Culture is Key to keeping Employees Engaged

Even with direct involvement, micromanagement needs to be avoided, as employees will only stay engaged if they feel their doing so on their own accord.              

Trae Tessmann|
June 14, 2016

Picture two marketing agencies. They offer identical products, employ around the same amount of people, and book similar revenues. As a prospective employee, you’ve been offered a job by both at competitive salaries, but how do you decide which to accept?

It could come down to future prospects for the company, location, or hours, but your decision will most likely come down to deciding which company “fits” you better.

It might sound silly, but that intrinsic fit-factor is highly culture-dependent, and comes into play for decisions made by prospective employees and customers looking for a long-term relationship with a new organization, as well as current employees weighing their future options.

Employees today, especially Millenials, want a job with an organization that maintains a culture they’re comfortable with and see themselves growing alongside. With turnover rates on the rise, those organizations are quickly learning it is in their best interest to build or strengthen a culture that promotes opportunities for high levels of engagement, and to insure that new employees fit that culture as well.

So how do you build a culture that is sufficient at keeping employees engaged?

If an employee doesn’t know what their organization or culture stand for (which covers an unfortunate 60% of employees), you’ll have a very difficult time convincing them to invest anything in it apart from the bare minimum. High-engagement cultures thrive on transparency, where employees know the history of the organization, how they operate now, and what they plan to do in the future, specifically.

READ MORE: 8 Responsibilities of an Innovative Human Resources Department

Management must communicate with honesty over expectations, short- and long-term goals, and problems facing the company with every employee. This intimate knowledge furthers an employee’s understanding of how their role contributes to the organization as a whole, and the consistency of that transparency in the company’s culture helps them become more comfortable and likely to get involved in problem-solving, boosting engagement, and managing change and innovation.

But an engaging culture isn’t just built on knowledge, but rather the promotion of communication and application of improvements that come from it. In strict, hierarchal cultures, communication is often restricted between departments. These “walls” prevent employees from expanding their knowledge and activities inside the organization, and contributes to many workplace failures. Keeping employees engaged is highly dependent on a culture that allows for company-wide collaboration, employees to give feedback to each other (since 85% are hesitant to ask their managers for it themselves!), and for them to seek continuous improvement together.

The freedom to collaborate and quite literally think about things outside of their core responsibilities is dependent on management’s willingness and commitment to instilling those attributes into the company’s bylaws and culture. Apart from those behind-the-door initiatives, they also need to be directly involved in the process as well, providing context into the “why” of the workforce, motivation to stay engaged, and empowerment to look outside of their core responsibilities. But even with direct involvement, micromanagement needs to be avoided, as employees will only stay engaged if they feel they’re doing so on their own accord.

An effective workplace culture is also effective at keeping employees engaged if it looks outside its walls. Giving employees a chance to share the creativity and passion they enjoy in their personal lives while at work helps them disconnect from the daily grind, and motivates them to promote those passions in other areas of the operation. Employee engagement is also highly dependent letting employees enjoy their lives outside of work too. Time at work will always be a necessity, but setting aside time for small vacations helps them avoid burnout, gives them a chance to “check-out”, and insures they have enough time to relax and recharge.

Culture is the easiest way to differentiate your operation. The Googles, Apples, and Amazon’s are known for their cultures, both good and bad, but people know what they’re getting in to and that helps lead them to live a more engaged career.

While not every company is in a position to take their culture to that degree, a focus on culture can be the most effective route in attracting, retaining, and keeping employees engaged. Salaries and benefits will always be greener over the hill, but it’s tough to beat an organization that just “fits” well. Employees need an environment where they feel comfortable, are able to communicate, and feel they can develop over the long-term. Provide them with that, and the task of keeping employees engaged will become a thing of the past.

Let us know below how YOUR culture is keeping employees engaged on a daily basis!

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About Trae Tessmann

Co-founder of Ideawake

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