A pervasively positive workplace culture is the foundation that holds up an organisation and also acts as a binding force for the employees. It is something that makes employees look forward to coming to work each day! Inculcating such positivity can transform the workplace and set the business apart from the competition!

But what are the factors that affect a company’s culture and develop a positive perception in employees? Is it influenced by company policies or managerial behaviour or career opportunities or something else? Let’s find out:

Ms. Rituparna Chakraborty, Vice President, Indian Staffing Federation and Co-Founder and Senior Vice President of TeamLease Services Pvt. Ltd. is of the view that communication is the single most important factor that can affect work culture. She says, “If the communication channels are clear, the management can rest assured that they will get the support of their employees regardless of the any situation.” Apart from free-flowing communication across all levels, she also adds that an atmosphere of inclusiveness and transparency as essential for building employees’ positive perception of the work culture.

Mr. K K Rajesh, Director, Sales and Marketing, Decorative Paints, Akzo Nobel India feels that workplace culture is affected by, “A strong mission supported by values which are practiced in letter and spirit by the leadership of the company. For example, if the mission is ‘to be the most preferred company amongst our customers’ and one of the values is ‘we will respect those whom we deal with’, the employees of the organisation must see their top leadership being extremely customer-focused and also dealing with all employees with dignity and respect.”

Not to forget employee empowerment as the driving factor influencing positive perceptions in the workforce. As Mr. Rohit Pathak, Managing Director, SelaQui International School puts it, “More than the salaries and perks and benefits, more than the working hours, employees need to feel empowered. The fact that they are making a difference somewhere, the fact that they own a process or an output, charges them, and they are able to overlook the negatives that a task might involve.”

Mr.Ashu Malhotra, President-Human Resources, Tulip Telecom sums up the factors as, “We believe that positive work culture requires cultural foundations of well-being and performance, based on the principles of commitment, trust and engagement.”

Measuring positivity

Positivity in a workplace is a very subjective matter and difficult to measure. Yet, certain metrics and techniques are needed to assess the positivity in the culture.

Mr. Manoj Biswas, HR Lead, Accenture India suggests, “As with most complex dimensions of performance, it is impossible to measure a company’s culture and its degree of positivity with a single metric. Rather, a company needs to construct an index to gauge the work culture’s positivity”. He lists the key dimensions as Knowledge – Do people know what your company’s values are and can they relate to them? Can they recognise when their behaviour and decision-making is consistent with those values? (measured via an anonymous test), Perceptions – Opinions about what are the real values and culture of the company collected (via anonymous surveys or focus groups held off-site) and Behaviour – Incidents of good and bad decisions and employee behaviour related to the values. He also defines the main contributors for positive employee perception as “Fair and equal treatment of all employees, recognition and rewards aligned to employee performance and achievements, open management style, regular and clear feedback, positive reinforcement, open and honest communication, clear and well-defined goals, regular training and development and equal opportunities for all employees”

Ability to respond to any internal or external stimuli is another strong indicator. Mr. Guruvayurappan. P.V., Vice President, HR, Omega Healthcare explains, “If an organisation survives through challenging and difficult times and continues to have its key stakeholders like employees, clients etc. then we can firmly declare that the organisation has a very positive work culture.” He quotes the example of Satyam Computers which faced major financial irregularities and was on the verge of falling, but ultimately survived and was able to retain many employees and clients. Mr. Pathak bets on employee behaviour as indicative, “A positive workplace will ensure that the employees mostly reach on time, look forward to interacting with each other, are generally smiling, stay longer with the company and are seen together even when their work does not require them to be together.”

Various techniques are used to assess the organisational culture, like employee engagement/satisfaction survey, work environment survey, online discussion groups and polls, exit interviews, new hire feedback, feedback on appraisal discussion, employee initiative, consistent performance and results, tracking attrition rates, complaints, sick leaves, etc. Mr. Rajesh offers another interesting metric, “High percentage of turnout at meetings where attendance is not compulsory!”

Nurturing a positive culture

Drawing on the broad metrics, companies employ multiple initiatives to ensure a positive work culture in the organisation. Ingersoll Rand International has a cutting-edge initiative titled ‘Path to Premier Performance’. Ms. Jayantika Dave, Vice President, HR explains, “The objective of the programme is to create a cohesive, premier performing organisation with engaged employees having a shared vision, purpose, competencies, brand promise and values.” The company organises road shows at every location with emphasis on enabling employees to relate to the organisational vision, purpose and mission statements, the current economic environment and the enterprise strategies. To ensure strong employee interest and connect, this was built around a Bollywood theme, using clips and visuals from movies that reinforced company values. She adds, “It is important for employees to relate to each of these and to understand their role in overcoming challenges and achieving the organisation goals.” At HCL, the ground-breaking ‘Émployee First, Customer Second’ (ECFS) philosophy inverted established norms by propounding the concept of employee first and above everything else! The cornerstones of the initiative are employee empowerment, trust through transparency, open communication and managerial accountability.

Mr. Subrat Chakravarty, VP and HR Head, Business Services, HCL Technologies elaborates, “EFCS is at the core of all efforts to provide the employees a work environment and culture they take pride in. Our work culture is a reflection of the powerful EFCS philosophy and resonates with its values and beliefs.” Tulip Telecom has various platforms such as ‘OneHR’ and ‘Fish-o-meter’ for employees to voice their opinions and ideas in order to maintain a unified environment. Even InterGlobe Enterprises actively encourages two-way communications between employee and leadership team. Mr. Harish K Gandhi, Group Head, HR describes, “Communication platforms like Town Hall where leadership team shares business updates and employees get an opportunity to interact with leadership, CEO Blogs to communicate with CEO directly, Skip Levels for a one-to-one discussion between employee and skip level, and Coffee Sessions with senior management.” Compulsory leave, leisure travel policy, flexible working hours and employee assistance programmes help promote work/life balance. Even the Great Places to Work study reveals that, “One of the biggest improvements in workplace culture shown by the best workplaces over the years has been in the area of work-life balance and flexibility in being able to take time off when required.” At Sapient India, celebrations are all-pervasive through special initiatives at multiple levels that include the corporate, individual, team and office tiers. Ms. Manika Awasthi Menon, Director, People Success reveals, “Celebrations are a blend of social, leadership-based and even family-oriented celebratory gatherings to recognise the value and impact that our people have on the organisation.

‘Ring-the-Bell’ mails are sent out globally as soon as a project goes live, containing details of the project, the effort behind it as well as the acknowledgement for the team that made it possible. Our culture of giving global ‘shout-outs’ to individuals and teams allows us to create a common bond and to share and celebrate our own and collective successes.”

Apart from this, other initiatives like opportunities for continuous learning and growth, rewards and recognition, positive encouragement, meaningful work, achievable challenges, fair pay, health and safety etc. also help promote a positive workplace culture. And it is the culmination of all these efforts that have employees actually looking forward to Monday morning!

Payal Chanania