When the New York Times published an article in August shining a spotlight on Amazon's bizarre company culture, it triggered a barrage of comments and articles about the importance of culture in engendering engagement. Personal accounts of 1 a.m. conference calls, strongly encouraged 60-hour work weeks, and a culture that appears to throw people under the bus to advance in the organizational hierarchy are just a few of the strange experiences employees at Amazon reported and which also fly in the face of employee engagement practices.
The Amazon report surprised many of us because in recent years, leaders like Apple, Starbucks, and Netflix have set standards in establishing employee practices that lead to strong cultures. These companies understand the difference between conducting employee engagement practices like rewarding and recognizing employees, and establishing something larger that is inherently embedded in how all employees act on a daily basis. Culture is an important reason why their employees stay engaged and satisfied in their jobs.
That's important because according to the latest annual Gallup survey about employee engagement, only 30 percent of American workers indicated they were engaged at work in 2014. Additionally, 17.5 percent were "actively disengaged." This means less than one out of every three employees felt "enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplaces."
In the wake of these latest survey results, companies may be taking a hard look at their employee practices and asking themselves if it's time to switch up their employee strategies, as disengaged employees cost employers about $550 billion per year.
While reward and recognition strategies prove valuable, companies can't ignore the importance of culture in increasing engagement. Culture is the foundation from which all employees operate; it's the shared values and practices of a company's employees and goes beyond offering generous compensation and benefits plans that allow for a quality work-life balance.
Some characteristics of a company with strong culture include: being trustworthy, having effective leadership, being transparent and communicative, being customer centric, and having empowered employees. Before a company can change its culture, it has to decide which of these characteristics it wants to adopt and how the company culture should look in the future. The best way to accomplish this is not by looking at employee engagement alone, but also by gaining an understanding of the organizational context and culture the employees work within. Once that understanding is determined on an individual, departmental, and sometimes global basis, then the path to laying the groundwork for culture should be clear and smooth.
Ultimately, positive customer engagement is the outcome of a healthy culture. In this article, 1to1 Media writer Anna Papachristos offers three elements companies can focus on to foster an environment that promotes employee growth and success.