Employee engagement helps organizations develop a corporate culture, but what does that mean and how does it help a growing business?
There are some catchphrases that have migrated from the business world to the world at large: “think outside the box,” “win-win situation,” “pushing the envelope.” Along with these examples is another familiar term: corporate culture.
So what is culture? The Oxford English dictionary defines it as “The ideas, customs, and social behavior of a particular people or society.” The five elements of culture include symbols, language, values, beliefs, and norms. Corporate culture is an extension of this definition, reflecting it in a narrower setting: the business world. The term came into existence in the 1960s, became part of employee engagement and business parlance in the 1980s, and developed into a handy catch-phrase for both business people and the general public in the 1990s.
The broadest definition—whether an organization is a start-up, non-profit, or a well-established company—is that it’s an evolving set of collective beliefs, attitudes, and values. Combined, they impact the business’ direction and strategy. There is always a culture that covers everything from dress codes to conduct with clients and employee engagement.
Pros and Cons
As with any culture, corporate culture has pros and cons. The pros? In a well-developed corporate culture, there’s measurable increased productivity and performance, a personal investment in cost controls, which causes administrative and operational costs to drop, and across-the-board improvements.
The cons? Every culture is resistant to change, so entrenched ideas and attitudes can be challenging to modify or scrap. In a traditional hierarchical structure, employees vie with one another for more power, prestige, and money. The underlying principle is to win at any cost, which hampers employee engagement and productivity. This approach, coupled with internecine warfare among employees, can cause a company to lose sight of the wants and needs of the client base, or even worse, commit unethical and illegal actions. That can lead directly to regulatory backlashes and a company’s demise. Think about Enron, Worldcom, Bernie Madoff and Tyco.
What You Can Do for Employee Engagement
So what can a mid-to-upper level manager or a human resources professional do to aid a company’s move into a win-win situation? The first step is to look at the company’s personnel roster as human assets to the company, not as costs. There are three main categories to develop: collaboration, commitment, and capacity.
The old adage, “two heads are better than one” is absolutely true in the business world. Collaboration is simply teamwork. A team may be pulled together to tackle anything from a design for a product or service to the logistics involved with bringing it to life. Problem-solving happens when a company combines talent, finances, experience, employee engagement, and infrastructure. This is thought.
Commitment is a core principle that covers many bases, from the literal commitments of time, energy, and the spark of motivation to the commitment needed to transform ideas, values, and creative impulses into a workable reality. The other thing a company must commit to is keeping an open mind, especially in the realm of technology. This is action.
Capacity is the final aspect of the triumvirate. How much, either in products or services, is determined by supply and demand. A company like Apple can end up with demand far exceeding supply because it’s the sole source for Macintosh computers and iPhones. On the other hand, there are numerous companies creating PCs. Managers keep an eye on the market the company is in, and work with HR to bring in the talent that can take a company to the next level. This is result.
The astute managers and HR pros work hand-in-hand to make a company flourish. Once, HR was solely invested in the recruitment and benefits aspects of corporate life. Managers only looked at competitors and the bottom line. Today’s corporate culture pulls the two together to make human assets yield high results with better culture and employee engagement. This is the future.