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The Relationship Between Company Culture and Employee Engagement

Culture rules! When it comes to having strong employee engagement, establishing and nurturing your company culture is paramount.

Think culture means beer and foosball Fridays? Think again. Companies boasting a people-centered culture understand that culture means so much more. They go all in on the holistic health of employees. They focus on not just perks, but also the everyday treatment of individuals, core values, social norms, the tone of conversations, camaraderie, the levels of caring, the feeling of community and even the feeling of safety in voicing a dissenting view in group discussions. They understand that culture encompasses all interactions within the organization and even how individuals engage, communicate and treat those outside of the organization.

When employees enjoy a work environment that is conducive to higher engagement, everyone wins. With a strong culture, employees understand what they are working towards and often bring more passion to their work and feel more loyalty to the company. This can lead to higher productivity, lower turnover and even stronger customer relationships.

It’s All About the Employee Experience

As the line between work and life blurs, focusing on your people’s holistic well-being is now essential to keeping them happy and, in turn, keeping them engaged. It’s not only about their health, but about the entire employee experience.

Think financial wellness, mental health, mindfulness, sleep, happiness, intellectual challenges, safety and stress management. How is leadership communicating about these issues? What programs and digital tools do you have in place to make it as easy as possible for employees to capitalize on your workplace offerings? What changes in behavior do you need to see to support these efforts?

Employee Engagement is More Than New Age Fluff

Having highly engaged employees is something that just about any company would like to have. It’s much more than a “nice to have,” though. Today, it’s more directly tied to a company’s actual financial success.

According to Gallup’s “State of the American Workplace,” business units with highly engaged workers see a 41% reduction in absenteeism and a 17% increase in productivity. In high turnover organizations, highly engaged business units realize 24% lower turnover, while in low turnover organizations, they realize a whopping 59% lower turnover. Furthermore, highly engaged business units achieve a 40% reduction in quality defects.

Wondering about sales? Employee engagement has a solid impact on financial performance, as well. According to the Gallup study, business units with highly engaged employees achieve 20% higher sales, 21% higher profitability, as well as 4.3X higher earnings per share (EPS) than competitors. With numbers like these, there’s little doubt that employee engagement today is a driving force of company success.

How Culture Shapes Employee Engagement

It’s clear that high levels of employee engagement are good for business. Then the question becomes how a corporate culture can spur greater employee engagement. That’s where the employee engagement research study “From Theory to Action – A Practical Look at What Really Drives Employee Engagement” by the enterprise software company Oracle sheds light on the relationship.

The business world is changing and a strong corporate culture is now an expectation of many employees. According to Oracle’s research, companies are expected to focus just as much on the welfare of their employees as on corporate profits. From the report: “What is clear from our research is that engagement has moved from a transactional relationship, based on individual roles and commitment, to a deeper relationship that is based on the fit between the organization and the individual and is founded on opportunity, values and culture.”

What Oracle’s research uncovered was that soft factors, such as company culture, have a significant impact on employee engagement, with today’s workforce more concerned with personal alignment to a business than in the past.

Methods for Increasing Employee Engagement through Cultural Enhancements

Foosball tables and Ms. Pac-Man machines are ways to try to build “culture” in your organization. On the other hand, treating people as they deserve to be treated and building meaning into their work are more strategic methods to increase employee engagement through your culture.

With this in mind, here are a number of effective ways to create a more powerful employee experience and to drive more engagement among your people through a strong and authentic culture:

  • Treat everyone fairly and equally.
  • Live your values. (Remember, even if a company such as Patagonia were presented with a $10 billion opportunity, they would unequivocally say “no” and walk away if it involved polluting the environment. Walk the talk!)
  • Follow through with open and transparent communication from top to bottom.
  • Give your employees a voice. Empower them to make change.
  • Find out what they are thinking. Introduce anonymous surveys and tools for the submission of new ideas.
  • Make them feel your appreciation, which can impact individuals on a deeply emotional level. This, in turn, leads to increases in self-esteem and motivation.
  • Recognize and reward them for great ideas. (Ever have a boss who took credit for your idea? Not exactly what makes an employee happy, engaged and loyal…)
  • Be flexible! In “Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends Survey, 2018,” employees shared that what they valued most in the way of perks was flexible scheduling and telecommuting options.
  • Give them clear, ample development opportunities. (Don’t let your competitors steal your best employees because they simply didn’t see where they could go and how they could grow internally…)
  • Make employee reviews a regular occurrence. (Would you QA your software only once a year?)
  • Give them training options. Enable individuals to learn in different ways, whether through live training, videos, text-based training, or otherwise.
  • Don’t be a penny pincher. Give them the tools and technologies they need to get their jobs done efficiently.
  • Eliminate distractions. Let them get their work done!
  • Um, it’s 2018. How digital and mobile is your workplace? It’s time to wake up and be a modern organization satisfying the digital behaviors of your employees. (In the 2017 State of the Digital Workplace Report, 95% of organizations responded that they feel a digital workplace is important.)
  • When going digital, think 360 degrees digital. Do you have an intranet, workflow tools, chat and collaboration tools, document management, HR portal, etc.?
  • Structure your workplace for greater collaboration. Think open spaces, fewer walls, couches, mobile desks, collaboration software, etc.
  • Review performance rewards to ensure they are clear, fair, encourage collaboration and include options based on an individual’s preferred rewards (financial, vacation time, recognition, etc.).
  • Do whatever you can to ensure your staff sees the purpose in their work. (If your people can relate to Dilbert personally, it’s time to recalibrate and find your North Star…)
  • Map every step of the employee experience journey and explore new ways to enhance each step for a better whole.
  • And if you must, buy that foosball table!