Engaged employees produce better outcomes than do their less engaged peers. However, the stereotypical engagement drivers—money, titles, and perks—are no longer the key to greater engagement. Today, organizations have successfully harnessed culture, technology, and the physical environment to more fully engage their employees. In this post, I will explore how organizations can develop a culture that enhances the employee experience.

Organizational culture refers to the beliefs and behaviors that drive how employees act. Inc.com defines culture as “the shared values, attitudes, standards, and beliefs that characterize members of an organization and define its nature,” and goes on to say, “Corporate culture is rooted in an organization’s goals, strategies, structure, and approaches to labor, customers, investors, and the greater community. As such, it is an essential component in any business’s ultimate success or failure.”1

Organizational culture is one of the most important elements of an employee’s work experience. It is what stimulates or drains employees, motivates or discourages them, and empowers or stifles them. Employees live this experience, whether positive or negative, every day. So, how can an organization enhance their employees’ experience of culture? Organizations can improve their culture, and thereby increase employee engagement, by focusing on four fundamentals: vision, values, practices, and people.

Vision

Excellent culture begins with a shared purpose. Mission and vision statements outline that shared purpose. Generally, a mission statement delineates the organization’s reason for existence, and a vision statement communicates the organization’s ideal state, i.e. where the organization is headed. Both statements help to orient employees in their decision making, prioritization, and focus. Leaders should clearly communicate the vision and keep it top of mind for employees.

Values

Values outline the way an organization lives out its vision. Or, as John Coleman writes, “while a vision articulates a company’s purpose, values offer a set of guidelines on the behaviors and mindsets needed to achieve that vision.”2 Values determine what are acceptable or unacceptable behaviors. They guide every aspect of organizational action, from hiring decisions—knowing if an applicant is a “good fit” or not—to budget allocation and financial investment. Leaders should ensure that values remain aligned with an organization’s purpose in order to enable frictionless action.

Practices

Practices are methods by which an organization implements its values. They convert the vision and values of an organization into action. These include everything from organizational structure and how work is organized to recruitment or performance management. When practices conflict with values, employees experience stress and frustration. A leader’s role in this process is critical. Their actions, what they measure, and what they communicate has to be aligned with the understood values of the organization. Communication and authenticity are more important than uniqueness or being “cutting edge.”

People

A flourishing culture is built with people that share the organization’s vision, values, and practices. Put another way, an organization’s ultimate success is highly determined by it’s employees’ level of engagement. And, that engagement corresponds directly to the organizational culture. In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Sam Walker highlights the importance of teams and specifically how much they are influenced by their leaders. Referring to an ambitious Gallop study, he concludes, “The study showed that managers didn’t just influence the results their teams achieved, they explained a full 70% of the variance. No other single factor, from compensation levels to the perception of senior leadership, even came close.”3 Leaders should encourage employee engagement by fostering a culture of trust and respect, one that encourages individual growth, collaboration, and transparent communication.

Conclusion

Excellent organizational culture is a key ingredient in employee engagement. While there are other aspects that impact an organization’s culture, a focus on these four fundamentals—vision, values, practices, and people—is key to creating a culture that fosters employee engagement. In next month’s article I will discuss how organizations can harness technology to more fully engage their employees. Petalo is working with providers to drive employee engagement through technological innovation. If you would like to learn more, please visit us at petalo.ai.

  1. “Corporate Culture,” Inc., https://www.inc.com/encyclopedia/corporate-culture.html
  2. John Coleman, “Six Components of a Great Corporate Culture,” Harvard Business Review (May 2013) https://hbr.org/2013/05/six-components-of-culture
  3. Sam Walker, “The Economy’s Last Best Hope: Superstar Middle Managers,” The Wall Street Journal (March 2019), https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-economys-last-best-hope-superstar-middle-managers-11553313606?mod=djemDailyShot&mod=djemDailyShot