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Understanding the Differences Between Employee Engagement and Culture
Employee engagement and company culture are related, but they aren’t the same thing. Unfortunately, many organizations lump engagement and company culture together and prevent themselves from deriving the full benefit of understanding and optimizing each. Companies that lack a strong, vibrant culture may still have employees who like and are engaged in their work. Bigger issues like distrust or misalignment of goals can simmer underneath an engaged workforce (though they’re unlikely to remain engaged with work for long). On the other hand, organizations with energetic, inspiring cultures almost can’t help but have engaged employees. In fact, culture is a strong predictor of engagement and is the foundation of operational success. That’s why defining your organization’s path to the future must involve evaluation of both corporate culture and employee engagement.
Corporate culture isn’t as easy to get your arms around as employee engagement. It can be viewed as consisting of five fundamental building blocks:
- Capability culture – that ensures everyone is equipped to excel
- Commitment culture – that motivates people to commit to doing their best
- Alignment culture – which defines what the organization must do to fulfill its mission
- Individual performance culture – which includes leaders who “walk the talk”
- Team performance culture – which eschews silos and encourages involvement and collaboration
Organizational culture is the foundation upon which excellence is built. It equips team members to excel and to adapt, since change is inevitable in the business world today. When these five building blocks are strong, you set the stage for excellent employee engagement that lasts.
Employee engagement is reflected in statements like “I love what I do,” and “My manager provides me with the resources I need to do a great job.” Engagement is more granular and individual than organizational culture, and it makes a tremendous difference in organizational success. Have you ever interacted with a business filled with employees who just didn’t care? It’s frustrating and bewildering, and if you later read about that company shuttering, you probably aren’t surprised. Leaders simply cannot ignore the extent to which employees are engaged with their work. Yet only looking at employee engagement is insufficient.
They’re Measured Differently
Employee engagement is fairly straightforward to measure, through employee surveys, or through one-on-one conversations and observation of people going about their work. Measuring organizational culture, however, is difficult to distill down to a step-by-step process, because culture is such a large and multifaceted concept. That doesn’t mean you can’t measure corporate culture: you can. In fact, you must if you want to maintain strong levels of employee engagement and orient your company toward sustained, long-term success.
Why and How to Measure Culture
It’s important to look at each of the five building blocks of culture in turn, and it’s important to be completely honest in your evaluation:
- Do we equip our people with the tools, skills, and attitudes they need for excellence?
- Do our leaders demonstrate commitment and a strong sense of purpose?
- Are goals aligned throughout our organization so we all know what we’re working toward?
- Do leaders practice what they preach, listen to feedback, and mentor new or young employees?
- Do we know how to encourage positive teamwork that actually gets things done?
Just as any personal self-improvement endeavor begins with taking an honest look at your existing situation, improving your company culture requires looking honestly at what that culture is like today – not what you wish it was. As a result, you learn what your operational strengths are, where there’s room for improvement, and which aspects of organizational culture are ripe for change. It makes planning your organization’s future into a process of mapping out, not just wishful thinking.
Ultimately, your company values whatever brings about the results you strive for. Silos, distrust between departments, and disenchanted employees certainly don’t signify operational excellence or success. Understand and measure employee engagement, but additionally understand and measure company culture, by examining all the building blocks of organizational culture and honestly evaluating where you stand. A healthy culture along with engaged employees is the winning combination for maximizing operational success and making your organization a great one to work for. If you’re ready to understand your company culture better and move it forward for maximum operational success I encourage you to contact us to learn more about our proprietary culture assessment, “The 5 Cultures of Culture Assessment” (5CCA) and our “Cultural Transformation Readiness Assessment-40” (CTRA-40).