How company culture affects employee engagement

by Lauren Acurantes19 Sep 2016
Current trends in HR practices see companies scrambling for unique ways to achieve high levels of engagement, hoping that this will yield high levels of performance.

One expert, however, argued that the focus should be less on engagement and more on creating an open and constructive culture.

“While employee engagement should be measured as an important dimension of an organisation’s human resource and social system, truly understanding how to optimise performance in your organisation requires understanding your culture,” said Robert Cooke, CEO and director of Human Synergistics International (HSI).

Cooke, in his paper, Employee Engagement: Is It Really “The Holy Grail” of HR?, described three types of organisational culture:

•    Constructive, wherein members are encouraged to “interact with each other and approach tasks in ways that will help them to meet their higher-order satisfaction needs;”

•    Passive/Defensive, wherein members interact with each other constantly on alert to protect their own personal interests and security;

•    Aggressive/Defensive, wherein members are “expected or implicitly required to approach tasks in forceful ways to protect their status and security.”

He cited an HSI study where 6,444 randomly chosen respondents were studied to see how the three different types of culture affected an employee’s “motivation, satisfaction, intention to stay, cooperation and teamwork, department and organisational-level quality, and adaptability.” 

“[It] showed that, across the board, ‘a Constructive culture is directly proportional to an organisation’s ability to keep its promises: financial, brand, loyalty, quality, employee and customer satisfaction,’” he said, also adding that the other two resulted in mixed or negative outcomes.

This is key, he argued, as it shows that employee engagement is the outcome of a constructive culture.   

He said that keeping employee engagement in mind is a good start but “companies should go beyond this and get to the root of their organisational ills by using a true organisational culture survey to define, activate, and reinforce the behaviours that drive the right kind of engagement and optimise organisational performance.”

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  • by Jerome Parisse-Brassens 19/9/2016 12:14:29 PM

    I could not agree more. Culture and engagement are two different things. Engagement is an outcome of culture, so a healthy culture will usually lead to higher levels of engagement. However, employees could be engaged, but not doing what the organisation wants them to do. So the real enabler of success is actually culture, the way things are done. Organisations that focus on building a culture that is fit-for-purpose are usually more successful because that culture enables them to achieve their business imperative.

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