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How to create a positive work culture

13 min read
A positive work culture makes for a more engaged workforce with lower staff turnover, where employees are more productive and have higher intent to stay. But what is it, and how can you make your workplace culture the most positive it can be?

Author: Ruth D’Alessandro

Subject Matter Expert: Elizabeth ErkenBrack

What is a positive work culture?

Work culture encompasses an organisation’s values, policies, attitudes and beliefs, shaping the workplace environment and influencing employees: how they interact with each other, clients and customers, and chime with a company’s core values, corporate mission, vision and goals.

In a nutshell, a positive work culture is one that prioritises the wellbeing of employees and has organisational policies that encourage respect, equality, inclusivity, trust, empathy and belonging for all people.

As a result, employees at organisations with positive work cultures and a positive work environment feel psychologically safe, treasured, valued and supported. They are nurtured — and developed — to achieve their full potential.

Free eBook: Creating a culture of well-being

Why is a positive work culture important?

A positive work culture plays an integral role in employees’ overall job satisfaction and success. 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a positive workplace culture is a core part of business success.

Tangible benefits of having a positive work culture include:

Higher employee engagement

There’s a strong correlation between positive work culture and employee engagement. When employees feel valued, recognised, supported and rewarded, they are more motivated to do their best work with passion and enthusiasm – and be ambassadors for the brand.

Reduced employee burnout

Work-related stress and mental illness due to toxic work cultures costs US businesses more than $300 billion a year. A positive workplace culture can reduce the risk of employee burnout in various ways:

  • Encouraging work/home boundaries
  • Offering flexibility so employees can choose how they work best
  • Giving autonomy, empowering employees to make their own decisions
  • Creating a psychologically safe work environment where everyone can speak up, take risks and make mistakes
  • Rewarding and recognising employees’ contributions

Better wellbeing

Research from Mind found that 60% of employees said they would be more likely to recommend their organisation as a good place to work if their employer acted to support employee wellbeing.

Increased retention

When employees connect with the organisation’s culture – especially when development is a major part of that culture – they tend to stay.

One Pew Research Center report found that 63% of employees who left their jobs gave lack of advancement opportunities as the main reason why. The same report goes on to say that workers who quit and were employed somewhere else saw their current work situation as an improvement, with:

  • 53% having more opportunities for advancement
  • 53% having an easier time balancing work and family responsibilities
  • 50% having more flexibility to choose when they put in their work hours

When employees can advance, balance work and home life and can work flexibly, they’re less likely to quit, and the organisation increases retention rates and lowers costs associated with hiring.

Increased productivity

When employees are aligned with the culture and engaged with their work, companies see higher levels of productivity. A team-orientated company that hires people who thrive in a collaborative environment will help drive productivity.

Increased revenue

Engaged employees help drive business results, with engaged workplaces being 21% more profitable than those that are not.

Easier candidate attraction

According to a study by Glassdoor, 79% of adults would consider a company’s mission and purpose before applying for a job there, while 77% would consider company values and culture. Clearly, the more positive a workplace culture is, the more attractive it is to candidates.

The workplace factors that matter most to employee satisfaction in the U.S.

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A toxic work culture, on the other hand, will make a massive dent in the bottom line. One report revealed that workplace toxicity cost companies $223 billion over five years.

How to create a positive workplace culture

One study by Qualtrics found there are five key factors that affect wellbeing at work, and are markers of a positive workplace culture. These are:

  • I feel as if I belong at this company
  • I can be my authentic self at work
  • I feel like a valued member of my team
  • I feel I belong on my team
  • I’m treated with respect

Company culture is a huge factor in recruitment

Here are our 10 steps to developing a positive organizational culture:

1. Value your people

Leaders, direct reports, and peers need to ensure that everyone is:

  • heard
  • appreciated
  • trusted to work autonomously
  • feeling a sense of belonging

2. Believe in your core values – and practice them

A company’s core values really matter. They define a business’s identity and purpose, which are usually included within a company’s mission statement, and are the heart of a positive company culture. Core values should be inspiring, guiding, and uniting to encourage employees.

Our 2023 EX Trends Report found that being employed isn’t just about having a job any more – it’s part of a person’s value system. And when employees feel that their organisation embodies these values, they’re 27% more likely to have higher engagement scores, and 23% more likely to stay working for more than 3 years.

Many employees want to feel that their daily work makes a difference to clients, customers or the world as a whole. Otherwise, they’ll gradually disengage while the job becomes meaningless and stale.

3. Insist on open communication

Honest and transparent communication is the bedrock of effective professional relationships, and essential for business success. It’s also vital for team building, effective management, training and development, positive social connections and delivering great customer service.

Good communication contributes to a positive workplace culture as it ensures employees are heard, and managers and leaders understand their needs. This ultimately reduces misunderstandings and resulting conflict.

4. Foster collaboration

Evidence suggests that collaboration can truly revolutionise workplace culture and offer a competitive advantage. Close collaboration is key to a more productive, transparent, innovative and happier work environment.

When employees collaborate by sharing skills and ideas, they connect with each other, are more engaged, and contribute to a company culture of growth and innovation. This has a proven impact on employee retention and organisational success.


