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Why company Culture matters

Go from good to great

If you type ‘great company culture’ into Google, you’ll find many examples of organizations who claim to have found the silver bullet to keeping smiling, happy and productive employees, who sing the praises of their organization day in day out. From Google itself, to Netflix, Twitter, Nike, Southwest Airlines or the Walt Disney Company, these workplaces are often held as shining examples of getting it ‘right’ when it comes to culture.

What are they doing that has allowed them to be a step ahead in the culture game? Is it the free food, the unlimited vacation time, company ping-pong competitions or onsite gym access? Or, is it that they’ve simply understood how much culture really matters to their success, and prioritized the experience of their employees?

Create the culture your organization deserves

Organizational culture can be defined as a set of norms, beliefs, values and vision that define how employees and managers interact within an organization. Culture also includes a variety of elements, including work environment, company mission, value, ethics, communication, expectations and goals.

Your culture and brand

The most interesting part about organizational culture is – it happens whether you do anything about it or not. People and Culture professionals are in a unique position to have an enormous influence on the way the organization they work for identifies with each other and operates on the day to day. This manifests in attracting and retaining top talent, greater productivity, and ultimately effects the bottom line.

There’s evidence to suggest many organizations aren’t getting it right. A survey by Trupath Research reveals that 64 per cent of all employees feel they don’t have a strong work culture. Understanding what truly contributes to a positive organizational culture, and how to achieve this is vital to making an impact and creating the culture your organization deserves.

It’s more than just the perks

If you think about these perks offered by the likes of Twitter, Google, et al, they’re a nice element to have – and might even be seen as a bit of a sweetener for some prospective employees. But – it’s important to remember that their staff are only gathering together for a bite to eat, or a company funded yoga class because they want to, and they’re working in a culture which has fostered and placed value on good relationships between colleagues.

In reality, you can have every recreational activity in the world on offer in your workplace, but if people aren’t engaged with the organization and each other, you won’t find much of a crowd.

A good culture happens the step before what we see as the ‘typical’ manifestation of an engaged workforce, and the true test of your culture is how your employees feel when the pressure is on and they need to come together to achieve a goal. Do they feel compelled to work as a team and solve a problem for the good of the organization, or is it everyone for themselves? The difference between the employee who wants to be part of the team, and the one who looks out for their own interests is a genuine care for the impact they have of the organization’s reputation, brand and customers.

Your culture and brand

You can’t pay your way to a good culture

As the old saying goes, money doesn’t buy happiness. As an employer, it doesn’t buy you a happy employee. 

According to research from Leigh Branham, 89 percent of managers think that their employees leave for higher salaries when 80–90 percent of employees actually leave for reasons other than money. In addition, a Princeton University study suggested that US$75,000 is the happiness tipping point, meaning once employees are earning more than this figure, a salary increase doesn’t really contribute to their overall happiness and satisfaction in a workplace.

We know for a fact that employee turnover is an expensive business, so it behooves employers to focus on things that do contribute to employee happiness. A culture in which employees feel valued, and in turn, value the organization, makes financial sense. A study by Madison found that companies who had highly engaged staff through an excellent organizational culture, took fewer sick days (2.69 as opposed to 6.19), and would recommend their company more to others (67 percent against 3 percent for disengaged employees). It’s a clear line to draw, that those firms with higher employee engagement, are likely to see higher productivity, and thus, a healthier bottom line.

How do you know if you have a good culture?

Many organizations desire to achieve a good culture for the benefit of their employees and their company, and an engagement ‘pulse check’ is a typical exercise for most People and Culture teams.An engagement score can give you an indication of how your workplace is feeling – but it’s important to keep in mind that often the results of these can be skewed.

Employees feel pressure to report themselves as ‘engaged’ out of a sense of wanting to do the right thing, or perhaps having a differing definition of what that really means than the organization does.

Your culture and brand

Organizations also tend to ask too many of the wrong types of questions in these surveys, usually relying on largely quantitative data being collected, to calculate the score. By only focusing on the numbers, what’s really being missed is an opportunity to ask employees what they think or feel about issues that effect their day to day experience. The impact People and Culture professionals can have on improving the experience of employees in their organizations is exponentially increased when they understand why employees feel a certain way.

For example, from a standard engagement survey, you may be able to ascertain that flexible working hours is something of importance to your workforce, but by collecting and analyzing open ended responses about this topic, you might come to understand that managers are challenged by tracking employee’s work when they’re out of the office, whereas their direct reports feel flexible working hours are important to them to allow them to fulfill their family commitments. With this knowledge, the People and Culture team can work with both groups of employees to ensure their experience improves, and takes into account their differing needs.

Beyond your engagement metric, things such as a low employee turnover, a volume of high-quality applicants for advertised positions, clarity of company values, high-quality employee referrals, and improved financial performance of the organization are all measures of a culture that’s performing well and your employees want to be a part of, and importantly, tell other people about. It’s your employer brand DNA.

Download the whitepaper

To read more about organizational culture and getting it right,
download our free whitepaper: a Culture Fit: Building Better Companies Through Company Culture and Employee Engagement.


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