6 Keys to Building a Strong Workplace Culture

6 Keys to Building a Strong Workplace Culture

Six aspects to build on every day.

What’s different about workplace culture today? One significant difference is that we’re in the age of the connected stakeholder. Whether it is your employee, partner, customer or community at large, this connectedness can either break or make you, as an organisation, in more ways than one.


When you talk about organisational culture, this used to be something that was very internally driven. The experience, for the longest time, was managed within and to a great extent, what happened inside stayed inside. Word of mouth and referrals, of course, had its place. But today, our always on, always accessible culture and smartphone-driven ways has led to a leaching of this culture outside the organisation. What used to be known just to employees can now spread like wildfire on various platforms – regardless of its veracity.  And that can be either a bad or good thing.


Vala Afshar, Chief Digital Evangelist at Salesforce therefore called it right when he said that, “your company culture is your brand’.



Your organisational culture translates into your brand – be it in client meetings, or the way your customers view your organisation.


Aspects of culture

That said, what can we then do about ensuring we build a strong and sustainable workplace culture? You can make sure you tick off the boxes in six aspects of culture.


OC Tanner is a $500 million global company specialising in recognition and culture. They have invested a lot of time and resources in conducting extensive research with more than 10,000 companies where their focus has been on the employee’s view of culture.  Their research shows that there are six aspects of culture in particular that people look for in a great place to work, which are purpose, opportunity, success, appreciation, well-being and leadership.


  1. Purpose

This is about connecting your employee to your organisation’s reason for being. This sense of purpose is how your employee makes a difference to your organisation and how your organisation makes a difference in the world. And millennials have long focused on what drives an organisation. These are different values from the days of old where people stayed in one spot for 30 years, waiting on a golden handshake that may or may not come.



As an employee, having a common purpose with the organisation can make all the difference in terms of effort and performance at work.


  1. Opportunity

This is giving it all to your employees – the ability to learn new skills, to develop, to realise their potential and to contribute meaningfully. It seems to make absolute sense except that there are many organisations that are driven by one thing and the employee is their means of getting to it. That narrow-minded approach means they don’t stop to think about their employee and what they may want or need, thus wasting precious time and resources recruiting and retaining people who don’t buy in or remain engaged.

Always think about how your employees can benefit from an opportunity to upskill themselves or for the company to promote cross-functional learning.


  1. Success

Success for the employee, in many ways, is success for the organisation. This necessarily involves a degree of empowerment and letting go in order for employees to fail forward, try new things and not be penalised for exploring and innovating.

“The fastest way to succeed is to double your failure rate.” If every organisation embraced so wholeheartedly this mantra by IBM’s Thomas Watson Sr, things may be very different in our world today.



When employees are empowered to innovate and correct mistakes, the organisation sets up a system that motivates and encourages employees to fail forward to success.


  1. Appreciation

Who doesn’t feel valued when they are appreciated? While it is very important that organisations recognise both outstanding work and unique contributions, I feel it’s just as important to value and recognise effort as well. It would be good to realise that we do not all start at the same starting line in which case, efforts vary and therefore, need to be taken into account as well.



Developing a culture of recognition can significantly boost satisfaction and retention in the workplace.


  1. Well-being

Particularly relevant in today’s always on, technologically-driven workplace, a focus on employee well-being goes beyond foosball tables, a well-stocked pantry and gym membership. It’s recognition that an employee’s health is many fold – physical, social, emotional and financial. An organisation is made up of people, right to the top, who make decisions for the organisation every day. This means these leaders themselves experience a sense of well-being which they should rightfully ensure is an experience other employees get as well.



Well-being initiatives should be in place, beside any foosball tables, game rooms, or a fancy pantry.


  1. Leadership

Leadership comes from the top and drives everything, in many ways. Good leadership connects employees to purpose, empowers them to do great work and helps bring people together in teams and as a whole. Or they don’t.  Don’t just let your organisational culture exist – build it, refine it often and mould it to get it just right.



