Corporate culture and employee engagement is terminology that frequently gets bandied about, often in the context of how to improve in either or both areas. For those companies who receive negative reviews from former employees, lack of positive culture or engagement often underpins the complaint.
Defining Corporate Culture
According to Inc.'s editorial staff, "Corporate culture refers to the shared values, attitudes, standards and beliefs that characterize members of an organization and define its nature." The article goes on to define the roots of culture: goals, strategies, structure, etc.
Companies may struggle with wrapping their arms around this rather ambiguous concept, so the same article references the Hagberg Consulting Group's use of indirection: five questions to help get at the essence of their culture, which can also help you root out yours.
What 10 words would you use to describe your company?
- Around here, what's really important?
- Around here, who gets promoted?
- Around here, what behaviors get rewarded?
- Around here, who fits in and who doesn't?
Defining Employee Engagement
In the article, 7 Definitions of Employee Engagement, DecisionWise defines employee engagement as "an emotional state where we feel passionate, energetic and committed toward our work. In turn, we fully invest our best selves - our hearts, spirits, minds and hands - to the work we do."
Multiple other definitions of employee engagement in the same article shared the common thread of "emotion":
- emotional commitment
- emotional connection
- emotional attachment
- emotional/behavioral state
How Do Culture and Engagement Overlap?
With this in mind, one can easily see how corporate culture and employee engagement intersect. For the value a company places on specifically positive behaviors and/or the emphasis they place on uplifting hiring or promotion practices (culture) can spur optimistic emotional responses (engagement) from their most important company asset, their talent.
The Problem with Culture / Engagement Incongruity
When a culture that has been sailing along smoothly finds itself gradually shifting off course, an investigation may be in order as to whether the recruiting and hiring practices have likewise gone off course. In other words, they have begun hiring people whose emotional motivation (engagement) is not aligned with the company's core values (culture), thereby disrupting the optimism of the organization.
In an attempt to ramp up staffing quickly, for example, certain hiring managers may have loosened screening requirements, resulting in new hires whose engagement is misaligned with the values of the current culture. When this happens, new talents' incongruent behaviors may disrupt, even weaken the culture, resulting in slowed productivity and corroded morale.
To avoid this happening, companies should consider baking employee engagement-type interview practices into the recruitment process, so that regardless of the rapidity of the hiring scenario, companies can rely upon second-nature processes to ensure a more sustainable culture.
Invest in Goal-centric Practices to Bolster Engagement
Focusing on evaluating candidates for skills and experience, EnerBank USA invests time to discover "how well they would fit within the organization," says Blaine Bagley, senior VP of operations. "We ask questions about how well their strengths match within a department and with their potential co-workers, and how we could help them through training and education to overcome their weaknesses. The answers to these questions help us see how engaged they might be as employees."
The process by which EnerBank ensures potential candidates be successful in their jobs helps cultivate a positive reputation in the community and ultimately leads to high referrals and low turnover to "continually improve the strength and engagement of the employee base," continues Bagley.
Further methods to ensure your employees are successful, and therefore helping increase employee engagement, include these three tips from this SurveyMonkey article:
- Hire and develop great managers. Great managers are tuned into the emotional needs of their employees.
- Provide managers with the resources they need. This will enable managers to continuously build on the team motivation and engagement initiatives.
- Set clear, achievable goals-together. When employees are involved in goal setting, it makes them four times more likely to feel engaged at work.
Moreover, highly engaged employees who have the benefit of working in a continually evolving and innovative culture will be more likely to remain engaged, spurring a multiplicity of growth and change initiatives and sustaining the company over the long haul.
Invest in Employee Engagement Communication Practices to Reinforce Culture
To evolve or maintain a healthy culture, you may want to consider these five engagement communications strategies, shared by Adam Hickman, PH.D. in Talk (a Lot) About Your Company's Culture Change:
- Create communications plans that support engagement initiatives and priorities.
- Consistently and routinely communicate the rationale for and benefits of an engagement-focused culture.
- Encourage employees to discover and share best practices to create a vivid picture of what highly engaged teams look like and how they perform.
- Designate an engagement champions network that communicates, collects best practices to share with other managers, answers questions and supports manager development.
- Embed specific engagement elements into ongoing conversations, connecting engagement to business needs and challenges. This may include asking the team if they have what they need to do quality work.
"A healthy company culture may increase employees' commitment and productivity, while an unhealthy culture may inhibit a company's growth or even contribute to business failure," according to Inc. (Id.).
The bottom line is the bottom line. An engaged workforce underpinned by a vigorous culture can drive revenue and sustains future vitality. Leveraging the synchronicity between these two crucial organizational drivers can set your company apart in the marketplace and distinguish you as an enterprise leader.
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