Investing in your workplace culture is an investment in your success

 Having the right culture for your organisation can often mean the difference between success and failure. But sometimes getting to the right culture means you must dismantle the existing one.

A great culture drives higher employee engagement. But Gallup, a management consulting company, reports that only 30% of employees are engaged at work, and disengaged employees are one-third less profitable. Another survey from the Society for Human Resource Management found that companies with disengaged employees have 50% more employee turnover, 22% less utilisation and productivity, and deliver worse customer service.

There are three key aspects to improve culture and engagement:

1) Engage yourself as the leader and commit to it.

2) Help your team align with your mission through effective communication.

3) Measure engagement and use those findings for continuous improvement.

Culture and engagement drive business success, and culture starts with the leader. One of the most intimidating things about redefining culture is that, you as the leader, must visibly embody that culture every day. And on the days you don’t, people will certainly notice. So think carefully about the kind of place where you want to work. Early on in my leadership career, I placed a tremendous focus on reducing expense and making hard decisions. I communicated to the broader team only when I had to, preferring to work through my leadership team. My office was even set up so my back was to my door. Rarely did I engage with the larger team.

Over time I realised that while I was doing a great job at the strategic, technical, and tactical aspects of leadership, I was ignoring the people. I was creating a company that I wouldn’t want to work for. With that realisation, I knew it was time to make a change. With the help of some great mentors, I began to think about what kind of place I wanted to work and started to build it.

Once I had my plan in place, the first step was to begin to communicate it. I began to get out of my office more. I got to know the team and told the story of what we were going to do. I went from quarterly town halls to monthly town halls. I moved from a very formal tone to a much more approachable one. I shared where I saw us going, acknowledged the challenges in getting there, but stayed strong in my belief that we would reach our goal. Our employees responded and we started to see clearer communication throughout the company. We also began to communicate with employees the importance of our mission, and made it a priority for employees to understand that and how their role tied directly to achieving that mission.

In business you measure efficiency, profit and loss, revenue and expense, and a variety of other KPIs. Given the dramatic business impact of a highly-engaged workforce, it’s curious that so few organisations track and measure employee engagement. A variety of tools have been created to measure engagement. At my company, we measure it once per quarter. One of our KPIs for the year is tied to increasing engagement. We are also working to identify the impacts of increased engagement on business results.

Dramatic cultural change is a highly intentional effort for business leaders. It begins at the top and filters down through the organisation. That intentionality must be communicated and tied to how it will positively impact business goals and the employee experience. Finally, these efforts must be measured so you can make the needed adjustments for continuous improvement.

If you begin this journey I’d love to hear from you. You can find me on Twitter @craigpanderson where I also tweet about culture leadership and higher education.