Leaders must live and breathe the organisational culture that they put in place. Be the positive change you wish to see in your organisation.


Culture is challenging because your organisational culture exists whether you want to confront it or not. As Jacob Morgan, author and futurist, shared – “A physical environment doesn’t exist unless the organisation creates or designates one. But the corporate culture is like air–it’s around all the employees who work there even if they aren’t always aware of it. That is what it’s so crucial to actually create and design a culture instead of just letting it exist.“

The 3 Pillars of Employee Engagement

The 3 Pillars of Employee Engagement

Engaging talents has always been a daunting task.

The top two challenges in engaging employees are: working with multiple different generations under one roof, and employees wanting fast-tracked career progression. Employee engagement leads organizations towards higher productivity, business success and numbers of delighted customers. But how many of us hit this right to the core?

Engaging employees is definitely a topic of concern among talents, which strongly ties to talent retention. Engaged employees have a great sense of ownership towards the organization, are most likely to stay longer than the rest, and contribute immensely to the organization, laying the path to high customer satisfaction as well as repetitive new businesses. Failure to fulfill this dissatisfies talents to certain extents, and leads them to the company exit door. Establishing a stronger brand name, combined with employee engagement initiatives obviously helps in retention.


Engaged employees have the added benefit of becoming your brand ambassadors. Invest in them.

Engagement also determines to what extent employees are willing to go beyond at their work, and what drives them to do so. Being a rationally committed employee to the organization makes one feel connected, and an employee will strongly believe in staying only if this is in their self-interest. I wouldn’t want to rule out emotional commitment in which employees believe in, and loves to be part of the organization for various reasons with a stronger “Sense of Belonging” to the organization.  In your organization, is there an emotional attachment or detachment among employees and the organization?

Categorizing the engagement efforts and linking it with organization strategy and vision can be a first step to success of engaging employees.  To start off, it is good to consider both long term and quick wins as well as key objectives of engagement initiatives followed by structuring the talent engagement pillars. Do not let the engagement efforts hang separately.

short-long-termAlign your long, and short-term goals for engagement.



3 pillars of engagement – Prakash Santhanam / Credit: “101 ways to engage your talents” book

Pillar 1: Communication

Bringing employees together by sharing information and being transparent removes communication barriers in the organization. Engagement efforts within this pillar aims to create crystal-clear information flows, be it top-down or bottom-up. I have personally experienced major communication breakdowns that stems with a vacuum at the mid-level management – key information does not reach all employees.

This is also closely linked with the core values of the organization on how communication is being practiced and managed. Combining both the traditional and modern ways of communicating, the core objective is to emphasize on the transparency and openness of the organization with the employees.


As a leader, your ability to instill trust is directly correlated with your willingness to be transparent with your employees.

Putting the right message across to all employees determines the success of this pillar. Information sharing is essential, and it has to be initiated by the superiors in the organization as a culture. Who should be spearheading and championing this, the communication department, management team, or managers?


Pillar 2: Motivation

Highly motivated employees are likely to perform better and stay more engaged than the rest. Whose role is it to motivate employees? Motivation can be fueled intrinsically or extrinsically. This pillar emphasizes on being a role model and creating positive sparks, along with engaging thoughts among employees. Exploring and understanding employees‘ motivating factors, and customizing it to their needs significantly supports the framework of the engagement model. How can we identify what motivates talents as it differs by cultures and countries? I was once asked by the General Manager to reward the best attendee to eliminate tardiness, yet how many of us agree on this? Is there one formula to motivate, or are multiple channels and efforts required? Go beyond monetary.


Having a comprehensive benefits plan serves to motivate employees beyond simple monetary terms.



Pillar 3: Recreation & Bonding

Bond” is the magic word that brings employees and teams closer. An easy way of getting this done is to organize recreational and bonding activities such as team building, and integrating a simple mobile application that can be engaging and rewarding for them. An engaging activity strengthens relationships among the workforce, and indirectly helps in managing teams and performance. How much emphasis should an organization place on this? Is there a strong belief and awareness to champion this? How do we know that existing recreational and bonding activities are sufficient, or if a more innovative approach is required – especially to cater to the new generation’s needs at the workplace?


