A few years ago I wrote a scholarly paper on culture. The intent of the research was to define culture as how people live inside an organization. My research produced 149 definitions of culture. I imagine there are more than 149 definitions. The definition of culture was not what I was learning; my learning was deeper. I’ll come back to that later.
First, let’s turn to the term “engagement.” Many of my clients conduct employee satisfaction surveys or culture assessments. Satisfaction and happiness do not necessarily mean the employee is engaged.
Employees can be happy at work because of the social network or a decent paycheck. Game rooms, ping pong, or pool tables may contribute to employee happiness. Happiness is different than employee engagement and yet can be connected to employee engagement if other organization practices are relevant and meaningful.
Employee satisfaction surveys can be misleading and often the bar is set too low. Employees may be satisfied with a 9 to 5 work schedule and not complain. Satisfaction does not necessarily mean the employee will put in extra effort, creatively problem solve, or think outside of the box. Think about it – two people in a personal or professional relationship can say they are “satisfied” and yet, over time, miss opportunities to be deeply connected and committed.
Engagement raises the bar to an employee’s emotional commitment demonstrated by words and actions on behalf of the organization. Engaged employees adopt an organizing principle to do what is right at any time. They readily put in the effort to move a product or service out to the members and do so without complaint. Engaged branch personnel behave in a way that demonstrates care and commitment to the members’ financial health. Engaged executives have open conversations with direct reports about what is important to them and related to the organization. Engaged employees proactively explore more productive and efficient ways to serve and keep margins intact. Bottom line, engaged employees put their heart into their commitment to the organization.
Culture – that word again – is directly related to employee engagement. Culture is in every organization. Culture formation needs intentionality and purpose, or it creates an unexpected and unwanted culture. It is clear to me that the culture of an organization starts with the board of directors and the executive team being in alignment about performance metrics and employee engagement.
Departments and functional areas each have a culture. Those in roles of leadership have the responsibility to demonstrate values through their behaviors to create and sustain an open culture of inclusivity and accountability. Departments with a culture of engagement produce high standards of service, which leads to member satisfaction and organization sustainability.
What would be different if each department or function manager performance rating included a narrative on how they create a culture of engagement? What would be different if others described you as the best person to work for because of your inclusivity, openness, and observable commitment to the success of each employee?
My recommendation is to reflect on how you create a culture of engagement and ask others for their feedback. Plan a series of department or organization meetings with your team, openly discuss the culture, intentionally define the desired culture, and adopt the practice to make that culture a reality.
Deedee Myers, Ph.D., MSC, PCC