Organizations are faced with a number of business challenges that can cost them money when it comes to toxic workplaces.

In this tutorial, we will explain how investing in a positive workplace can lead to an amazing ROI.

Not all office environments are positive: if yours is negative, create a vision for the future by forming a committee to help you deliver the culture change.

These suggestions provide insight into conducting surveys and updating your performance management system, containing tools such as a sample strategic plan and an exercise for creating core values.

To create a positive workplace environment, you must:

  • Define what is negative in the work environment.
  • Conduct employee surveys to track change or opinion on how your efforts are going.
  • Create a vision and strategic plan for change management.
  • Develop employee performance evaluations that lead to goal setting with clear understanding of who is accountable for

Many organizations have a negative workplace, which can create high employee turnover and poor productivity.

Some of the symptoms of a negative workplace are:

During this challenging economic time when businesses need to stay competitive and productive, those same companies do not need issues such as these to bog them down. But how do we turn around our culture from toxic to positive?

This module will help you create a positive workplace. It starts with defining what is toxic about your workplace, which will allow you to measure the impact of your efforts—and see results quickly.


Creating a Positive and Healthy Work Environment

The ROI of a Positive Workplace

Positive workplaces have concrete benefits for an organization beyond increased employee satisfaction and improved productivity: A number of studies have found that companies with positive cultures outperform those with negative or indifferent ones, and the culture boosts financial performance as well.

Using the Human Resources (HR) function to create a positive workplace is one of the smartest investments you can make in your organization, since it can affect so many levels—including leadership. For example, if you use your performance management system to encourage positive behavior and traits, you can be sure that your leaders possess those traits.

A senior vice president at a major company once told us, “I never would have believed in these values if I hadn’t seen them work.” He was referring to the organization’s shift toward positive values—and he now realizes how important it is to have a workforce of positive employees in order to be successful.

Conducting an employee survey

Healthy workplaces are also more productive and less expensive on many levels:

Employee surveys can help guide you toward creating a positive workplace—and measure your progress along the way. Conducting an employee survey about your organization’s culture can provide you with valuable information. You might ask questions such as these:

To help get you started in creating a positive workplace, we share additional ideas about employee surveys and how to use them in the resources area below.

Creating a Positive Workplace Culture

In one of our recent SIOP conferences, Dr. Steve Mock presented on this topic. He quoted one of his clients who said: “My most important task is to create a vision for change.”

In this article, we share the six steps that can help your organization build an effective culture, which will improve employee productivity and retention rates:

Step 1—Create a Vision for Change

In order to create a positive workplace, you need to start with a vision for change. Start by asking employees how they feel about the workplace culture, using the survey mentioned above, and then follow up with focus groups to gather additional information.

Appoint a cross-functional team—which should include your Human Resources (HR) representative—to lead this process so that it is more effective and efficient. Then, make sure that the team understands a positive workplace and its benefits.

Step 2—Develop Core Values for Your Workplace Culture

Write out your organization’s core values on sticky notes and put them up on a wall—either electronically or physically. For example, the company in our article wrote its core values on Post-It notes and put them on a wall.

Then, ask people to stick the sticky notes in their areas of responsibility to indicate that they understand these values. Once everyone has done that, have employees vote on which core values are most important for your organization.

Step 3—Establish Your Policies Based on Those Values

As you develop policies to go with your core values, it’s important to remember that “a policy is nothing more than a rule of thumb,” according to Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer. In other words, policies should be designed as general guidelines rather than rigid operating instructions that will inhibit employees from doing their jobs and being innovative.

At this point, you have the opportunity to decide how to tailor your policies and rules for an effective workplace. Be sure that they are designed for the positive place you want to create, rather than focusing on what not to do. For example, while negative actions are easy to identify and ban (for example: no yelling or screaming), it’s harder to describe positive behaviors with a rule of thumb (for example: praise people when they do something well).

Step 4—Instill Your Values in Employees

As you implement your core values, convey them to all of your employees through training. Train managers first so that they can help develop the right training for their teams. Consider holding a retreat and involving every employee. You might also want to engage an outside facilitator to help train people.

Step 5—Reward Your Employees When They Comply With the Core Values and Policies You Established

Use positive reinforcement for compliance with your policy, and strive for consistency here as well. If you’re consistent when enforcing your policies, employees will be less likely to question them. You can reward employees in a variety of ways, such as with financial incentives, public recognition, or other perks.

Step 6—Reinforce Your Culture by Communicating the Core Values and Policies Regularly

Be sure to communicate your core values and policies regularly. You can do this through leadership training by using role model scenarios, sending regular updates via email or text, or having posters available in employee areas.

Creating a Positive Workplace Culture

A Home for Your Employees

Creating a positive workplace is similar to creating a home that makes employees feel comfortable and nurtured, while also holding them accountable when appropriate. As seen above, it’s not an easy process. It requires identifying the right core values and policies, establishing these values within your organization, and reinforcing them at every opportunity.

It’s also important to know that your culture may evolve over time, as your organization grows and changes. You should regularly reassess whether you’re still aligned with the values you set forth for your workplace. And when a new person joins the team or an old employee leaves, make sure to take care in ensuring that the new person is aligned with your values.

If you need additional assistance, you can also engage a professional culture building expert to assist with this process and make sure that it’s done right. All in all, creating a positive workplace isn’t impossible—it just takes time and effort. However, when done right, it creates an environment that will help your organization succeed.

“A policy is nothing more than a rule of thumb.” – Jeffrey Pfeffer, Professor at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business via The Huffington Post.


  • eSoft Skills Team

    The eSoft Editorial Team, a blend of experienced professionals, leaders, and academics, specializes in soft skills, leadership, management, and personal and professional development. Committed to delivering thoroughly researched, high-quality, and reliable content, they abide by strict editorial guidelines ensuring accuracy and currency. Each article crafted is not merely informative but serves as a catalyst for growth, empowering individuals and organizations. As enablers, their trusted insights shape the leaders and organizations of tomorrow.