Workplace Culture Struggling? Here’s How To Fix That.

Workplace Culture Struggling? Here’s How To Fix That.

One of my absolute favorite things about blogging is that I get to interact with new people every day. I get several emails a day about different articles or topics I’ve written about, I have been having some wonderful improptu Skype video calls with industry colleagues…it has been amazing to network and connect with people who share interests and those who bring a different perspective to some of the topics I write about. I have also been hearing about companies that do things extraordinarily well and who put their people first and conversely, those that struggle in that area.

Earlier this week I received an email from someone who has seen their great company culture erode over the last 18 month and it seemed to accelerate over the holiday season. So, I thought I would share my thoughts in an article about how to re-establish culture when it goes wrong.


Even I, sometimes, feel like speaking about “workplace culture” is a little clunky and expositional. After all, culture is the result of top-down behaviors and actions that drive the climate [good or not-so-good] in the workplace. It’s made up of a lot of moving parts and it’s something that everyone must contribute to in order for it to work. Not only does it behoove retail organizations to establish a great culture but dedicate time and attention to it – it requires maintenance frequently in order to keep it healthy, keep it current, and make sure it is organic to the employees and not something that is forced or something that becomes a topic people dread, or worse, a compliance issue or cult-like.

Some starting points to creating or reinventing/re-establishing a healthy organizational culture:

“A healthy organizational culture builds a strategic framework to incorporate core values within its mission, vision, and strategic goals.” – Susan Heathfield

Executive Leadership needs to define it: This is done through…
-Using the Company Mission Statement/Organization Vision
-Core Values
as the guiding principles for the employees and customer experience expectations that will support:
-Personal and professional growth
-Understanding of what truly motivates employees [from TalentCulture]

Recognize the results/changes/improvement you want to see:
-Organizational Wellness and growth
-Employee Wellness
-Improved Customer Experience & increased sales/profits
-Employee Advocacy improvement
-Employee Retention

Identify and Communicate the steps to improvement:
-Publicly acknowledge the challenges and where the breakdown occurred
-What steps will be taken and processes implemented to plan, manage, and reinforce cultural improvment
-Consciousness that personal behaviors are aligned and in congruence with company mission and values consistently

Organizational qualities you will be able to measure to ensure the initiative in on track:

-Employee Retention
-Happiness at work
-Decreased workplace conflicts
-Decreased gossiping
-Everyone’s participation as a strategic player in the workplace

As I have said, ad nauseum, culture will not be established or fixed by sending your stores a laminated, colorful poster for the backroom. It needs to constantly assessed for progress, talked about, quantified, and recognized. It is established through respect, communication, behaviors, and business decisions that are in line with values and vision.

If you are a retail organization that needs to fix an eroded/damaged culture here are some ideas on how to get it back on track:

Establish Trust:
It is very likely if your culture has gone bad – your team is talking about it. They have lost faith in leadership. They have lost faith in the organization. The only thing the Executive Leadership team can do is acknowledge it. Talk about it, apologize for it, own the issue. In order for the employees to believe that there is a sincere attempt to right the wrong the communication must be genuinely and sincerely delivered.

Allow for employees to make suggestions and then commit to taking action on the best ideas that will deliver improvement. Let the employees help – your loyal, most enthusiastic employees will want to help and offer solutions. Frequently they can be influential and persuasive to their peer group and get others on-board with supporting the initiatives. And then give credit where credit is due.

Create an environment that values the humans in your business
People are tribal. They want to connect with their coworkers. They want to build supportive working relationships. . According to TinyPulse, “88% of employees prefer a collaborative culture rather than a competitive culture”.

In a previous article I outline the specific 10 Things Employees Want to feel engaged and like they are contributing the success of a company:
1. They want purpose
2. They want goals
3. They want responsibilities
4. They want autonomy
5. They want flexibility
6. They want attention/growth/recognition
7. They want opportunities for innovation
8. They want open-mindedness
9. They want transparency
10. They want compensation

By ensuring that your organization allows for all of these things, you’re focused on the right things to improve culture for your company and your employees.

The interesting thing about retail is that there are two ways in which culture can get thrown out of whack:

(1) From the executives who aren’t focused on it or simply don’t care to make it a priority – which makes it a company wide issue;
(2) It can be fine as a company but it can break at a Regional, District, or Store level – which makes it a smaller scale regional issue;

Either way, though it is not easy, it can be fixed [it just takes time and be prepared for turnover and to have to deal with lots of challenges]. Today in our industry, the employees are driving the success or the lack thereof of in retail organizations. It is hugely important to always circle back to your Company Vision & Values. These are the backbone, the guiding principles, of the organization – they are the first place to go when you need to make decisions, fix culture, hold people accountable, and/or start on the path to greatness.


Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail and 18 year retailer. I am a passionate and creative leader and coach committed to inspiring thought, action, truth-telling, solution-seeking, and dialog about how to maximize talent through identifying and creating a process around critical success factors, workplace culture, signature leadership practices, productivity, profitability, alignment of employees and company vision & values, and workplace happiness inside all retail organizations. I help create healthy, vibrant, high-performing, and highly-productive organizations that are talent magnets and focused on delivering the highest level of customer experience that will differentiate them from competition and result in long-term growth and sustainability.

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2 thoughts on “Workplace Culture Struggling? Here’s How To Fix That.

  1. Hi Beth
    I am currently in this space having to fix a store that has many year of a broken culture and many leaders leaving behind great employees and no trust in leaders that follow I enjoyed reading this article and hope to put some of these things in place. I’m only there for 2 weeks because I have my own store to run while we find a replacement
    Keep up the great work


    1. Hi Pete,
      Wow…It sounds like you have your hands full! Thank you so much for your comment. I hope over the course of the two weeks you get to see some improvement. I know you will probably return to your store exhausted after this assignment (and very appreciative of your home store team). Please let me know if you need anything.
      Best of luck,

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