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Creating a happy culture in the workplace - it starts with knowing your people


Does your workplace have a happy culture? Do people talk about it in a positive way? According to Frances Frei and Anne Morris at Harvard Business Review, ‘Culture guides discretionary behaviour.’ So it’s important to get it right, then. The question is, how?

In this blog post, Sarah Brown looks at why a happy culture is important and what you can do to get happy, satisfied people in your team.

What is culture?

Culture tells us how to behave when no one’s watching - although, according to my old teacher Sister Monica, there’s always somebody watching. It helps us know if we can speak up, challenge and bring ideas to the table. It’s what makes your organisation unique and why people want to work there. It’s how people talk about your organisation with their friends and family.

Culture is about your people and making sure they have a fun, safe and productive working environment.

Why is culture important?

The right culture allows you to attract and retain the right people. It’s how they interact and build relationships with each other. It’s a measure of how happy and satisfied people are at work. And it links to performance and overall organisational strategy.

Strong company culture is the foundation of a happy workplace.

According to research by Deloitte, 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct corporate culture is important to a business’s success. Deloitte’s survey also found a strong correlation between employees who claim to feel happy and valued at work and those who say their company has a strong culture.

Culture will happen whether you want it to or not, so how do you create a happy one?

How to create a happy culture

Set clear objectives

Clear objectives give everyone a clear vision of what’s expected of them, as well as measurable results to work towards. This drives individual and team performance, and encourages learning and collaboration between people.

But don’t just set performance objectives. Ask individuals what they want to achieve and support them to complete personal development objectives too. Meaning and purpose are more important in the workplace now than ever. Ensure objectives link to the overall vision and core values, so people can see how they’re having an overall impact. Finally, ensure objectives are regularly reviewed and are motivating and challenging for everyone.

Locke and Latham’s research shows us goal-setting is vital for people’s sense of purpose and achievement.

Locke reviewed over a decade of research on the effects of goal-setting and performance. He found that over 90% of the time, goals that were specific and challenging, but not overly challenging, led to higher performance. This was when compared to easy goals or goals that were too generic, such as a goal to do your best.

Give Feedback

People need to know how they’re doing. Ask for, and give, regular feedback. Make it objective and evidence-based -  you’ll get a better response. Provide it regularly, so it becomes a habit. Be solution-focused. At Laughology, we prefer feedforward so it’s future-focused too.

Get to know people

Make time for people and get to know them. It will help you understand them, as well as what their strengths, motivators, likes and dislikes are. Culture is much more than the behaviours you see. It also identifies what’s going on underneath that might be relevant.

What we see is just the tip of the iceberg. To get to know people you need to go below the surface, as explained in Edward T. Hall’s Cultural Iceberg Model. 

Be Inclusive of all

Create a positive, inclusive workplace culture by welcoming individuals from all backgrounds and celebrating their differences.

Have fun

Have fun and use humour to help with stressful moments. Well, we would say that… But don’t just take it from us. Humour helps you have a different perspective. Laughing helps you release those wonderful positive neurotransmitters, giving you a DOSE of happiness.

If you feel better, you think better and therefore act better. As Dale Carnegie said, ‘People rarely succeed unless they are having fun in what they are doing.’ 

Create a psychologically safe environment for growth

An environment that’s psychologically safe is where everyone feels valued and heard, regardless of their position. You never know who’ll have the next best idea. There’s a great Ted Talk on building a psychologically safe environment by Amy Edmondson.

Allow flexibility

Flexibility is key to a happy culture. The last 18 months have changed the way many of us work. The flexibility of remote work is now something most of us have become accustomed to. But no one solution fits all.

It’s about asking and communicating what flexibility looks like within your organisation. It’s also about recognising that sometimes life happens and supporting people in those moments.

Lead from the front

Lead from the front. Demonstrate the behaviours you expect and that will help to achieve a happy culture.


Being a good listener is one of the easiest ways you can start to build a positive culture. According to research gathered by CultureIQ, 86% of employees at companies with strong cultures feel their senior leadership listen, as compared to 70% of employees at companies without strong cultures. Listen to employees, so they feel their voices are heard and valued.

Get sociable

Get together outside of work because you can. We’re social beings and most of us crave interaction, albeit some more than others. Getting to know each other outside of work will help to build relationships. Ask about the types of events your people would enjoy and have some fun.

So there you have it. Plenty of tips to get you started and to build a happy culture in your workplace. Which ones will you start with?

 If you’d like further support to boost your happiness at work, why not come along to our FREE ‘HappIness with a Capital I’ webinar? You can learn more about neuroscience and grab some strategies to put in place straight away.

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