Here’s how good leaders set the tone for success

Credit: Getty Images

Credit: Getty Images

Effective leaders understand the power of a strong workplace culture, and they prioritize it daily. They know creating a workplace culture where employees are highly engaged is a strategic advantage — one that competitors cannot replicate.

The relationship between leadership and organizational culture impacts just about everything, but these are significant ways leaders support a people-first culture and healthy employee experience.

1. Expectations: This starts in the hiring process. Setting expectations is part of the employee value proposition. Leaders need to communicate roles and responsibilities clearly. Top Workplaces are successful at setting expectations.

2. Core values: Company values are a powerful declaration of intentions. Strong values keep your organization moving forward, while weak ones threaten its success. The best leaders establish meaningful values that resonate at all levels of the organization. Leaders must also communicate regularly, apply company values to decision making, and model them daily.

3. Employee feedback: Insights from employees help leaders understand where the culture stands. Employee feedback helps leaders observe employee engagement levels, gain a fresh perspective on what is and isn’t working, and find viable solutions to challenges.

4. Communication and support: When employees feel included in important decisions, they feel like true partners in the business. They are also more likely to align with the organization amid change, even if they disagree. Communicating important decisions effectively throughout the organization lays the groundwork for improvement. Done right, employees are more receptive to change. This is especially true if employee feedback inspires change.

5. Opportunities to learn and grow: Leaders who believe in the power of people-first cultures also believe in the benefits of employee training and development. They understand employees’ abilities and interests, and they align those with the organization’s needs. It boosts well-being and prevents burnout.

6. Appreciation: Leaders who celebrate personal and organizational achievements reinforce a culture of employee recognition. Appreciation consistently ranks one of the strongest drivers of engagement. It is also one of the simplest and least expensive ways to boost morale, productivity, and retention. Who and what leaders celebrate tells employees a lot about the organization’s culture.

7. Accountability: Companies operate efficiently and well when leaders successfully drive a culture of accountability. It requires leaders to be transparent with their teams about the standards they need to reach. A culture of accountability is most successful when leaders provide clear direction and offer support. In this environment, employees are more likely to meet and exceed expectations.

8. Action: Asking for employee feedback is the first step toward building better engagement — but none of that matters unless leaders listen and take action. Good leaders give thanks for honest feedback and set expectations for the next steps; uncover focus areas that can impact organizational culture; set goals and spur improvement; share and communicate results; and measure and evaluate progress.

9. Inclusiveness: Research shows diverse, inclusive organizations outperform the competition in profits, cash flow, revenue, and other areas. But an inclusive culture requires more than building a diverse workforce. Leaders must be genuinely open and respectful to individual differences. An inclusive workplace means people have equal opportunities to contribute ideas and feel a sense of belonging. This increases commitment to the organization and its goals.

Bob Helbig is media partnerships director at Energage, a Philadelphia-based employee survey firm. Energage is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s survey partner for Top Workplaces. To nominate your organization as a Top Workplace, go to