By definition, the term “culture” stands for the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time. While that sounds easy enough (and shout out to Webster for clarifying), once you try defining the term in the workplace things get a bit tricky. The same general idea is still there, but what’s lacking is a cohesive explanation for the term. Even when we asked people from our small office of fifty, no two answers were the same—

“Culture is the fortified elixir whose express aim should be to bring out the best in each employee. Culture enables individualized personalities to further develop and refine their respective tradecraft while becoming better colleagues.” – David Ow, Vice President, Project Management and Operations

“Corporate culture is a construct of perceptions that you want broadcasted internally and externally. More often then not, theyre aspirations that you’re constantly trying to live up to.” – Elyse Tanzillo, Executive Assistant

“It’s the facet of working at an organization that makes them want to come to work each day. It defines how much of yourself you’re actually able to bring to that company. A solid corporate culture allows an individual to truly be themselves amongst and with their colleagues, ultimately enhancing the company overall.” – Frank Stella, Senior Product Manager

“Corporate culture lives and dies with the people that create it. Without culture, you don’t have a healthy business. It’s the good, the bad, and the ugly of the people that work in that space, all bundled up to make a company what it is, and what it stands for.” – Josh Levine, Chief Design Officer

“It’s the way the company instills and empowers a connection to make an impact by their employees to the brand, brand message, and goals of the company. Corporate culture is the internal messaging of a company that trickles down from senior management to entry level positions and then spreads externally to clients, contacts, and the general population.” – Polina Shalts, Recruitment Manager

“It means coming into the office hungover and no one is judging you, cause they were all with you last night and in the same boat.” – Lauren Jensen, Engagement Manager

…See what I mean?

Huffington Post contributor Lisa Earle McLeod, sums it up like this, “culture is often what enables or prevents an organization from achieving goals.” Top name companies and businesses hold culture to a higher standard, and rightly so. According to Leigh Branham author of The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave, 80–90% of employees leave a position for reasons other than money. Sure, a whopping salary doesn’t necessarily hurt job longevity, but a thriving business depends on more than just dollar signs. It also depends on a one–of-a-kind culture—one that evolves from unique experiences and more importantly, the people that create them. But to continually move forward in achieving this type of work environment, companies need to understand why any of it matters in the first place.

Culture Breeds Creativity

A positive culture results in an increase in productivity, self worth, and—you guessed it—creativity. It’s imperative to keep your employees’ creative juices flowing. Culture doesn’t only exist in our minds; it needs to have the ability to be manifested from people, places, activities, a single conversation, all of the above. When a company celebrates individuality and supports the strange, wild, and imaginative ideas of others, that same company often experiences an upward shift in creativity. A culture that encourages creativity rather than requires it, ultimately breeds it.

Culture Starts with Leaders

According to a study from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business reported by Forbes, 85% of firms said their corporate culture wasn’t where it needed to be. While there’s no specific start or finish line for corporate culture, a thriving one is only as good as its leadership. A strong culture relies on a ready and willing team of leaders to set the ball in motion. Those same leaders must be willing to accept failure if it comes and ready to allow their employees the chance to try again. A great culture comes from leaders who are focused on the success of the company and the happiness of their employees.

Culture Accomplishes Goals

Culture not only reflects the actions of employees but also the intentions of their leaders. If leaders only focus on the end result, they won’t appreciate the small moments of victory. “Goals are where you want to go. Culture is the critical element that determines whether or not you get there,” says McLeod. By supporting the ideas and actions of everyone in the office, company culture will undoubtedly grow. While hardly noticeable at first, small shifts in culture will lead to monumental shifts in positive activity and the accomplishment of hard-to-reach goals.

Culture Fosters Relationships

The cultivation of various backgrounds, skills, likes, dislikes, triumphs and tribulations, in one office space makes for a great deal of diversity…and one heck of a company photo. Illuminating those qualities in any workplace encourages the growth of positive relationships and work efficient partnerships. Employees surrounded by peers who are just as willing to collaborate are going to do just that. Teams that are immersed in a happy, healthy, and uplifting environment are more likely to want to work together and churn out something amazing.

While it’s not something you can purchase, a successful company culture should always be at the core of any work environment. It starts with leadership, spreads with creativity, and ends in positive relationships. Culture, however you define it, cultivates greatness in people and prompts them to do their absolute best at all times. Setting time to focus on growing that culture will set your company, and your employees, apart from all the rest.