Fire Yourself If Your Culture Committee Plans One More Party!
It’s easy to find business leaders actively formalizing their company’s strategy for success. Determining how best to grow profits and achieve market dominance are core to executive job descriptions. Far more rare, however, are business leaders who pay sufficient attention to their organization’s culture and internal engagement. Despite countless articles, research reports, case studies and TED talks proving the benefit of a highly engaged workforce, most business leaders inappropriately neglect this area.
A staggering 85% of employees worldwide are not engaged, according to Gallup’s 2017 “State of the Global Workplace” report. Poorly engaged workforces cost companies billions of dollars in lost productivity. Even more alarming, leaders’ apathy towards internal engagement has led to an increase in the number of “actively disengaged” employees — those staff who are so disenfranchised they deliberately cause harm and sabotage organizational goals.
Assembling talented teams of high-performing professionals to work on well-funded product development or marketing initiatives seems like a no-brainer; yet rarely is sufficient attention — or dollars — devoted to people strategies. The few leaders who are actually paying attention to culture too often rely on under-resourced, ad hoc “Culture Committees” tasked with implementing superficial events like holiday parties, summer BBQs or work anniversary celebrations.
This is wildly inappropriate.
Employee engagement is far too important to delegate to ragtag teams of volunteers who are better at creating distractions than solving the tough issues associated with under-performing organizations and disenfranchised personnel.
Business leaders, wake up and step up!
In my opinion, senior executives have five main responsibilities. Only one of those responsibilities doesn’t directly affect internal engagement:
ONE Maintaining relationships with financial stakeholders to ensure a healthy balance sheet.
The other four are integral to engagement:
TWO Ensure your workforce has absolute clarity about your company’s vision and mission
THREE Provide an operating model and organizational structure that is optimized for success
FOUR Create an environment that attracts and retains top talent and allows them to do the best work of their lives
FIVE Help every person understand how they personally contribute to the organization’s goals, and then hold them accountable
I believe that by focussing on these four areas, business leaders can have a tremendously positive influence on engagement and improve the health of even the most dysfunctional corporate culture.
The three starting points:
1. DISBAND SUPERFICIAL CULTURE COMMITTEES
Instead, call upon properly trained professionals with legitimate expertise — professionals who are capable of understanding how your organization’s purpose, points of differentiation and strategic plans are enhanced by nurturing a high-performing culture. Whether you hire in-house or outsource, treat whoever is in charge of talent management with the same importance you would an asset manager tasked with protecting your firm’s most cherished intellectual property.
2. ACCEPT THAT CULTURE CANNOT BE FORCED OR FAKED.
Rather, it is built over time by consistently managing specific beliefs and behaviours of all internal stakeholders. Pay particular attention to how your people interact with each other and how people within your organization respond to change. Seek out internal influencers — regardless of formal title or authority — and bring them into your inner circle for help.
3. CULTURE REQUIRES A FRAMEWORK THAT RESULTS IN CLARITY FOR YOUR EMPLOYEES AND CONSISTENCY IN EXECUTION
Any decent engagement plan must formalize processes relating to:
- How decisions are made
- What behaviours are rewarded or punished
- How talent is sourced and onboarded
- How information is communicated
- How leaders are taught to lead
Ignore at your peril
Too many senior leaders inappropriately consider culture conversations to be “fluff.” Topics like role clarity, departmental morale, employee feelings, manager misbehaviour or staff conflict resolution may not — on the surface — seem to be on par with the hard-nosed topics that C-suites prefer to discuss. But ignore these issues at your own peril.
Table an agenda item at your next executive meeting to clarify who is accountable for employee engagement issues. That person must have NOTHING to do with the next company party. Instead, he or she must be highly empowered and have undeniable credentials. Understand that employee engagement is directly correlated with customer engagement, and any decisions and actions he or she implements will impact customer experience, affect brand reputation and can become a significant competitive advantage.