When discussing employee engagement, the idea of company culture surfaces as a fundamental component of engaged employees. But what does that mean? How can each organization construct something so … abstract?
Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary defines culture as:
• : the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time.
• : a particular society that has its own beliefs, ways of life, art, etc.
• : a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization (such as a business)
Each organization has a distinct feel to it. A great example is to compare a buyer’s experience entering an Apple Store to entering Best Buy. Both stores fulfill similar needs – to sell computers and electronics. But the feel of each is incredibly unique. The culture of each store isn’t accidental. In fact, each store is the end product of a carefully thought-out corporate culture.
This doesn’t only apply to sales. Organizational culture can be felt in educational institutions (A Montessori School compared to a Catholic School), law firms, hospitals, laundromats, politics, restaurants and more. Where there’s a company, there’s company culture.
Organizational culture should be deliberate, reflecting the mission and values of each company. There are 6 essential components to creating a strong organizational culture , putting the abstract on paper and into practice. And by doing so, an organization will not only find it easier to attract and retain new hires, but it will be easier to detect employee engagement problems and work to get everyone speaking the same corporate language and working toward the same vision.
1. Have a Strong Vision or Mission Statement: An organization’s vision/mission statement should address what you do, how you do it, who you do it for and what value it brings. It should be concise and clear. This, in effect, is your organization’s purpose.
2. Define your Organization’s Values: How do you expect your employees to behave toward, speak to, and work with clients and one another to achieve the company’s vision? For instance, you will never hear a Disney employee use foul language at the parks. Period. An organization’s values are shared behaviors, mindsets and language to achieve the organization’s mission.
3. Have a Strategic Communication Plan: Engaging in real dialogue with employees, exchanging and sharing ideas, is an essential part of company culture. A strategic communication, company-wide plan is a cornerstone of success.
4. Create a Culture of Continuous Improvement: An essential part of organizational culture and health is continued improvement. Opportunities for continued education, workshops, conferences, and skills training are all part of successful organizations. Employee engagement surveys should be considered opportunities to learn instead of results to dread.
5. What is your Organization’s Story?: Stories and storytelling are an innate part of being human. Stories connect. TED Talks are the perfect example of the power of stories in corporate culture. Organizations that have a strong narrative, one that all employees know, have a more tangible culture. Who, for instance, doesn’t know the narrative for Facebook and Apple (sure, Hollywood helped with that!)? Other stories we love are those of Patagonia’s founder, climber, environmentalist and businessman, Yvon Chouinard. Or more local stories – like the owner of a indie bookstore who began with a shelf of used books to share. The café owner who opened her doors fifty years ago. The fried chicken guru who began selling pizzas and chicken on a food cart in the plaza (Frisby in Colombia). These are the narratives that weave company culture. What is your narrative? Do your employees know it?
6. Your People! Your employees will be the ones who embrace this culture and put it into action. New hiring practices focus not so much on skill as shared cultural values. But without a clear organizational culture defined, hiring the “right fit” will be tough, if not impossible. Employees remain in organizations that are a compatible cultural fit. When someone spends 40 – 50 hours a week – at least – in an organization, shared cultural values have the stick factor.
These are six of the most important components to creating a strong organizational culture. Certainly there are more factors, but without these essentials, your culture will waver as will your employee engagement. Engage employees with clearly defined company culture.
What is your company culture?