Team building – encourage bonding among colleagues in fun and engaging ways!


In a nutshell – identify, classify, and build upon these 3 pillars, and ensure you have success measures on every engagement initiative, alongside ensuring they are being tied up with the team and organizational KPIs.

Click here to view my e-book on “101 Ways to Engage Your Talents.”

About Prakash Santhanam

Prakash Santhanam is an experienced Talent Management practitioner specializing in Learning & Capability Management, Executive Coaching, Talent Engagement and Performance Management. He has remarkableinternational track record, aligning business strategy with talent strategy in reshaping organization leading towards regional and global success. He possesses 15 years of professional experience predominantly in the automotive, information technology and telecommunication industries across Asia Pacific and Africa. He is also the author to the book “101 Ways to Engage Your Talents“. 



7 Keys to Building an Effective Team

7 Keys to Building an Effective Team

If you are looking to create a successful and productive team offsite, you may want to explore the following 7 ideas


  1. Open Communication

Announce to the team how this offsite team-building will actually improve business. Set up live business goals for the meeting – e.g. sales strategy and sales goals for the next year, new delivery of ideas, or product/service lines to roll-out.

2. Allow Time for Networking

There should be scheduled time slots throughout the offsite team-building duration to enable everyone to get to know each other. I recommend that “getting to know each other” activities need not be planned; instead teams should be doing this naturally. It could be a late evening sitting at the pool and chit-chatting, or having a round of “antakshri” or karaoke, whatever the team would like to do post the offsite day work!

7 Keys to Building an Effective Team
                                                                                                            Remember to set aside time for networking!


3. Build A Learning Mindset

Build their skills, and self-confidence by providing constant training. Hold weekly, or bi-monthly team workshops to teach systems and procedures for every element in your business. Teach your employees how to get the most out of the time and effort that they are putting in to reap the most rewards. Also, eliminate the need for guessing when it comes to difficult situations – create systems to specifically manage a crisis.

4. Reward the Results

Set clear and realistic targets for your employees, and keep it as transparent as possible. Targets are proven to motivate employees and give them something concrete to focus on. But don’t treat missed targets as an opportunity to punish your team; simply offer a reward (cash / kind) that will drive your team to meet the targets you set in the future. Check out this blog post for ideas on designing an effective employee rewards system.

5. Don’t Miss the Basic Needs

As an employer, the onus to provide a healthy lifestyle to employees is on you. Here are basics listed –

  • Comfortable, clean and well-lit rooms and sitting place.
  • Break areas.
  • A place for quick power-naps.
  • Flexible working schedules as the focus is on work, and not thenumber of hours.
  • Robust recognition program.

Basic infrastructure at work
                                                       Ensure the working environment is clean and comfortable to maximize employee satisfaction and productivity.

6. Offsite Events

Are overnight events allowing the team to enjoy and relax, having dinner, drinks, music etc, and truly bonding. In my experience, good teams tend to end up staying late, and talk over or brainstorming new, innovative solutions to recurring problems, and work through existing business problems. These sessions are invaluable as team members work together to work out existing problems, setting the scene for new opportunities, and building real relationships in the process.

7. Last But Not Least

Remember it’s important to keep the momentum rolling. If you fail to come out with an action plan, then you will plan to fail eventually. You may have a list of ideas from the offsite meeting, but have no clarity on executing them. Ensure that action planning is clear to all members with identified goals/actions, associated responsibilities, measurement criteria, and timelines of completion. And all of this is documented soon after the event.

This post was guest written by Saloni Kaul, a human resource specialist and corporate trainer.

The Power of Analytics in HR

The Power of Analytics in HR

If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.

You start first with imagination. Think about what it means to step inside the mind of your employee and see/feel/experience what they are going through, what questions they are asking themselves and what issues they need resolved in order to be happy at work. Then imagine being in a position to address this, without them realising what you’re doing.


