HR’s Role in Shaping Workplace Culture


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HR Role in Shaping Workplace Culture

It is no big mystery that if employees are happy, they will work harder and better. A major factor in employee happiness is workplace culture. Human Resources at UC Berkley provides the following definition: “Organizational or workplace culture is basically the personality of an organization and is defined by its mission, goals, and values and by how these elements influence the working environment itself and the behaviors of those who work there.” This sounds good on paper, but it is sometimes lost when it comes to actual action. How much management focuses their efforts to ensure and constantly improve workplace culture will directly reflect on employee morale and performance.

Organizational or workplace culture does not just fall on the shoulders of the executives. Human resource managers and specialists also play a vital role, from advising the leadership on where the company may be falling short to actually planning and implementing programs to improve workplace culture. In a Business Management Magazine article, the Vice President of Global Talent Management for Yum Brands Inc. said, “My top three priorities, and the things that I want my team to be known for as an HR team, are great recruitment, great people development, and building a culture that makes people want to come to work … and stay.”

So what can HR do to shape a positive workplace culture? Here are some ideas.


HR should work collaboratively with all managers and supervisors to promote a respectful workplace where all employees feel safe. Firstly all management and HR representatives should lead through example in how they treat everyone fairly. Secondly HR and management should promote an open door policy where employees feel comfortable talking to them about any problems of harassment, discrimination or disrespect they may be experiencing from their peers. In some situations it may be beneficial for, HR, management or all staff to go through diversity training.


One vital component of positive workplace culture is that all employees feel that they are valued. This means recognizing individuals when they do well, providing constructive feedback and support to those who are struggling and allowing time to those who may want to suggest their own creative ideas. Recognition can also come in more obvious forms such as bonuses or incentives, and even by organizing regular awards ceremonies to applaud a job well done.


Promoting a healthy workplace (in terms of physical and mental health) is also an essential component of organizational culture. In a SHRM Foundation Executive Briefing entitled “Wellness Strategies to Improve Employee Health, Performance and the Bottom Line”, Dr. David Chenoweth describes some of the positive measures the Denver-based company PCL Construction Services, Inc. administers.“The company provides healthy snack alternatives in its vending machines and covers the costs of gym memberships, local 5K runs and marathons, flu vaccines, and annual on-site health screenings,” he writes. Dr. Chenoweth adds this quote from the company’s HR advisor, Diana Canzona-Hindman: “We really wanted to focus on the whole person…If you can incorporate all these different pieces, you’re going to achieve your goal of a healthy work environment. It has to be part of the culture, not an add-on”. Other suggestions for promoting healthy lifestyles in the workplace is offering in-house mental and physical health services, organizing a healthy potluck, holding workshops on physical and mental health, organizing intramurals, a fun tournament or a fundraiser with an athletic component and holding contests or offering incentives for healthy practices.


Though it sounds cliché, strong morale is crucial for a healthy workplace culture. When employees are able to connect and work well together, the workplace will thrive. Holding team building events (such as at an outdoor retreat center or hiring an instructor to come lead team bonding exercises), hosting office holiday parties and staff picnics and organizing corporate social responsibility projects (such as staff members volunteering together at a soup kitchen) are just some ideas for boosting morale.

While Other Human Resources responsibilities, such as recruiting, hiring and training, may seem more important in the short term, the long term benefits of promoting a healthy workplace culture will benefit everyone, from entry-level employees to the CEO.

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