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ASU Lodestar Center Blog

The power of workplace culture, and how it impacts nonprofit performance

workplace culture

Workplace culture is more than a leadership approach, a strategic plan, or even a set of values held by an organization. Workplace culture ensures that employees feel connected, valued, safe, motivated, and invested. It outlines expectations and creates opportunities for behavior modeling, and allows for relationships to be built on trust and respect. A positive workplace culture is not just a passive desire within the sector. According to a study by Deloitte, 83% of executives and 84% of employees believe having engaged and motivated employees is one of the most important attributes of a successful organization. And the road to engagement and motivation is paved by workplace culture.

So how can leaders develop a culture that will improve outcomes?

Define the values that staff feel are important to them and the workplace culture

No one type of culture is any better than another. Rather, it is most important that the leadership understand the culture valued by the employees, and support the collective values. It is recommended that leadership clearly identify those shared values to ensure a mutual understanding with staff.

Provide leadership training for leaders specifically on leadership styles that prioritize emotional connection, trust, communication, accountability, and transparency

Emotional safety and connection between staff and leadership is crucial for a healthy culture. By providing leaders with appropriate training, education, and support, leadership is more likely to meet the emotional needs of staff which will in turn improve organizational performance.

Prioritize the psychosocial, mental, and emotional well-being of staff

These are all characteristics that are impacted by workplace culture, but are also related to resilience. By prioritizing staff well-being, organizations can reduce burnout thereby increasing retention. When staff are performing at their best, the organization will reap the benefits. 

Ensure all staff are treated equally

Inequitable treatment was directly related to a negative workplace culture, resulting in diminished organizational performance.

Promote independence, innovation, and creativity

These are all characteristics of workplace empowerment, which was positively related to workplace culture. A culture of empowerment is not only directly related to increased job satisfaction, but also to organizational performance.

These recommendations are not all-encompassing, but they are not meant to be, rather these recommendations are merely a starting point. Leaders and organizations who implement these recommendations will learn the individual needs of their staff and that is where the culture is built. By prioritizing culture organizations will find their staff have the unparalleled ability to create their desired outcomes.

Sarah Harvey is a 2023 graduate of the Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management program at Arizona State University. She also has a degree in criminal justice with a concentration in human services from Southern New Hampshire University. She currently lives in Pennsylvania, where she is the Director of Safe Home, a program operated by YWCA Hanover. Safe Home’s mission is to help all domestic violence victims and survivors, by taking collective responsibility for establishing safety, awareness, and empowerment through crisis intervention, advocacy, counseling, referral, outreach, prevention and education. In her free time, she enjoys reading, supporting her husband at the RC track, and watching her daughter play roller derby.

Image by Lillian Finley

Learn more with our Optimizing Human Resource Strategies in Nonprofits Certificate

The Optimizing Human Resource Strategies in Nonprofits Certificate is for individuals seeking knowledge and skills in nonprofit human resources, volunteer management, change management, and conflict resolution. Through this program you will learn how to recruit, manage, motivate, and reward both staff and volunteers in order to effectively utilize their strengths, effectively lead and champion change within an organization, and develop strategies to overcome internal and external conflict.

Sarah Harvey


ASU Lodestar Center Blog