How would this improve the employee experience? In what way could you reimagine employee feedback being obtained? How could you provide unified yet automated employee support? The stuff of dreams? Not anymore.


We’re talking about the world of data analytics – quantitative and qualitative techniques and processes that can ultimately enhance productivity and improve the business. It involves extracting data, categorising it and then analysing it for patterns. So if you’re working with data, you need to perform analytics at some point.



                                                                                  The days of sifting through hardcopies of spreadsheets and tables are over.


Big Data, as a term, has been bandied about for some time although the concept is still very new to those in HR. The area it seems to have made most impact is talent acquisition where companies have handled thousands of resumes every year, using machine learning (producing faster and more accurate hiring decisions than humans alone).


What does analytics look like applied to HR?


Like many other areas to which analytics applies, it’s really about figuring out how to solve problems. In HR, this means considering how you could use data and analytics to:

  • improve the employee experience;
  • develop talent;
  • automate employee support;
  • move into the Cloud;
  • improve how we receive employee feedback;
  • take advantage of machine learning.


The more data you have, the more insight you can derive from it, assuming you can extract and process the data well.  Done right, it can mean many things to those in HR.


First, it can aid on-boarding and retention by helping to develop a particular company culture and create a great work environment. Faced with high attrition costs and recruitment fees, doing this means you retain your employees longer.


Second, it can mean your ability to predict when employees are likely to resign (like in Facebook’s case), thus enabling you to take proactive steps to mitigate. Why rely on gut feel or wait until the situation implodes? Machine learning involves a “range of statistical techniques that allows companies to layout complex problems, spot patterns and come up with predictions”.


Third, it aids in talent acquisition where your company can go through thousands of resumes and create a shortlist of prospects.



                                                                                                              Ease your hiring process with data analytics.


Fourth, data analytics helps with one of the biggest issues in HR – performance and engagement.


How do I get my talent to perform at a higher level?
How do I see what’s preventing that from happening?
How do I begin to understand the issues on the periphery?
What can I do to bring the team closer together?
How can I make them all see one unified vision?

Big asks but that is exactly why it makes sense to use analytics in HR – so you don’t just guess your way through the problem. Instead, you allow yourself to be guided forward with facts and figures.




In this way, SelfDrvn uses data-driven solutions to provide valuable insights through a range of touchpoints including employee pulse surveys, reward and recognition programmes, peer feedback loops, goal-setting, wellness games and leaderboard competitions. It’s easy to think of HR analytics as purely the responsibility of HR but it is not. Application and analysis ultimately benefit the organisation as a whole.

The New Era of Engagement Solutions

The New Era of Engagement Solutions

Start with a profound desire to understand how and why your people work.

Look employee engagement up online and you shouldn’t be surprised to see a fair few articles about making the workplace more human again. More human? With the exception of certain extreme situations, the average workplace consists primarily of humans and, in fact, is largely driven by humans. So why the need to become more human?

Gathering Information

The reality is that while many organisations strive to incorporate best practices for a whole host of workplace-driven issues, there is often a gap (sometimes wide, sometimes not) in terms of what and how they achieve this.

Take employee surveys, for example. Speak to employers and they tell you how difficult it is to get people to complete these surveys. Speak to employees and they tell you how much they distrust it and feel it’s a waste of time.

employee-survey                                                    Surveys can be tedious at times, and not contribute meaningfully in the short-term (or long-term for that matter).

Often, these surveys are akin to a theoretical exercise, cumbersome and time-consuming to run. The typical perception is that nothing will change in any significant way. As employers, we need many ways to get our finger on the pulse but once we do, what do we do with such information?

Making Use of Feedback

Some years back, Aon published their Future of Engagement Survey which indicated at least two alarming issues. First, much of the employee feedback was used to look back on rather than for predictive analyses. Second, the line manager’s role in using the employee data was often not emphasised – it was the HR business partner who was the primary user of this people data.

