Escape the Soul-Sucking Workplace: 9 Best Practices to Create a Culture that Rocks

Success in a world moving past the pandemic starts with taking care of our most valuable asset – our people! And a great workplace culture is the best place for that. It leads to engaged employees who stay longer, increases productivity and profits, and leads to loyal customers. 

According to Built-in Beta:

  •  46% of job seekers cite company culture as very important when applying to a company.
  • 47% of active job seekers cite company culture as their driving reason for looking for work.
  • 91% of managers in the U.S. say a candidate’s alignment with the company culture is equal to or more important than skills and experience.

As leaders, creating a culture of engagement is no longer a luxury; it requires our full focus and dedication in all organizational activities. This type of culture is critical for the success of any organization.

Barrel Health Call Centers, for example,  strive to create an uplifting and family-friendly atmosphere. The Head of Human Resources, otherwise known as the ‘Queen of Fun and Laughter,’ jokes that it’s like a challenge to get hired by them! 

They pay attention to who fits into their culture when recruiting supervisors. They gauge this by taking potential candidates to lunch, believing that how one interacts with waitstaff, canines, and children gives insight into their personality.

Michael Kerr

Michael Kerr

Canadian Hall of Fame Speaker and Business Coach Michael Kerr knows all too well what it’s like to work in a toxic environment. After negative experiences of his own, he has made it his life’s mission to make workplaces more enjoyable places to be. He believes that fun isn’t just a bonus – it’s a necessity.

Kerr summarizes what organizations that really rock and stand out from the crowd have in common. 

1. Their leadership is self-aware of the “CEO disease” and avoids it at all costs.

Leaders of positive workplace cultures are cognizant that creating a culture of engagement has to begin at the top – with them. This so-called “CEO disease” is that tendency to be unaware of how your words and actions impact the people around you.

Kerr states, “Being self-aware and open to feedback is the first step. You can’t fix a problem you don’t know you have. So you’ve got to be really honest with yourself.”

2. Their leaders are purposefully living out and supporting their culture and values out loud.

Leaders of high-impact workplaces take the time to get out into the field and show their commitment to the organization and its customers. This could mean interacting with customers, getting hands-on in the manufacturing plant, or even taking part in activities like picking up trash in the parking lot—anything that models how they live their values.

“I think there’s a huge disconnect. There’s that knowing-doing gap. Everyone knows that culture is important, but are they really backing that up through their actions? So again, it’s about being intentional,” explains Kerr.

3. Invest in talent strategies to get the right people.

Often, companies make the mistake of slapping bandaids to address an ailing need–specifically, in this case, a labour shortage. “Get me a warm body.. As long as the person has a pulse..” only leads to higher levels of turnover. It can be costly and stressful to put the wrong person into the wrong role. 

“You’ve got to hire relentlessly with your culture in mind. You’ve got to hire first and foremost for attitude, for emotional intelligence, for culture, not just culture fit, but culture growth,” says Kerr.

Mitigating unconscious bias is an absolutely critical step. Most of the time, we tend to recruit individuals who make us feel comfortable — usually people that resemble us in some form. To move forward and take your business to the next level, hiring someone who offers unique insights, has a knack for innovation and can help you diversify your culture is imperative.

Watch Marc’s Full interview with Michael Kerr

4. They relentlessly focus on asking questions that bring out the person’s character, personality, and attitude.

Kerr outlines that in his research of organizations across the US and Canada, they often have eight to ten touchpoints before selecting a new hire. “And they always do a separate culture screening.”

Companies that nail recruitment invest in determining a person’s character and good attitude. As Kerr says, “Everything else can be taught and trained, but it’s tough to transplant somebody’s attitude.”

5. They have a service-first mindset within their culture.

I grew up in the service industry with the adage, if you are not serving a customer, you damn well better be serving someone who is!” Some of your most important customers are internal customers. Foster a culture of service: Encourage a culture of customer-centricity by prioritizing the needs of your team members and valuing their feedback and input.

How to Be the Unparalleled Leader Your People Want You to Be

6. They bring humour into the culture.

Humour in the workplace helps us drive a better, more positive culture.

“If you, first and foremost, build that positive, respectful culture, full of trust and open and honest communication, then guess what? Your humor is going to be respectful and positive for the most part. And so, time and time again, they say, you know what? It’s never an issue,” says Kerr.

