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Company Culture and Employee Engagement

It’s fair to say that in an ever shifting global economy the pressures placed on how we adapt and manage our workforce continue to consume a large part of our everyday resources. High employment, economic recovery, increased productivity and a fast paced, mobile, 24/7, cloud based data driven world make for an ever more complex working environment. And one of the biggest challenges we continue to face is how to manage our staff.

In a recent global survey by a leading accountancy firm ,CEOs, directors and HR leaders from 3,300 large, medium and small businesses across 106 countries were interviewed to determine the top trends affecting “Human Capital” and what the biggest challenges we face are. Responses included learning and development, leadership, workforce capability and the changing function of HR, but top of the list was the challenge surrounding Culture & Engagement with 87% of businesses citing it as their most critical business factor within their control.

So what’s it all about?

Well, you should think of your employees as a kind of customer and, just as with any of your regular customers, you want to instil a sense of customer loyalty. As the job market continues to heat up and new technologies have exploded onto the scene, power is shifting from the employer to the employee. Websites like Glassdoor, LinkedIn and Facebook (to name a few) not only increase transparency about a company’s workplace, they also make it far easier for employees to learn about new job opportunities and gain intelligence about other company cultures.

Organisations that create a culture defined by meaningful work, employee engagement, job and organisational fit and strong leadership are more able (and likely) to attract and retain the best talent. Typically, if your company culture is not aligned to theirs, staff can feel that they are disengaged from the business and seek opportunity elsewhere: they generally can afford to be that picky these days. It’s no coincidence that studies show a distinct correlation between engagement and performance, including increased productivity, increased profit, employee retention, customer satisfaction and less sickness and absenteeism.

Whilst the respondents of the survey were well aware of the issues they faced around culture and engagement, putting it into practice is the challenge they face. The results showed that 18% said they had no strategy in place to tackle the issue and 16% admitted their strategy was outdated. A further 38% recognised their engagement strategy was not necessarily relevant in places but were in the process of updating it.

Where to start?

Engagement starts at the top. It needs to be a corporate, board-level priority. You need to communicate your organisation’s values and ensure managers and team leaders are fully versed in these values. What you say in these should be reflected in your attitude and your day to day activity: research by the CIPD shows that less than a fifth of managers are aware of their organisation’s values, which doesn’t bode well for a “singing from the same hymn sheet” approach to company culture.

The best way to engage your workforce is to literally engage them in the process of defining your corporate values. Listen to their thoughts and ideas, respect them and let your actions and attitudes show them that you understand your people can, and do, contribute to the development of your business.  It’s also important to have a structure in place to allow for two-way feedback in order to help measure your strategy in real time.

There are a few things you can do to help forge a committed workforce that are prepared to go the extra mile for your business. Acknowledge their hard work and successes, either with financial or non-financial rewards. Benchmarking your company and striving for external recognition is a great way of validating your efforts. Rating sites, social media and awards can all help here.

Most importantly you need to make it work for YOUR organisation. There is no magic “one size fits all” formula, but the most successful employers, the award winning CEOs and the highly rated HR directors do all have one thing in common: a trusted, transparent and joined up vision of corporate culture and employee engagement. Whether you’re small-scale professional services firm or a global manufacturing giant, the same principles apply when it comes to looking after your valuable workforce.


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