Culture and values matter

I’m a culture fanatic. I’m assertive with leaders, telling them they’re leaving money on the table if their team or department or company culture doesn’t demonstrate trust, respect, and dignity in every interaction.  Study after study shows how organizational culture affects employee engagement. These studies prove culture and values matter.  TINYpulse’s 2014 employee engagement report identifies vital trends that impact today’s workplace. The news isn’t good!
TINYpulse surveyed over 200,000 employees from more than 500 organizations. Among the “lowlights” they found:
  • 64% of all employees do not feel they have a strong work culture.
  • 49% of employees are dissatisfied with their direct boss.
  • 66% of employees do not see opportunities for professional growth.
  • Only 21% of employees feel strongly valued at work.

A natural cynicism

Despite these undeniable figures, there is a natural cynicism among leaders about workplace culture and whether culture and values matter.  Leaders are used to dealing with facts and hard data. So, let us examine the facts and hard data about the benefits my culture clients have enjoyed
One client came to us because of low employee engagement survey scores. They scored 32 out of 100 possible points, the worst score of the eight business units owned by their corporate parent. This plant’s senior leadership team embraced our culture process (outlined in my book, The Culture Engine) completely.

Increasing accountability

They defined values with observable behaviours so that everyone – leaders and employees – understood what the rules were for effective daily interactions. The team increased performance accountability across their production lines. They measured how well leaders lived the organization’s new valued behaviours. The organisation praised leaders who modelled their values, coached leaders who struggled, and redirected leaders who didn’t model or manage to the new values.

They even “lovingly set free” those leaders and employees who were unable to embrace the new valued behaviours.

Within six months, conflicts, absenteeism, re-work, and grievances dropped by 60 per cent. Within twelve months, efficiency had improved by over 40 per cent. Customers were WOW’ed at the “new service attitude” that company staff displayed. They demonstrated that culture and values matter.

Increasing engagement scores

When the next “all company” employee engagement survey came around twelve months later, their plant scored 62 out of 100 points! Theirs was the biggest gain in engagement scores of any of business unit in their company system. And, their plant earned the top score across the organization.

 At the eighteen-month mark, employee engagement had grown 45 per cent and customer service rankings had grown 45 per cent. Performance boosts were impressive; hard dollar profit gains surpassed 35 per cent. Plant leaders gave all the credit for these gains to every leader and employee’s alignment to their organizational constitution.

Passion drives performance

Another client, a seven-state region of a large retailer, embraced our culture change process because the new senior leader’s vision wasn’t taking hold fast enough.  Joel, the region’s senior leader, believed and preached “People with Passion drive Performance!” Joel’s messaging and coaching in his first 18 months in the position helped some store managers understand that culture and values matter.  However, most store managers did not.

Joel came to us to create more structure and discipline for the desired culture change. We helped their leadership team create their region’s organizational constitution and manage to it. Twelve months later, Joel’s region enjoyed 40 per cent gains in employee engagement, 40 per cent gains in customer service, and 30 per cent gains in results and profits.

Culture and values go beyond the workplace

Another client, a manufacturing plant in the Midwest discovered a fabulous peripheral benefit to their organizational constitution. Their small town suffered flash flooding one spring, which caused tremendous damage in their community. Families were evacuated with little time to gather necessities. Within hours, plant employees banded together to provide food, clothing, and transportation for their neighbours. They volunteered hundreds of hours for the Red Cross at the evacuation centre. They secured funds from the plant’s parent company to rebuild homes and businesses in the following months.

The plant manager said in the 40 years that plant had been operating in that town, no one had ever seen employees rally so quickly and confidently to serve their fellow community members. Some of the employees who volunteered to help had also suffered significant losses in the flooding. “Our values and behaviours didn’t just apply inside the plant. These employees made sure they applied in our town, too,” she said.
The reality is that your culture and values matter and drives everything that happens in your organization, good or bad. If you’re only paying attention to results, you’re leaving money on the table.

S. Chris Edmonds is a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He shares insights on organizational culture, servant leadership, employee engagement, and workplace inspiration.

He writes books and articles and records podcasts.

In his free time, he’s a working musician with the Brian Raine band in Denver, CO.