  • Bridges silos
  • Reduces isolation
  • Improves communication
  • Helps with problem-solving
  • Disseminates knowledge
  • Reduces burnout in high-pressure companies
  • Helps teams own their achievements

5. Make every team member feel included

Team members who trust each other, communicate effectively, share ideas and feedback freely in a safe, inclusive space, are empowered to make good business decisions.

Engaged employees who enjoy an inclusive, positive work environment are more likely to manage workloads and timelines, and look forward to seeing their co-workers.


Belonging emerged as the top employee experience driver linked to engagement and well-being, according to one global Qualtrics study of more than 11,800 participants at the end of 2020. People who feel they belong are almost three times as likely to have a greater sense of well-being: 78% versus 28%.

Factors that people say make them feel like they belong at their organisation include:

  • Employee pride in ESG — making a positive difference in the world
  • Open and honest communication
  • Feeling like a valued member of the team
  • Feeling supported in adapting to organisational change
  • Belief that their company is one where everyone can succeed to their full potential, no matter who they are
  • A determination to promote diversity, equity and inclusion

Also, employees who feel strongly that they belong perform better and stay longer with a company. They are at 50% lower risk of turnover and have 56% higher performance than employees who feel that they don’t belong.

And employees who feel a higher sense of belonging are 167% more willing to recommend their employer to others than other employees who feel like they don’t belong.

Diversity, equity and inclusion

A culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion is not only critical to the success of diversity initiatives but creating an equitable and inclusive workplace also creates a positive employee experience which in turn contributes to a positive culture.

Here are five things your company can do to build a culture of inclusion:

  • Support employees to feel like they belong
  • Use data to get to know your team’s diversity experiences
  • Champion DEI company-wide
  • Champion diversity of thought in your teams
  • Communicate rigorously and candidly on your progress

6. Ensure leaders are trusted

Positive work cultures are led by a C-suite and managers who genuinely have employees’ best interests at heart, and care about them.

The best leaders actively listen to their employees, in team meetings and one-on-ones, and via feedback surveys, then act on what they hear. Teams are reassured that their voices matter and trust in leadership grows.

7. A company culture of development is paramount

Deloitte reported that organizations with a strong learning culture have 30%-50% higher engagement and retention rates.

Not just professionally, but personally too. A positive culture will not only challenge and develop its employees as individuals, but also help them build their career and advance further into the organization.

8. Recognise and appreciate employees

Everybody feels happier, more motivated and more engaged when they’ve had some appreciation. Let’s hear it for those poor 29% of people who received no recognition for good work in their workplaces in the last year.

From a simple ‘Great job!’ Slack message to an Employee of the Month award, appreciation reinforces commitment to a company and encourages productivity. Rewards and recognition can come in many forms:

  • more challenging work
  • the opportunity to train or lead others
  • a dream project
  • words of praise shared with leadership
  • an internal recognition program.
  • peer to peer recognition
  • shout outs in team meetings
  • employee appreciation events
  • feedback tools
  • thank you letters
  • out of office trips

But whatever the form, rewards and recognition make your people feel good — and people who feel good are more likely to go the extra mile, which in turn leads to business success. Overall, it’s all about making employees feel valued and appreciated for their work.

9. Care for employees’ wellbeing

Positive workplace cultures that foster employee wellbeing – that is, both the physical health and the mental health of employees – deliver positive outcomes for individuals and the organization.

Employees who report positive well-being and work-life balance enjoy positive emotional states and consider themselves more engaged, productive, and ready to face challenges. These organizations also report less workplace stress, fewer workplace accidents and better performance outcomes than other organizations.

10. Go beyond measurement

When organizations have strong, positive work cultures — employees are much more likely to be engaged and go above-and-beyond what’s normally asked of them.

With this in mind, it’s crucial that organizations have a read on how employees feel about their experiences, and what they need to feel included, championed, supported and empowered.

However, simply measuring the employee experience isn’t enough. Sure, you can measure engagement with employee engagement surveys, and choose to include questions about all aspects of work culture and work environment, but what’s critical is that you go beyond that.

Measurement is just the beginning. With the right approach and system of action, you can start to use insights gleaned from employee surveys to create incredible employee experience strategies that set your organisation apart from the competition.

That is experience management — and it starts with tools like Qualtrics XM™.

How Qualtrics XM™ can help create a positive workplace culture

With Qualtrics XM™, you can gather continuous feedback from every employee experience to take the right actions to impact engagement, talent planning, productivity, and innovation.

Ultimate listening engine

No matter where your people are, hear every voice in your organization with a listening engine that ensures you can take action when and where it matters most. With relational census and pulse to multi-rater and always-on feedback, you have the tools you need to understand and design unique, high-quality experiences for every employee.

Predictive analytics

Fix problems before they become widespread with advanced statistical analysis and human language tools that automatically model your experience and operational data to surface areas of opportunity.

Automated actions

Drive immediate and meaningful change with guided manager action planning and real-time workflows that support third-party integrations. This means you can get insights to frontline managers right away and close the loop on every employee experience.

Qualtrics XM™ empowers you and everyone in your organization to take the actions that put your people first, and turn employees into ambassadors for your positive work culture.

Free eBook: Creating a culture of well-being