It all comes down to your employee’s mindset when interacting with customers and team members. Are they ready to go the extra mile and make their approach entertaining and authentic? As a leader, you can ensure that you communicate in a way that resonates with people, injecting lightheartedness into your words. Aim to be helpful, informative, and fun!

7. Their leaders know that communication is everything and everything is communication.

Kerr emphasizes that when making decisions for the organization, we must ensure that they align with our desired culture; each decision should be considered through an “impact on culture” lens. We must stay conscious of how our choices shape and reflect the culture we envision.

8. They stand out from the herd and get heard, attracting more quality employees and clients.

Successful leaders build their great rocking culture to resonate and attract the best employees and clients.

They champion their culture on their website, social media, and job posts to attract the best talents and clients. They sing it on their website, promote and talk about it. They make it come to life, conversational and humorous, to stand out from the herd and be heard.

“It’s important to create a culture known as fun, positive, ‘service first’ and a great place to be an employee. Then guess what? You don’t have to go hunting for employees. You become the hunted,” says Kerr.

9. Leaders intentionally find ways to bridge the gap and build trust.

Outline the best practices of one particular CEO, Kerr tells the story of how the CEO is a master of connecting his employees, whether they are working from home or on-premise. Every week he sends out an engaging video with updates on what’s happening in the office, including celebratory news like Mary’s recent engagement! 

Demonstrating our faith in our remote workers creates trust and a sense of belongingness in the workplace—a critical element for success. Showing your team that you believe in them keeps morale high and builds confidence even when they’re not physically present.

Roadblocks and potholes

According to Kerr, one of the challenges in creating a more positive and enjoyable work environment is the tendency to hold preconceived notions that it is not possible, especially in a serious or conservative business. 

“It’s about taking ourselves lightly in order to take our customer’s needs seriously and our work seriously. And there’s a world of difference between those two things,” explains Kerr.

Using humour in a balanced and self-aware way can enhance the work environment and prevent people from taking themselves too seriously. Ultimately, having a sense of humour can help create a more human and relatable workplace.


About Michael Kerr

Michael Kerr is a Canadian Hall of Fame speaker who, in pre-pandemic times, travelled the world researching, writing, and speaking about inspiring workplace cultures, inspiring leaders, and businesses that leverage their humour resources to drive outrageous results!

Michael’s ideas on building inspiring workplaces have been featured in hundreds of publications worldwide, including Forbes, Fast Company and Business Insider. His Inspiring Workplaces blog has been listed as one of the top 30 workplace blogs in the world. He is also the creator of the Culture Leadership Academy, one of the most comprehensive culture leadership online programs available.

Michael’s most recent books are available here.

  • The Jerk-Free Workplace: How you Can Take the Lead to Create a Happier, More Inspiring Workplace
  • Hire, Inspire, and Fuel Their Fire: How to Recruit, Onboard and Train New Employees to Live Your Culture Out Loud
  • The Humor Advantage: Why Some Businesses Are Laughing All the Way to the Bank

Connect with Michael


About the Author

Marc Haine is a Service Expert and a Master of Experience. He is a sought-after speaker and trainer working with businesses that need to attract and engage their best customers. Driven by his passion for creating experiences that rock, Marc has worked with retail, casinos, hotels, associations and municipalities to help them design jaw-dropping experiences that get them noticed.
Marc knows what it takes for businesses to exceed experience expectations–The first step, each day, as you open your doors to the public, have you and your staff yell, “IT’S SHOWTIME!”
Marc is one of the world’s foremost authorities on customer journey experience touchpoints and is the author of LIGHTS! CAMERA! ACTION! Business Operational Excellence through the Lens of Live Theatre (Check out the new way of looking at your business HERE).
Marc is offering a free 30-minute brainstorming session with you and your team. Click Here to book a time that works for you on his online calendar.
Dare to be the exception™

Marc is a service expert and a master of experiences. He's also an author, speaker, facilitator and coach. He will help your teams ignite their passions, enable your leaders to recentre their focus, and drive continuous improvement through connected and engaged employees. This will allow you to realize your competitive advantage with a connected purpose and consistency of customer experience across your brand. He will dare your people to cultivate a generous attitude and lead with love and kindness first.

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