Culture and employee experience: Explained
By Ashleigh Petersen Galen Emanuele

Culture and employee experience: Explained

What is culture inside an organization? I know this topic can be so nebulous and elusive. When I ask leaders to describe their culture, it’s always all over the map. Ultimately, what I want to do is marry these two ideas: Culture is employee experience.

Culture really and truly is what it feels like to work for your organization and on your team, not just a “describe in a few words,” like “fun!”

Culture is the spoken and unspoken rules of engagement that define what it means to be part of a team in terms of how people show up, treat other people on the team, and how they approach their work and do their actual jobs.

The way that you create exceptional culture inside an organization is to create very clearly defined rules of engagement that everybody universally understands and takes ownership for.

These are:

  • Clear and consistent across the map.
  • Easily understandable.
  • Everybody takes ownership.
  • Nobody is exempt from — it can’t apply to specific levels of employees, but not the leadership team, CEO or tenured employees.

Our commitment level as an organization has to be so solidified that we approach it as, “These are the ground rules for behavior here, this is what’s acceptable and what exceptional looks like. We will allow nothing to take place that is out of alignment with this culture.”

In a nutshell, that is what culture is. When we talk about employee experience, it really is culture.

If you’re struggling to identify key behaviors, ask these questions:

  • What does it feel like to be there?
  • What is your relationship with feedback?
  • Do the company leaders treat employees well?
  • Do leaders ask for feedback?
  • How do you navigate conflict?
  • Do people badmouth each other?
  • Are people reluctant and resistant to change, or do they see change as a path to progress?

All of these are behaviors that exist inside an organization and those things all contribute to culture and they aren’t “I hope we get it right.”

Those are things that you can set intentionally and create from the day that you start an organization as a startup or, even if you’ve existed for years, you can create it now. They don’t have to already be in place. That’s what culture is. It’s employee experience and there’s a way to do it.

Galen Emanuele is a speaker and trainer on business leadership and team culture based out of Portland, Ore. Every week, Emanuele produces a video and blog post highlighting vital conversations, building skill sets and showing teams how to drive exceptional culture and leadership. To see more, visit

Ashleigh Petersen

Ashleigh PetersenAshleigh Petersen

Ashleigh Petersen is the digital communications manager for Rental Management. She writes news and feature articles, plus coordinates the monthly Safety Issue and several sections in the magazine. Ashleigh loves spending time with her husband and young son, baking, gardening and listening to true crime and comedy podcasts.

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