Why Does Workplace Culture Matter?
Workplace culture is a slippery topic. Pinning down a solid definition is like nailing pudding to the wall. Because it's everything. Every choice you make creates your culture. There's only one aspect that we have persuasive data for: your treatment of employees. How you hire, manage, and motivate employees is hands-down the most critical element of company culture. It's the difference between making your mark on the world or just eking by with middling results. And the data suggests most of us are doing it wrong.
Engagement: The Magic IngredientFor almost twenty years, Gallup has been gathering some very interesting data on employee engagement. In other words, they've been monitoring how mentally and emotionally committed employees are to their workplace. How many employees are putting in their best effort? How many are checked out? How many are so miserable that they're actively taking away from productivity? What difference do those attitudes make, and what shapes them? It turns out that cultivating employee engagement translates into big bucks. Teams in the top quartile of engagement outperform teams in the bottom quartile with:
- 21% Higher Profitability
- 20% Higher Sales
- 17% Higher Productivity
- 10% Higher Customer Metrics
- 24% Lower Turnover
- 41% Lower Absenteeism
Invest Where It CountsEarning the devotion of employees isn't simple. There's no magic bullet. Compensation and core benefits matter to the degree that they allow your employees to meet their needs. But they don't inspire devotion. Exotic benefits that usually top the "best workplace culture" lists might attract talent, but won't help you keep them or fully leverage their abilities. To get employees invested in you, you need to demonstrate that you're invested in them.
Discover and Leverage Their StrengthsWhen you encourage people to do what they're good at, they feel successful, motivated, and satisfied. You get their best work. People who work to their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged in their job. They're also more productive and less likely to quit. It comes down to the manager. Employees who strongly agree that their manager coaches them based on their strengths have a stunning 93% engagement rate. Strength-based management is, on a pragmatic level, efficient resource allocation. But it also fosters a very personalized management experience. Employees feel seen, understood, and valued. Not as a cog, but as a unique individual with something to offer.
Recognize Employee AccomplishmentsIt can be as flashy or as humble as you want it to be, but employee recognition is essential to an engaged workforce. Recognition increases engagement, productivity, and loyalty— and it lowers turnover. One global study found that, the world over, feeling appreciated at work is the most important factor in happiness on the job. Don't save recognition of the exceptional. Managers should also provide positive feedback for reliability, efforts at improvement, and smaller accomplishments. Praise means more when it's deserved, so it always should be. But nothing is more demotivating for a solid-but-steady performer than to feel like nobody notices.
Encourage (and Provide Resources for) Learning & DevelopmentIt's a natural human need to learn and grow. When LinkedIn conducted a workplace learning survey, 94% of employees said they would stay longer at companies that invested in their development. And yet such development has dropped precipitously in recent years. Research out of the Wharton School says:
- In 1979, we spent an average of 2.5 weeks a year developing young employees.
- In 1995, we spent an average of 11 hours a year.
- In 2011, only 1 in 5 employees reported any on-the-job training in five years. So, the current average is probably very grim.