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Culture: the Secret Sauce isn't a Secret


Rick Beaton  •  Published on Sep 15, 2021  •  7 min read

Often when interviewed about culture, leaders immediately talk about what is unique to their business, as though they have the secret sauce to capture and retain the best talent. Many think of workplace culture as a unique brand identity, motivational gatherings, beer taps, fun and games, or amenities. But this hasn’t held up well during the acid test of Covid.

Universals in Human Ecosystems

We need to think of organizations as human ecosystems. Culture is made up of the universal elements essential for people to grow and perform at high levels. Importantly, it creates the context for businesses to produce consistent results regardless of the location or vertical. Culture should be correlated to real behaviors that can be measured and intentionally managed.

Rather than treating workplace culture as something unique to each organization, it is instead the disciplined practice of 8 imperatives of people centered growth that research demonstrates are essential for all people and are at the root of talent management. Each is correlated to personal and organizational performance and sustainability. The ability of the business to execute on this handful of metrics is what distinguishes one from the other.

Culture should be correlated to real behaviors that can be measured and intentionally managed.

In a tight talent market, being more thoughtful and disciplined about culture will lay the foundation for a more human centered and high performing business. It is also tied to employee satisfaction and emotional well-being. What is lost in the “Best Places to Work” surveys is that a business ecosystem is meant to lead to employee satisfaction and business performance. These 8 imperatives do just that.

Adopting and managing to these 8 are the first steps in retooling an organization for the new era of talent, what some call the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Culture defined and practiced this way lays the behavioral foundation for scaling an organization in multiple locations and verticals. Everyone is responsible for culture, it is co-constructed. As such, it is a self-reinforcing system of behaviors that help an organization maintain a vibrant human ecosystem.


Everyone is responsible for culture, it is


The 8 Imperatives of People-Centered Growth:

  • Are universal to all people and businesses regardless of locations or business vertical.

  • Are the starting point for talent attraction, retention and a performance culture.

  • Provide the guardrails for individual and corporate behavior, helping everyone be their best self and conduct themselves in a manner that is good for people and the organization.

Through adoption, education, continual reinforcement and commitment to consistent practice they become the essence of how the organization behaves. Organizations that have adopted this framework consistently bring out the best in their people and outperform the competition.

The 8 Imperatives:


Team Commitment & Relationships

Responsibility & Autonomy


Feedback & Standards

Equitable Rewards

Alignment & Authenticity

Inclusive Behaviors


From the big picture of mission and brand to the details of processes and procedures, open transparent communication is standard. Roles and responsibilities are clearly defined throughout the organization. Culture and values are commonly understood and upheld, without hypocrisy and cynicism.


People are allowed the flexibility and bandwidth to do their best work. They are given the freedom, responsibility, and authority to do their job. While they are not overly managed, they are held accountable to produce the agreed upon work. They are in a position that matches their talent and are recognized for their expertise.


High standards of excellence are maintained and supported through feedback, review, training and supervision. Managers are committed to developing their people and supporting their career path. Learning and development are integrated into performance, establishing a performance culture.


The people and organization are aligned in their values, business strategy, and practices. This allows for a consistent culture and brand identity that increases authenticity, meaning and purpose. There is integrity in the way the brand is expressed within the company and to clients.

Team Commitment/Relationships

People are energized and engaged by their colleagues. They feel supported and trust their colleagues to do what is right. Conflict is appropriately resolved. There is an absence of toxicity. People believe their colleagues want the best for them and will give them the benefit of the doubt. As a result, people enjoy coming to work. Positive interactions outweigh negative by at least 3:1 and ideally by 5:1.


There is an appropriate level of stress in the work environment to create challenge but not toxicity. People can maintain appropriate work/life balance. The reasonable workload and work hours facilitate health and well-being. People have the resources, including time, they need to do their job well.

Equitable Rewards

People have a concern for justice and fairness. Stakeholders receive fair compensation for their efforts. There is no bias in promotion, rewards or opportunities. Positive performance is recognized and rewarded. Diversity is sought and appreciated in all its forms including gender, personality, ethnicity, culture, age, and abilities.

Inclusive Behaviors

Behaviors can either enhance or disrupt equity and inclusion in the workplace. Managers and employees know, understand and behave in a manner that enhances equity and inclusion.

Use a Science and Research based approach to grow your People Operation.

We evaluate and audit workplaces based on the 8 Imperatives of People-Centered Organizations.

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