Ten Best Ways to Build a Quality Work Culture
Dr. Bill Cottringer

“To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace.” ~Doug Conant, Campbell Soup.

There has been a revolutionary interest in looking for ways to improve the quality of work environments, which lead to improved organizational performance. Today, the workplace landscape has changed so dramatically from the game-changing social forces accompanying the Information Age, mainly speed of change, information explosion and complete diversity. Now we are being forced to re-think basic things like success, performance, leadership strategies, business models, and work processes Fortunately for us in the security business, his may be slightly easier, having a more simple, direct and shared mission than most other businesses.


The most logical starting point is to do a formal assessment of your current work culture to find out what is working well and what needs changing from all the principles below. There are plenty of free or inexpensive culture assessment tools available on the Internet with a Google Search. Just be prepared to hear and use painfully negative feedback.


Most success gurus like Jack Canfield, Tony Robins, and Lou Tice would agree that nothing great happens that doesn’t start with a huge dream vision of where the individual or organization has the infinite potential to explode into. The consensus is, the larger, the better, as human potential is only limited by the ceilings humans place on themselves. So, don’t limit your dreams as to where you company can go.


The changing workforce and workplace landscapes may be calling for changes in the traditional security hiring profile to include screening in of known critical success factors most conducive to a quality work culture. These softer qualities will include things like the important emotional intelligence components (self-awareness and understanding, empathy, emotional management, achievement motivation and social skills), along with characteristics such as commitment, concern, teamwork and continual learning and improvement in building a quality achievement work culture for the organization.


A two-way supportive communication climate, as opposed to a one-way defensive tone is the key to building a quality work culture. This involves conveying a sense of freedom, spontaneity, empathy, equality, and tentativeness. This is opposed to creating a defensive climate by implying control, manipulation, indifference, superiority and certainty. Another important communication skill needed is two-eared listening—active listening to accurately hear what is being said or not said, and keen observation of non-verbal behavior verifying or masking true meaning and intentions.


Most organizations have noble missions, goals and core values that drive their organizations on paper. But that just isn’t good enough. When companies are serious about building higher quality work environments, all layers of the organization from leaders to supervisors to employees to other stakeholders, must consistently support and actively live the core values in their everyday behaviors, choices and decisions. The standard becomes, “Will what I am doing (or not doing) help or hurt the company build and sustain a quality work culture that contributes to our organizational success?”


Builders of a quality work culture, know the power of diversity of personnel in solving perplexing organizational problems that are currently confronting leaders who are starting to feel like they are treading into an unfamiliar territory without a map. By celebrating such workforce diversity, the organization promotes the appeal of the job, increases exposure to valuable learning, improves the organization’s reputation, resolves conflicts by building on similarities, and allows for mutual respect of team member’s performance.


We live in a world where fast and furious changes are blurred and hard to keep up with. The key to thriving through the fast pace of change today is to openly embrace it as a permanent and inevitable reality in cable of being avoided. But, this embracing of change has one very important caveat and that is to not be duped into throwing the baby out with the dirty bathwater. Wisdom in today’s successful companies involves sorting the gold from the dirt—saving the tried and true principles that we know work and then figuring out how to reinvent them slightly to re-apply to the changing workplace landscape.


In high quality work cultures, everyone in the organization, including all the internal and external stakeholders, is competent, committed, concerned and diligent in contributing their part to the organization’s achievement of success. Most employees are internally driven to perform well, but they enjoy external validation of their sense of making progress for the organization. When progress happens it needs to be recognized and rewarded, per the individual preference of the employee, and when organizational or team success is achieved, then everyone is entitled to play hard after working hard.


Right ethics in today’s organization involve doing the right things in the right ways at the right times for the right reasons and require some short-term pains for long-range gains in practicing high road ethics. This also requires leaders to quickly repair mistakes that are made from slips into lower road ethics—settling for short-term fixes over long-term cures to problems and conflicts, or worse yet giving into questionable morality or manipulative dishonesty.


Actually there is no finish line in building a quality work environment as it is a perpetual journey embracing change, course corrections and continual learning and improving. This is one of the cornerstones of a quality work environment—the organization is never satisfied with itself and knows it can always be better in relation to the ambitious dreams that started it. This is also a critical success factor to hiring new employees, in making sure they possess this quality of being a perpetual learner.

Fortunately, these ten principles of building and sustaining a quality work culture are very much inter-related and help develop each other. So if you are interested in improving the quality of your current work culture, start with any one to begin the process and the others will follow.

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” ~Henry Ford, Ford Motor Company.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is Executive Vice-President for Employee Relations for Puget Sound Security Patrol, Inc. in Bellevue, WA and Adjunct Professor in Criminal Justice at Northwest University. He has helped private and public organizations improve the quality of their work environments and performance for over 50 years and is author of several business and self-development books, including, “You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too” (Executive Excellence), “The Bow-Wow Secrets” (Wisdom Tree), “Do What Matters Most” and “P” Point Management” (Atlantic Book Publishers), “Reality Repair” (Global Vision Press), and “Reality Repair Rx” (Authorsden). He can be contacted at bcottringer@pssp.net or 425-454-50111