How to create an employee-first culture: Top strategies and examples

Kailash Ganesh
8 min read
How to create an employee-first culture: Top strategies and examples
How to create an employee-first culture: Top strategies and examples

Imagine you're in a circus ring, and you're the ringmaster. Your goal? To make sure every performance is a standing ovation. But here's the plot twist: you're not herding lions or sending acrobats soaring through the air.

You're leading a team of professionals, each with their own unique talents and quirks, in the greatest show on Earth – the corporate world!

We're not suggesting that your office transform into a three-ring circus. Instead, we're talking about the employee-first culture, where employees take center stage and where the workplace becomes a magical place of unprecedented engagement, innovation, and growth.

Kris Boesch, the author of Culture Works, reported that a people-first culture sees 26% fewer mistakes, 22% higher productivity, 41% lower absenteeism, and 30% stronger customer satisfaction than other companies

In this blog, we're going to dive deep into the concept of a people-first culture and explore how it can be a game-changer for your company's success.

Employee-first culture meaning

Employee hi-fying each other in the workplace
Employee-first culture meaning

An employee-first culture is a workplace philosophy that prioritizes employees' well-being, satisfaction, and development. In this approach, employees are at the center of decision-making, and their needs and opinions are valued and integrated into company practices.

It fosters a sense of belonging, trust, and empowerment, resulting in higher engagement, productivity, and employee retention. The organization focuses on creating a supportive, inclusive environment that enables employees to reach their full potential and, in turn, drives overall business success.

It's a commitment to treating employees as the most valuable asset and nurturing their growth and happiness.

Employee-first culture benefits

An employee-first culture benefits the employees and contributes significantly to an organization's success and growth. Here are some of the key benefits of embracing an Employee-First Culture:

  • Increased employee engagement: When employees feel valued and heard, they become more engaged in their work. This leads to higher productivity, innovation, and a positive impact on the bottom line.
  • Improved retention: A workplace that prioritizes its employees' well-being and growth is more likely to retain top talent. This reduces recruitment and training costs and maintains institutional knowledge.
  • Enhanced productivity: Happy employees are productive employees. They are motivated to give their best, leading to increased efficiency and better results for the organization.
  • Innovation and creativity: Employees in an employee-first culture are encouraged to share their ideas and take calculated risks. This fosters a culture of innovation and continuous improvement.
  • Positive employer brand: A positive workplace culture attracts top talent and enhances your company's reputation as an employer of choice. This can lead to a more extensive talent pool and better business partnerships. In fact, Bulletin reports that 46% of employees consider the company culture a crucial aspect when applying to a new company.

What makes a good employee culture?

What makes a good employee culture?
What makes a good employee culture?

A good employee culture is a harmonious blend of values, practices, and behaviors that create an inspiring and productive workplace. It starts with a clear and shared vision, where every member understands the company's mission and how their role contributes to it.

Communication is key, with open and honest channels allowing employees to voice concerns and share ideas without fear. Trust and respect are foundational, fostering employees' sense of belonging and commitment. Furthermore, a good employee culture encourages continuous learning and growth, enabling individuals to develop their skills and advance in their careers.

This culture thrives when employees feel appreciated, motivated, and supported in both their professional and personal lives, ensuring a positive, collaborative, and engaging work environment.

How do you create an employee-first culture?

Employers are working on an idea to create employee-first culture
How do you create an employee-first culture?

An employee-first culture is crucial for any organization as it helps in keeping a positive environment and makes employee retention easier. Here’s how you can create an employee-first culture in your organization:

  • Define your values: Establish clear values that prioritize the employee experience, well-being, growth, and satisfaction.
  • Leadership commitment: Ensure top leadership actively supports the employees and the leadership team embodies all company values.
  • Open communication: Foster transparent, two-way communication channels for employees to voice their opinions and concerns.
  • Empowerment: Encourage employees to make decisions and take ownership of their work.
  • Recognition and rewards: Implement recognition and reward systems to acknowledge and celebrate employee achievements.
  • Professional development: Invest in training and development opportunities to help employees grow in their roles.
  • Work-life balance: Promote a healthy work-life balance and support employee well-being.
  • Inclusivity: Create a diverse and inclusive environment that respects all employees.
  • Feedback and improvement: Continuously gather feedback and make necessary improvements to align with employee needs.
  • Measure and adapt: Use metrics and feedback to monitor progress and adapt your approach as needed.

13 Strategies to create a great employee-first culture

Employers are working on employee-first-strategies
13 Strategies to create a great employee-first culture

Here are the top strategies for creating a great employee-first workplace culture. Make sure to follow them to create a space where employees feel they belong.

