The culture in any workplace is a great indicator about how well (or badly) the health, safety and wellbeing aspects are being managed. 

Maybe you are familiar with the term “management culture”?

A poor or negative workplace culture is usually easy to spot because you get the feeling that something is “off”, even though it can be incredibly difficult to articulate that feeling you have.

And if you can feel it, there is a good chance that your workers and your clients will pick up on it too.

For example

Picture yourself in your local supermarket.  It is a Saturday lunchtime.

It is busy, packed with other shoppers, children and trollies everywhere!

Your shopping trolley – the one that you have been fighting with for the past 20 minutes because of its tendency to pull to the left – is full.  You now have an ab on one sideof your torso.

Yes, you have had enough already and just want to get out of there!

You are heading for the tills when you suddenly remember you need a couple of light bulbs.

Spotting a nearby worker who is restocking the ice-cream, you politely ask “where can I find light bulbs?”

You get this response:

“Oh, right, erm… well I’m only part-time and my shift finishes in a minute, but I think they’re about four aisles over that way near the dog food, but I’m not sure.”

With a wave of an arm in the general direction of the Dog Food aisle, you are dismissed as the worker scurries off towards the back of the shop.

How do you feel about that?

Now, contrast that with this response from a different member of staff:

“Light bulbs? OK, give me a second.  They’re over in the Housewares section.  Let me take you to them.”

Now how do you feel?


As a customer and a business owner, that extra bit of service can make all the difference, to your reputation, the customer experience, and your bottom line.

So as you can see, your workplace culture is important.

It can also have a direct impact on other key areas of your business including:

  • accident and incident rates
  • absence and sickness rates
  • worker retention and staff turnover
  • the level of health and safety compliance
  • quality of the products and services supplied
  • achievement or failure to reach team objectives that feed into business goals
  • profit margins

You have probably heard the phrase “what gets measured gets improved”.

The indicators above can be a great way to benchmark progress so that you can see what you are doing well and where you are performing to a good standard, as well as idenitfying areas of concern so that you can take action and address any issues before they become a bigger problem for you and your team. 

If you do not currently have any Key Performance Indicators  (KPIs) you can create a few trailing ones from the list above.  We also recommend your KPIs include leading indicators too.

Just to be clear and for the avoidance of any doubt whatsoever:

“your workplace culture and performance are very closely related.”


When you have a positive workplace culture you can expect to see:

  • less accidents and incidents
  • better team performance
  • better quality outputs relating to your goods and services
  • lower sickness and absence rates
  • less workplace stress
  • lower risk of burnout
  • increased profit

So, what is a “workplace culture”?

One of the better ways of defining a workplace culture is:

“A system of shared values and beliefs about the importance of health, safety and wellbeing in the workplace, on both an individual and corporate level.”

According to the Health and Safety Executive’s guidance document HS(G)65 Successful Health and Safety Management, the four C’s of a positive health and safety culture are:

  • Competence – competence of individuals with relevant skills, knowledge, ability, training and experience
  • Control – method of control within the organisation, eg. supervision, monitoring and enforcement
  • Communication – verbal, written, graphic, the method of communication throughout the organisation eg posters, DVD’s, email, Zoom,  etc
  • Co-operation – co-operation between individuals, safety representatives and groups, eg committee meetings, and team meetings.

The starting point is clear leadership and management from the outset.

Worker engagement is a crucial part of risk management in any business, and even more so where the  health, safety and wellbeing of the individuals, and the organisation is concerned.

But what does worker engagement look like?

Professor David Guest described it as

“a workplace approach designed to ensure that employees are committed to their company’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to success and able at the same time to enhance their own sense of wellbeing.”

This is a mutual gain as it benefits both parties – the organisation and the individual.

The 2009 MacLeod Review summarised four key ‘enablers’ of employee engagement:

  1. Leadership that gives a ‘strong strategic narrative about the organisation’
  2. Line Managers who motivate, empower and support their employees
  3. Employee voice throughout the organisation, to involve employees in decision making
  4. Organisational integrity that stated values are reflected in the actual organisation culture; what we say is what we do.

What are the core values and beliefs that underpin your business or company you work for?

What are your personal core values and beliefs?

Do you know what the core values and beliefs of your workers or team members are?

Do they align with that of your business or the company you work for?

Have you ever worked for a company where you did not settle into the role, could it have been the result of a misalignment?

What are the business’s goals for the next 12 months, 5 years, and 10 years?

Have you clearly communicated the objectives and tasks that are needed to facilitate reaching those goals?

Is everyone clear on what they are doing and why they are doing it?

Do they appreciate that the role they play contributes to the success or failure of the business?

Were they part of the discussions that formed the business goals?

For anyone holding an ISO accreditation, you will be aware that communication sits under the “Leadership and worker participation” section of the relevant standard (eg ISO 45001 Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems).

Communication is such an important part of a workplace that it is even a legal requirement!

What could affect the workplace culture?

There are three main factors that could influence your workplace culture – the organisation, the job or task, and the individual.

Not every aspect will apply to you or your business at the moment, but it could be worth bearing in mind for the future.

Organisational Factors

  • Reorganisation
  • Uncertainty
  • Redundancy
  • Poor management leadership / commitment
  • Poor example set by management
  • Lack of resources
  • Work patterns
  • Poor Communication
  • Lack of, or poor quality training
  • Lack of, or poor quality of supervision
  • Production given priority over health safety and wellbeing
  • Questionable management decisions

Job / Task Factors

  • Task demands
  • Disturbance/interruptions
  • Bonus systems
  • Environment
  • Displays and Controls
  • Procedures

Individual Factors

  • Competence
  • Personality
  • Attitude
  • Risk perception
  • Motivation
  • Age and experience
  • Other individual factors such as – sensory defects, drugs and/or alcohol, physical capabilities/disabilities, aptitude, fatigue, stress, effects of long covid

Peer pressure can also greatly affect an individual’s behaviour which is why when it is positive, it can be a useful tool when working collectively towards achieve targets, objectives and goals.

Conversely, it can be negative creating a hostile, difficult and disruptive workplace.

How we can help

When trying to create or instil a positive workplace culture as you can see, there are quite a few areas to tackle!

We have helped clients with some of those aspects which have in turn, helped reverse their negative culture and created a much more productive, and harmonious working environment through a combination of resources including:

  • Independent survey – a combined health, safety and wellbeing climate survey
  • Creating and implementing a tailor-made management strategy
  • Helping clients get clear on their value and goals
  • Creating and implementing an effective and efficient multi-way communication plan across the business
  • Creating and implementing auditable processes, systems and documents
  • Provided a range of tailor-made health, safety and wellbeing-related training courses and workshops to managers and workers, including Stress Prevention and Stress Management, Behaviour Based Safety Training, Human Factors Analysis Training, and Mental Health First Aid Training.

You don’t know what you don’t know, and sometimes it helps to hire an independent specialist who can see the situation clearly, get to the root cause of your troubles, and provide the tools, support and guidance you need to set you off on the right track, or get you to where you need to be.

If you have any concerns or questions relating to anything covered in this article, or feel like you would benefit from some friendly, knowledgeable support, you’re invited to a free 30-minute chat.