How Work Culture Can Improve Lives and Help Transform Businesses

Work culture has the ability to transform businesses and the people who work in them, even in the most unlikely situations. “The impact of behavioral standards plays a huge role in how an organization functions,” writes Josh Linkner in The Road to Reinvention: How to Drive Disruption and Accelerate Transformation.

Father Greg Boyle, executive director of Homeboy Industries, illustrates how cultural change can change lives and build businesses. Father Boyle started Homeboy Industries as a job-training program when he was the pastor of Dolores Mission Parish in East Los Angeles.

Father Boyle was compelled to take action when he discovered more than 65% of the ex-convicts in California are back in jail within three years, which is very costly to taxpayers. One of the reasons this cycle is difficult to break is because it is extremely difficult to find employment with a felony conviction. Father Boyle set out to change that with Homeboy Industries — and he did. The program has launched several businesses that has created employment opportunities for the people Homeboy Industries has trained, giving felons a fighting chance and writing a new story for themselves.

Boyle believes that people deserve a second chance and that, in the right environment, even people with a tough past can thrive. “Rather than checking workers’ pockets, he extends trust,” writes Linkner. “He treats the team with dignity, compassion and respect, which they give right back to Boyle and the organization as a whole.”

The culture of trust that he creates lays the foundation for a variety of businesses that generate $10 million in sales of apparel, salsa and cafe receipts. Homeboy Industries employees 400 ex-cons in a Boyle Heights in East LA, a neighborhood that coincidentally shares a name with the priest — and had more gang members per capita than any other place in the country in the 1980’s.

The result: The organization has helped 120,000 gang members envision an exit ramp from the "freeway" of violence, addiction and incarceration. This inspiring model has also worked with 40 other organizations to replicate elements the business model.

Your challenges may not be reducing recidivism rates in a tough neighborhood; you’re likely tackling brutal competition, fickle consumer trends or the entry of game-changing technology. But extending cultural trust and dignity and inspiring people are all elements of a vibrant workplace culture that rise above any one industry or social endeavor. Reinventing your culture and team workspaces can ensure that you don’t go the way of Blockbuster, Circuit City, and Kmart.

Ready to Transform Your Work Culture?

Linkner’s book suggests some helpful do’s and don’ts:


  • Clearly articulate and reinforce the need for change
  • Name the initiative
  • Get people involved
  • Develop key principles
  • Be specific
  • Align incentives
  • Train and reinforce


  • Flip flop
  • Create competing principles
  • Say one thing and do another
  • Neglect follow through

Reinventing work culture might require a seismic upheaval or merely tiny tweaks when it comes to choosing the right office chairs and office desks. Either way, if you want your business to be sustainable in the long run, you need to create a work culture that encourages innovative thinking.

Here’s how to get started:

Fuel passion:

Passionate people get things done. Light a fire under your team.

Hunt and kill assumptions:

Check the “that’s how it’s done in our industry” attitude at the door. Challenge your core beliefs.

Never stand still:

Resting on your laurels breeds complacency. By all means, take a moment to celebrate your wins, but you have to keep striving.

Remove judgment and applaud new ideas:

Placing judgment during a meeting inhibits creativity. Develop a nonjudgmental process for evaluating ideas and determining whether they are worthy of implementation.

Stick it to the man:

If you’re not creating disbelief among some with your ideas, you’re not dreaming big enough. Don’t let naysayers stand in your way.

Fight to win:

Challenge staff to conquer the competition and win.


If Father Boyle could use cultural trust to challenge conventional wisdom that “once a felon, always a felon,” you can reinvent your corporate culture to ensure you have a thriving business now and in the future. How do you plan to do that?

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