  1. Strong leadership role modeling: Leadership should serve as a shining example of the desired company culture, embodying its values in their daily actions and decisions. When leaders walk the talk, it sets the tone for the entire organization.
  2. Clear vision and values: Establish a compelling mission and a set of core values that prioritize employees' well-being, growth, and satisfaction.
  3. Transparent communication: Foster open and honest communication channels, enabling employees to voice their concerns, share ideas, and receive updates on company happenings. Transparency builds trust and fosters a sense of belonging.
  4. Empowerment: Give employees the autonomy to make decisions and take ownership of their work. Empowerment fosters a sense of responsibility and accountability, encouraging managers and employees to excel in their roles.
  5. Recognition and rewards: Implement a system for acknowledging and celebrating employee achievements. Recognition can come in various forms, from verbal praise to tangible rewards, boosting team morale and motivation.
  6. Professional development: Invest in training and growth opportunities to help employees enhance their skills and advance in their careers. This not only benefits individuals but also strengthens the organization as a whole.
  7. Work-life balance: Promote a healthy balance between work and personal life. Encourage employees to prioritize good work-life balance and their well-being by offering flexibility and support in managing their responsibilities.
  8. Inclusivity: Create a diverse and inclusive environment that respects all employees, regardless of their background, gender, or beliefs. Inclusivity fosters a sense of belonging and equality.
  9. Feedback mechanisms: Establish regular feedback processes that allow employees to share their insights and encourage feedback and concerns. This valuable input can drive positive change and improvement in the organization.
  10. Employee wellness and well-being: Support physical and mental health initiatives, offering resources and programs that help employees lead healthier lives. A focus on well-being demonstrates a genuine concern for employees' happiness.
  11. Flexible work arrangements: Provide options for remote work or flexible schedules to accommodate the diverse needs of your employees. This flexibility can enhance work-life balance and job satisfaction.
  12. Trust and autonomy: Trust employees to make decisions within their roles. By delegating responsibility and granting autonomy, you empower your workforce and build a culture of accountability.
  13. Continuous improvement: Regularly evaluate the organization's culture based on feedback and evolving needs. Be willing to adapt and evolve the culture to ensure it remains employee-centric and aligned with the company's values and objectives.

7 Employee first culture examples

Here are the top examples of organizations that have successfully embraced an employee-first culture. These organizations have successfully integrated employee-first principles into their culture, resulting in happier, more engaged employees and, ultimately, greater business success.

  1. Google: Google is renowned for its employee-centric culture, offering various perks, such as free gourmet meals, on-site fitness centers, and 20% time for personal projects, which encourages innovation and personal growth.
  2. Salesforce: Salesforce places a strong emphasis on its 1-1-1 model, where they commit to donating 1% of product, 1% of equity, and 1% of employee time to charitable causes. This employee-first approach fosters a sense of purpose and giving back.
  3. Zappos: Known for its unique corporate culture, Zappos places a strong focus on employee happiness. They offer flexible work arrangements and prioritize core values like "Deliver WOW Through Service."
  4. Netflix: Netflix encourages a culture of freedom and responsibility, where employees are trusted to manage their time and make decisions independently. This empowers them to take ownership of their work.
  5. HubSpot: HubSpot's culture values employee well-being and growth. They provide generous benefits, learning opportunities, and flexible work arrangements to promote work-life balance.
  6. Patagonia: Patagonia promotes environmental and social responsibility. Employees are encouraged to take time off to engage in environmental activism, showcasing the company's commitment to shared values.
  7. Costco: Costco has a reputation for providing competitive wages and benefits, including healthcare and retirement plans for its employees. This commitment to employee welfare leads to higher job satisfaction and loyalty.


1. What's the connection between an employee-first culture and company profitability?

An employee-first culture can significantly impact profitability. Engaged employees in companies tend to be more productive and innovative, leading to improved customer satisfaction and increased revenue. Their commitment and loyalty also reduce turnover costs and enhance the organization's reputation, ultimately contributing to a healthier bottom line.

2. Are there industries where an employee-first culture is more challenging to implement?

While an employee-first culture can be applied to any industry, workers in heavily regulated or traditionally structured sectors may face greater hurdles. Adaptation is key, tailoring strategies to fit industry dynamics while prioritizing employee well-being.

3. How do you measure the success of an employee-first culture?

Success can be gauged through various metrics. Employee retention rates, increased productivity, positive feedback from employee satisfaction surveys, and active employee feedback channels all indicate the effectiveness of an employee-first culture. Improved profitability is often another key indicator.

4. What are the risks of an employee-first culture if not implemented correctly?

Poorly executed employee-first initiatives can result in inconsistency and even resistance from employees. Balancing employee needs with the organization's goals and values is crucial to avoid creating a sense of entitlement or discord. Misalignment between employee-first efforts and business strategy and objectives can also pose a risk.

5. Can a small business with limited resources embrace an employee-first culture?

Small businesses can cultivate an employee-first culture without extravagant perks. It's about fostering a workplace that values each employee's contribution, focusing on personalized recognition, clear communication, and flexibility to accommodate individual needs. Prioritizing these elements can create a supportive and engaging work environment, putting employees first, irrespective of the organization's size or resources.

Kailash Ganesh

Kailash Ganesh

Kailash is a Product Marketer with 5+ years of experience. He loves story-telling in the simplest way possible and he is an avid reader, movie buff, and likes to travel new places to meet new people.