STRONG corporate culture....the one thing everyone wants....
But when senior professionals and executives think about creating a corporate culture, they often envision creating a social culture. They tend to imagine a workplace with a friendly, relaxed atmosphere and where the lines are blurred between professional and personal relationships. And many of the efforts behind these visions want every employee to have a great friend at work, to ensure that everyone has someone who cares about them, and that everyone is happy in the environment there.
Ladies and gentlemen, here’s the shocker: that type of culture is NOT the one with the highest levels of employee engagement. Yes, you heard me. And it’s definitely NOT the corporate culture that your high performers like the best.
There are a handful of different company cultures out there - not one is right or wrong. I want to explain those types so you understand where you should be driving your organization.
1. Social Culture
These companies tend to have an inward focus and are highly collaborative. The atmosphere is relaxed and casual, and the line between professional relationships and friendships is typically blurred. Workers are given a lot of flexibility and freedom to do things their own way and to make their own choices. The bonds of trust tend to be strong, in the sense of encouragement of collaboration and flexibility.
2. Orderly/Traditional Culture
These cultures are built on tradition and are supported by that old-fashioned, formal structure and typically, an unwavering adherence to command. Employees are assigned well-defined roles that exist within clearly delineated departments. For example, an outsider looking in could easily conclude who is in what role and at which level in the company. Employees value and compete with each other and with other departments for power, and leaders like to use their power quite a bit.
3. Dependable Culture
These cultures are process-focused and work tends to be predictable on a day-to-day basis (like a manufacturing shop floor), where following protocol to the T is greatly respected and expected and change tends to be approached slowly and strategically. Dependable cultures have an environment that is highly collaborative; with employees welcoming each other’s input, feedback and ideas. There is very little competition and lots of effort to avoid stepping on toes.
4. Initiating and Resourceful Culture
These cultures are where achievement and talent drive success and where internal contests of creativity and intelligence are highly supported. The best ideas win, regardless of employee status or tenure. One of the features is the constant state of change in which employees not only work, but thrive. Leaders are driven by a sense of adventure and they value employee creativity - they aren't micromanagers and know that they don't always have the best ideas!
So where do you see your company culture now? Where SHOULD it be so that you don't lose those high-performers?
In a recent study of over 20, 000 the Initiating and Resourceful Cultures are 10% MORE engaged than the employees working in Social Cultures. Wouldn't you have thought it to be the other way around?
Well, let's think about that. The characteristics of high performers speak right to a culture of adventure and constant state of change - it makes perfect sense!
Your top employees want to shine; regardless of their position in the corporate ladder, or their social friend group. Top performers LONG to have their insights recognized. And if there’s anything that high performers tend to hate, it’s to have mediocre ideas selected over the best ideas simply because the person with the mediocre idea is better socially or politically connected.
So here's my big question to you: Why don’t more companies adopt the Initiating and Resourceful Cultures?
My initial response is that those cultures may be threatening to some leaders when top performing employees keep pushing the envelope and pointing out better ways to do things. But, if you want to be an incredible company top performers want to work, YOU as the leader need to be willing to change.
So, how do you initiate the change?
My biggest tip: Give the work meaning.
One of the key things you can do to make your working environment more amenable and more productive is to give employees the reasoning behind their efforts.
Simon Sinek is a thought leader who spends a lot of time convincing companies of the value of “why.” He says that limiting an employee's motivation to simply making a higher salary doesn't inspire dedication. A real "mission" needs to be created to motivate an employee to want to get out of bed in the morning.
For example, Airbnb doesn’t focus on just earning money. They encourage people to travel farther and wider and have new experiences. If you can work out how your own employees might find some sense of mission in their work, you will cultivate a stronger company culture.
The question facing every organization is the extent to which they truly care about creating a corporate culture that caters to high performers (the ones that will make the biggest impact and stay the longest). Saying that we believe “the best ideas win” sounds good, and it makes for a nice poster. But every executive needs to ask themselves, with brutal candor, when one of our high performers points out our inefficiencies, do we act? Your answer will determine whether your culture really appeals to high performers.