There has been much discussion about employee branding, recruitment and retention, and connecting culture with organizational values. But what is the role of culture in engagement? How can your organizational culture, when aligned with the business goals, support the achievement of the articulated and unarticulated goals of the company?
Employee engagement programming on its own cannot move the needle, first, you must address the culture of an organization. While you can affect the culture of an organization through engagement programs you need to ensure that the culture reflects the values of the company, which takes time to authentically be mastered. Successful cultures are like thumbprints of the organization and have many dimensions. Companies need to look at the behaviors they want to reinforce, model those behaviors at every level, support those behaviors through activities such as: performance management, collaborative wellness activities, team construct, employee recognition programs, responses to celebrations and illness, how the organization cares for others, social gatherings on and off site, and connected activities. The culture of a company is a reflection of the beliefs and behaviors of an organization that guide how management and employees behave towards one another and approach to their business. Hiring decisions should model the desired culture, which may disrupt the current culture, and buy-in takes time and commitment. Consider assigning multi-level culture champions to support the change. When culture aligns with the company’s values, the organization will attract the right talent, and ultimately you will have a connected and engaged workplace, easing and supporting the employee engagement programs supported through empowerment, transparency, and trust.
How do you get there?
Employees choose to work for well-branded company’s known for highly engaged workforces with growth opportunities. Usually, they have exciting projects, amazing clients, often with people they know or aspire to work with, ultimately their “squad”. Strong talent tends to stay with company’s only when there is supportive management, open communication, a voice, feeling of empowerment at more junior stages than ever before, growth opportunities and a trust in management. Culture supports these through the behaviors of the company including actions, words, and consistency in the way a company operates. Culture is what is often the hardest to articulate, but the first to be qualified. When someone joins or leaves a company, they often cite culture as the chief reason for the move.
Transparency in engagement programs is key. Closed door meetings promote feelings of being left out of the loop, and trigger unease that something must be wrong. Senior managers should promote inclusiveness, walk the halls, be approachable and get involved in general meetings in an authentic way. Bad news should be reported internally first and fast, genuinely without the appearance of spin, and include the team in messaging to clients and the public. In fact, the same rules apply for good news!
Empower your manager with training and reward tools. Then train them to know how to use them for each level. Give them the tools and they can champion the initiatives, and be sure all managers have access to the same suite of tools. Empower all employees to move the needle on company performance, to jump into brainstorms, to support the business goals. When employees feel they are stuck and powerless, they tend to disengage.
Celebrate, reward, and recognize the wins. Those things matter and are often taken for granted. Model incentive programs that work for your business, whether it’s balanced score card or alternative bonus programs choose something that works and is simple to understand. Make sure your performance management programs are ongoing conversations that include legitimate career pathing where both the employee and the manager have roles and goals.
Voice is also important. Use tools such as mini-surveys or hold round tables to get feedback and create a listening/active listening workplace where voices matter eliminating favorites or a “managers only” environment. Keep an eye on trends and make sure every employee matters. Retool language to be inclusive, not exclusive and make sure it becomes part of everyday vernacular and in printed language including branding, recruiting and performance management materials. Encourage empathy and energy simultaneously towards collaborative solutions. Move the conversation from “what will you do for me” to “how can we do this together”.
Connecting Values to the Business Results
Communicate the “why” you do what you do, and how each employee fits into the picture. Nothing increases discretionary effort like a clear vision and values statement that connects to the goal and drives the result, where each employee can see how their part matters and circles back to them. From the CEO to the management team to every employee, everyone should be on the same page. Communicate, and re-communicate, live, and across all your channels.
Be sure your CEO walks the walk and is visibly living the values they state on behalf of the company. If the workplace reflects meaningful work, trust in leadership, supportive “management for all”, growth opportunities, and a positive work environment devoid of politics, a sustainable engaged workplace is possible.
Connecting Culture to the Organizational Values
Culture is the very pulse of the company developed and shaped by the people who, over time, defined how the company approaches business, talent, recognition, internal communications and key differentiators in the marketplace. The organizational culture, when aligned with the business goals, can organically move employees to support the achievement of the articulated and unarticulated goals of the company with the right engagement programs. When engagement is high and relative to that discretionary effort is high, employees will be more inclined to put that effort towards the “win”. The culture of group achievement is supported by employee engagement. Alan Adler said, “Organizational culture is civilization in the workplace.”. The thriving civilizations, and organizations, are those where the community of talent is working together towards the common goal, highly motivated towards its success. Connecting people towards a shared purpose and beliefs with supported engagement programs will sustain the organization and help the organization reach its business goals.
Cathleen Graham, Managing Partner of Cheer Partners, has more than 20 years’ experience as an HR and Talent leader across the communications, management consulting and software industries. Her extensive knowledge spans change management, employee communications, performance modeling, professional development, talent strategies, culture and employee engagement.
She has held C-suite level global roles for the last 10 years and has a track record of helping companies define their talent strategies to meet their corporate goals. She frequently guest lectures at Georgetown and NYU and is an active participant at TED conferences.