What exactly is Organizational Culture?

I get questions from clients all the time about how to find great employees that won’t come to work late, leave early or steal while they’re there! The simple answer is – if you want better employees, create a better organizational culture!

Now you may be asking yourself, “what exactly does that mean?” Well, employees have 6 basic needs that your organizational culture needs to enhance and support to attract and retain top talent and get results. These include:

  1. Stability and certainty – employees want to enjoy the comfort of certainty – knowing that if they do a good job there will be other opportunities.
  2. Challenge – employees want to be stimulated by the challenge of their work – they don’t want to be bored.
  3. Recognition – employees want to know their efforts and accomplishments are appreciated.
  4. Belonging – employees want to feel they are part of something bigger than themselves and they want to take pride in that belonging.
  5. Development – employees want to grow and advance, gain new knowledge, skills and abilities.
  6. Contribution – employees want to feel their work has meaning and purpose.

Does your organizational culture help employees fill these needs? Are you sure? You might answer yes, but would your employees? I often find when working with clients that leadership has one perception of their organizational culture, while employees have a very different perception – and these differences can kill your culture, create dissatisfaction, drive turnover and kill results – all of which make you ask, “How can I find great employees that won’t come to work late, leave early or steal while they’re here?”

Before we discuss what to do to create a better organization (it’s a long, committed process), it’s important to understand the things you may be doing that drives good employees away. And if you don’t drive them away you lose their commitment and productivity. Once that happens, you’ll wish they would leave but the fact is you can’t beat bad employees off with a stick!

10 Things that Kill Employee Engagement

  1. Check your brains at the door – if your culture has a mindset of “one size fits all” that leaders hide behind (it sounds something like this – “I can’t do anything about that, it’s our policy” you’re killing engagement and your results. While it sounds good to have universal policies that are etched in stone, employees (even union employees) want flexibility and if you expect your employees to be flexible with you, they need to expect you to be flexible with them. And quite frankly, some employees are more valuable to you because they do get results. This does NOT mean be inconsistent – it means treat people in similar situations similarly. See employee need #2.
  2. Rules for the Sake of Rules – Every organization needs structure and guidelines, but top performers won’t wade through rules created simply for the sake of creating them – they want guidelines that enhance their performance and help them get results. HR loves to create ‘rules” – do yours make sense and are they helping you run the business? See employee need # 2.
  3. No (or inconsistent) Accountability – If your culture ignores poor performance and allows mediocrity, you will either turn good employees into bad ones or drive them away. There is no reason for an “A” player to go above and beyond if “C” players get the same recognition and rewards. See employee need #3
  4. Outstanding Performance isn’t Recognized – see #2 above. Reward the behavior you want repeated and extinguish the behavior you don’t. If you’re not sure about this, see #1 above. See employee need #3.
  5.  FUN is a 4-letter Word – If your organization sucks the life out of people, it also sucks the life out of your results. The most productive workplaces on the planet embrace a culture of FUN, including ZAPPOSNetFlixGoogleParamore, etc. Find your fun and encourage it; you and your controller will be glad you did. See employee need #4.
  6. Treat Employees Like Mushrooms – We’ve all heard the adage, keep me in the dark and feed me BS. Well that’s a sure fire remedy to driving top performers away. Employees need to know where the organization is going, what the vision is, the plan to get there and how they fit in. Keep top performers in the dark and you’ll be stuck with the others. See employee needs #1 and #6.
  7. Poor Leadership – this could include failing to provide reasonable autonomy or micromanaging.  The best leaders provide employees with direction and tell them what needs to be done, but NOT how to do it. Failing to grow your bench will certainly drive top performers away. See employee need #5.
  8. Failing to see your talent as your $1,000,000 decision – Organizations have all kinds of systems and policies and rules for purchasing high dollar equipment and technology, but few put as much emphasis on “purchasing” and “retaining” top talent. Are you actively developing your top talent to keep them engaged and producing? See employee needs #2,3,4,5,6.
  9. Failing to Provide Development Opportunities – If you’re not developing your employees, you can bet your competition is. To drive results and innovation, employees to grow and learn. See employee needs #2,5,6.
  10. Failing to Acclimate your Employees at Hire – Studies have shown that the sooner you engage and acclimate your employees, the higher their engagement and retention. Is your new hire orientation a lifeless, boring meeting to mindlessly fill out paperwork, review the employee handbook and learn all the “Don’ts” of your organization? If you’re not helping employees understand how your organization meets their needs – go ahead and budget for the turnover and keep wondering how to get great employees who won’t come to work late, leave early and steal while they’re there.

Building a great organizational culture that attracts and retains top talent and repels mediocrity and poor performers is no less of a business strategy than your product mix or marketing plan. It takes vision, purpose and commitment. Next week we’ll explore how to build that kind of culture. Put on your seat belts, we about to leave the station.

I would love your comments on how your organization is meeting your needs or if they are killing your engagement. Can’t wait to hear from you.