more creative and will help you in your talent attraction. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that happy, engaged employees will naturally create great interactions with customers.”

“Ignore the employees’ experience and you will undermine the customers’ experience.
~Nic Marks

To create and maintain a thriving organizational culture, each team member must feel valued and passionately believe in the company’s visions and goals. I will use our company, Actualize Consulting, as an example of cultivating a sought-after workplace culture.

We developed a Culture Infusion program to increase happiness levels that is based on the following nine principles.

Principle 1: Provide Intentional Leadership

Where traditional leadership training often falls short is that it begins with a focus on other people. I propose that it needs to instead begin with a focus on oneself. Intentional leadership and leadership development begin with self-awareness and an understanding of your own needs.

At Actualize, we incorporate self-reflection across the organization and recently added a self-reflection category onto the career objectives section of our biannual review process. Self-reflections are a powerful way for individuals to become more aware of how they operate, both in a personal and work capacity.

How can you be wise about the needs of others if you’re not aware of your own needs?

Principle 2: Prioritize Personal Wellness

Successful leaders prioritize personal wellness, both at home and at work. Successful organizations follow that lead by integrating wellness into their organizational culture. Wellness programs and team-building wellness challenges set the tone.

After years of getting online before 6 am, I realized that I needed to make changes for myself so that I could start the day by first focusing on my personal wellness. I started doing my movement and replenishment practices during that time, creating a boundary and allowing me to prioritize my personal well-being.

What changes can you make to demonstrate prioritizing personal wellness?

Principle 3: Insist on a Healthy Work/Life Balance

A healthy work/life balance doesn’t just happen. It is an ongoing series of tweaks and changes to what you focus on and participate in. Practicing your own work/life balance, then helping your company facilitate this work/life balance, will benefit you and your employees to be happier, healthier, and more motivated.

I was asked to work on a project that was throwing off my work/life balance and causing me stress because I was constantly thinking and worrying about the work. One day, my nine-year-old daughter came to me and said, “Mom, you have never been this stressed out about work. Maybe you should reconsider.” That comment made me realize things had to change, so after I fulfilled my initial contractual duties, I decided to step down from the project. Fortunately, Actualize leadership supports a healthy work/life balance, and they supported my decision 100 percent.

If you are out of balance and unclear about your desires (in your personal life or at work), how will you be able to lead your teams effectively?

Principle 4: Practice Effective Communication

When we hear the term “communication,” we often think first of talking and of getting our point across, but the opposite is the core of effective communication: listening. Truly listening means giving your full attention to the person expressing their ideas, feelings, or concerns.

For example, someone on our team who is typically on point was not focused on a big deliverable. Instead of reacting with anger or frustration, we asked them how they were doing and if everything was okay since they seemed distracted. They responded that they were dealing with one of their parents in another state who was not doing well. By fully listening, we were able to understand their true situation and let them know that we care.

When was the last time you truly listened to what the other person was saying?

Principle 5: Handle Conflict Directly, Openly, and Immediately

When there are issues within your team, remember that every problem is an opportunity to make positive change. We at Actualize use the “3P Method” as a formula for all employee engagement: Pause to Pivot to a Positive.

As a team, we have found that if we change our focus we can discover the silver lining in any scenario and spread this strategy to our clients. One instance of note was when one of our team members used this strategy to diffuse a fight with two companies trying to work together. They were focusing on the negatives, and he simply said, “You decided to work together for a reason. Let’s discuss why you decided to work together and let’s move forward.” That simple pivot was all that was needed to pivot to the team focusing on a successful outcome together.

Can you visualize taking deep breaths to pause, listen with compassion, and pivot to a positive solution?

Principle 6: Focus on Your People

Even though we are a client-driven business we recognize that our dedication, commitment, and focus is to our team first. This includes offering wellness perks, training and education, rewards, retreats, and appreciation.

One way in which we show appreciation is by hosting annual retreats where we spend a weekend having fun. This year, we brought our entire company to New York for a weekend of culture, magic, good laughs, and team bonding. While the results are often unmeasurable, Actualize was nominated for and received the Top Company Culture Award from Entrepreneur Magazine.

“Employees are the soil in which a corporate culture is cultivated, and the more nourished and involved that soil is, the more that culture will thrive.”
~Bill Baker, Strategic Storyteller

When was the last time you interacted with a team member from a place of appreciation?

Principle 7: Regularly Conduct Employee Surveys

An important way to focus on your people is for your organization to actively listen to employees through anonymous surveys. With feedback, you can more accurately provide the support and opportunities that employees actually want.

Some feedback we received in a survey was that people wanted an opportunity to ask the partners questions. We responded by adding a Q & A with the partners during our monthly all-hands call. 

What questions can you include in your workplace culture surveys to ensure all voices are heard?

Principle 8: Align Goals with Rewarding Performance

Instead of focusing on the negative perceptions of goal setting, shift to the positive and view goals as a way for leadership to cultivate inspiration and align company goals with individual aspirations.

Our bi-annual reviews have a tab for company-wide goals as well as a tab for personal goals. They are broken down into the same categories of Accountability, Aspire, and Acumen for transparency and consistency.

Can you support individual goals knowing that by doing so you will also help move the company forward?

Principle 9: Encourage Team Connection

Getting together as a whole organization helps build closer relationships and reduce stress, which in turn promotes better teamwork and greater work-satisfaction. A corporate culture that prioritizes wellness and employee happiness will likely be willing to extend their abundance to the greater community; for example, encouraging cause-related employee activities.

We recently sponsored a group gathering in New York to support Fresh Food for Seniors through The Doe Fund. Participants had a chance to meet team members from other departments who they would not usually interact with in person, while also giving back to our community.

What events can you plan with your team that also give back to your community?

A sought-after culture realized

By applying these nine principles, you will realize that you do not need to compartmentalize your values. Instead, they can be infused into your company to create a thriving workplace culture that you are proud to call your place of work. By shifting your focus to your people, you will broaden your circle of care and happiness. You will inspire and lift others up to access their highest potential and turn a once humdrum workplace into a pulsing, thriving, sought-after culture.

About the Author

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Kerry Wekelo

KERRY WEKELO is the Chief Operating Officer at Actualize Consulting, an executive coach, yoga instructor, award-winning author, and entrepreneur. Her book and program Culture Infusion: 9 Principals for Creating and Maintaining a Thriving Organizational Culture is the impetus behind Actualize being named a Top Company Culture by Entrepreneur Magazine. Kerry’s mindful wisdom has been featured on ABC, NBC, NPR Marketplace, The New York Times, Entrepreneur, Inc., and New York Post. Contact to discuss how her program can help transform your organization.