Don’t you agree that these two things need to shift? First, this relevant and timely data should be used in a proactive and forward-looking manner so that rather than simply examining past behaviours and action, you can take steps to address issues as they surface. Second, far more people need to be actively involved not just in the collection of employee data but the dissemination of the same. The same survey also indicated how technology was not often adopted in how employee feedback was communicated – a mere 6% used electronic means such as blog posts, chat rooms and webinars to share information.

The Challenge at Hand

This issue presents a challenge in many ways, yet simultaneously, an opportunity too. With organisations now ever more dispersed, more mobile and grappling with an ever increasing data overflow, it begs the question how we can leverage technology to ease our lives, simplify processes, automate simple tasks and ultimately, improve employee engagement across as many levels as possible.


This is why tech platforms like SelfDrvn which incorporate gamification and real-time feedback are so successful – they put the employee in the driver’s seat. They involve the employee in identifying what works and what does not as well as source new ideas about potential remedial action. Most organisations have top management defining remedial action but with platforms like these, increased employee involvement means a greater degree of ownership and therefore, greater responsibility on them, for making the workplace great again. It shifts the “I-centric” viewpoint from that of the employer to that of the employee. And that’s not a bad thing.

Here’s How It’s Like to Work at SelfDrvn

Here’s How It’s Like to Work at SelfDrvn

SelfDrvn. Enterprise.


If that combination of words does not intrigue you even in the slightest, you’re lying. That was my exact thought when I first heard of the very much “self-driven” company I now work for. I did not know what to really expect from a company that offered a product to solve “employee engagement”, it was a term I never came across before. After an enlightening interview with the CEO, Mun Choong, it was clear to me his passion for helping organizations nurture their most prized assets – their employees. A simple role of Marketing Executive suddenly meant more to me – it meant I would play a part in advocating the need for engaging employees, an increasing concern especially for the swelling ranks of fellow Millennials about to enter the workforce.


I can say, with confidence, that my time here has been a boundary-shattering experience (I’ve only been working for 2 months). I was pushed off my comfortable perch and challenged to deliver. I became an information sponge, soaking up all the industry know-how with the help of my amicable colleagues, who always took the time to guide me when I needed a hand. It was deeply exciting to find out what our client’s problems were, and to see their stellar reviews after our gamified platform resolved their engagement issues through digitization of HR processes. Notice how I’ve not even mentioned the office yet (which is spectacular), since I was working in an environment that was so fast-paced and rewarding to appreciate it fully.

Here's How It's Like to Work at SelfDrvn

Our SelfDrvn team!


The Space

Don’t worry, here are some snippets of the spectacular office I was mentioning earlier:


Here's How It's Like to Work at SelfDrvn



Games area.




The pantry.


Nap room!


What We Are About


You may be wondering what the name is all about. When I joined the company, I was amazed to notice how autonomous everyone was. The systems implemented here ensured that work was directed to the relevant person through a digital board, and tasks were completed enthusiastically. That was in part due to the “goal-setting” function on our app, which rewards employees with points for every milestone achieved (yes, we are model users of our platform).


In today’s world, the needs of employees are changing. What is exciting about SelfDrvn is its ability to cater to every single one of those changing needs. Employees want to contribute to meaningful goals, work autonomously, have an avenue for continuous feedback, and essentially want more from a job than a simple paycheck and bonus. Check out our gamified platform if you don’t believe me! These values are also embedded in our work culture, making the company a great place for fresh ideas, and open-minded people to work in.


Closing Thoughts


According to Aristotle, “pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work”. There is no better real-life example of this than in SelfDrvn. When you put together a young, self-driven team working towards a common goal, you get an intuitive, gamified solution that will bring positive disruption to the status quo of how employees perform, and are kept happy at work.


All-in-all, it’s been an exhilarating ride working at a high-tech company, surrounded by devoted and warm team members. I quote Steve Jobs, “the only way to do great work, is to love what you do”, and that is what you’ll find in SelfDrvn.

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