1. Brewington, Janice
  2. Darko, Janet

Article Content

A positive organizational culture is vital to the success of any organization. It can enhance employee productivity, engagement, and retention as well as strengthen relationships with partners and other stakeholders. In the Harvard Business Review,Groysberg, Lee, Price, and Cheng (2018) state that when properly aligned with personal values, drives, and needs, "culture can unleash tremendous amounts of energy toward shared purpose and foster an organization's capacity to thrive" (p. 1). They note four attributes of culture. It is 1) a group phenomenon that resides in shared behaviors, values, and assumptions; 2) pervasive, permeating multiple organizational levels and manifest in collective behaviors, rituals, symbols, and stories; 3) enduring, directing group thoughts and actions over the long term, and; 4) implicit, a kind of silent language.


Watkins (2013) states that leaders need to have a holistic view of their organizational culture to create change for the better. According to Whitehurst (2016), leaders shape their culture by the behaviors they model. To create a positive culture, leaders must authorize their employees to become self-authorized to lead, innovate, and use their creative talents. In other words, leaders must step out of the way at different points in time and become followers.



The NLN has embarked on a journey to enhance its organizational culture. We are guided by our four core values - caring, integrity, diversity, and excellence -- which serve as a driver for developing and implementing the strategies used to enhance our culture. Although the NLN Vision Statement "Creating a Community to Build a Civil and Healthy Academic Work Environment" (2018) is designed for academic institutions, its principles of civility are applicable to any organization. It serves as a foundation for the NLN's culture.


In December 2016, NLN CEO Dr. Beverly Malone, appointed a Staff Retreat Committee of six members, including a chair, to plan and implement our first staff retreat and coordinate activities throughout the year (individuals could volunteer). The two chief program officers served as staff liaisons. The committee conducted a preliminary survey to determine how employees perceived four components, with subcategories, of the NLN organizational culture: 1) connection to core values and mission; 2) NLN organizational fit; 3) recognition and values; and 4) culture and communications. Although there were more positive responses than negative, the results indicated that strategies were needed to improve the NLN's culture. Based on survey results, the theme of the first staff retreat was "Building Effective Teams at the NLN Through Leadership." Outcomes led to the understanding that strategic action should be developed in three areas: reliance on diverse talents, multidirectional communications, and commitment to individual and team roles.


The 2017-2018 NLN Staff Planning Committee increased membership to nine volunteers across all departments, with a chair, and the chief program officer serving as staff liaison. The committee's purpose was to plan staff engagement activities; build on the work at the 2017 Staff Retreat; develop a strategic action plan; and coordinate implementation strategies. The committee restructured bimonthly staff meetings to include staff participation, randomly assigning staff to four cross-functional teams to plan and facilitate these meetings. Teams were directed to select a topic for discussion, a team leader, and a team name. Quarterly brown bag lunchtime meetings were also scheduled to focus on staff-selected topics.


Staff retreats have been held annually since 2017 and are now scheduled to follow Spirit Week, where staff enjoy refreshments donated by vendors, music, decorations, and games. Fun facts about staff are highlighted on the lobby kiosk. The organizational survey is conducted annually to compare results from the year before, and we continue to implement strategies to enhance staff engagement. Since the first survey was issued, our culture has continuously improved with positive results. Of course, we always strive for the NLN core value of excellence.



Co-creating positive organizational culture should be approached from a systems perspective, beginning with an assessment of the organization's culture. Leaders play a critical role through their ability to relinquish some authority and empower employees to lead and engage in co-creating changes. Employee engagement through collaboration is key to achieving positive change in an organization's culture.




Groysberg B., Lee J., Price J., & Cheng J. Y.-J. (2018, Jan-Feb). The culture factor. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from[Context Link]


National League for Nursing. (2018). Creating a community to build a civil and healthy academic work environment [NLN Vision Series]. Retrieved from


Watkins M. D. (2013, May 15). What is organizational culture? And why should we care? Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from[Context Link]


Whitehurst J. (2016, Oct 13). Leaders can shape company culture through their behaviors. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from[Context Link]