Organizational Culture

Want to Improve Your Business Culture? Here Are 3 Ways to Do It

HR insights and tips with Jeff Havens

Hello, and welcome to another installment of HR Intervention! First off, does anything sound quite as boring and uninspiring as the phrase “business culture”? I don’t think so.

Since scientists take a culture of cells to test the efficacy of various drugs and medications, the phrase “business culture” sounds to me like you’re putting everyone in a giant petri dish and then shaking them around a bit to see what happens.

In fact, the very title of this article reeks of emotionlessness. Which is unfortunate, since what “improve your business culture” really means is “create an environment where people actually like working together.”

That’s a noble goal. It’s one we should all strive for. And while “improving your business culture” might sound like a daunting task, it’s actually much easier to do than you might think.

Here’s are three basic principles to do it:

Stop using phrases like “improve your business culture.”

It’s a phrase that sucks the life out of things, as does every other piece of jargon that all of us are in the habit of using. There’s nothing wrong with peppering your memos and emails and conversations with acronyms and jargon, but there is something wrong if that’s all you’re doing.

Make a conscious effort to occasionally speak informally and put some personality into your communication with others.

The more we train ourselves to talk the way normal people do, the less we’ll feel like our job is slowly turning us into a robot.

Don’t make everything about money.

I run a small business, so I appreciate how important the financials are. And yes, I know that every business decision is fundamentally about money. But that doesn’t mean every conversation has to inevitably circle back to profit and savings and long-term investments.

All of us want to make money, but all of us also want to believe that we’re leaving the world better than we found it.

So give your people the opportunity to do so, whether it’s organizing a volunteer food drive or sharing an uplifting story in the company newsletter. Show them that yours is a company that does something good at the same time that it makes money.

Don’t focus all your thoughts on pleasing customers.

If the working world has any resemblance to our personal lives, then companies are the parents and customers are your 6-year-old children who want everything RIGHT NOW and who will often cry if they don’t get their way.

You absolutely need to cater to them, just like you try to give your children everything you possibly can. But just like you can’t focus on your children’s needs to the exclusion of paying attention to your spouse, you can’t spend so much energy worrying about creating the perfect customer experience that you forget to take care of the people who are providing that experience.

Besides, sometimes your customers are completely unreasonable and downright rude. If you choose every so often to side with your employees in a dispute they’re having with one of those kinds of customers, you’ll go a long way in endearing yourself to those employees forever.

Fundamentally, improving your business culture really only requires you to treat the people you work with like people, rather than pieces in your corporate machine.

Or, you could interpret “culture” in the sense of going to a foreign country and reveling in the local culture, in which case you should invest in leis or straw hats or a crepe-making machine in your breakroom. I know I like crepes. Maybe that’ll do the trick.

Learn all about the employee journey and how to influence company culture in this free ebook:

Jeff Havens is a speaker, author, and professional development expert who tackles leadership, generational, and professional development issues with an exceptional blend of content and entertainment. He is a contributing writer to Fast Company, Entrepreneur, BusinessWeek, The Wall Street Journal; and has been featured on CNBC and Fox Business. For more information, or to bring Jeff to your next meeting, call 309-808-0884, email, or visit

Speaker, Author and Professional Development Expert