Culture Drives Employee Engagement, Not the Other Way Around

Recognize This! – Executives are still missing the mark on understanding what employees need if they’re going to choose to engage fully in their work and achieving the organization’s objectives.

I greatly enjoyed the summary of Deloitte’s Core Beliefs and Culture survey in The importance of company culture and it’s foundation – the core values and beliefs – are indisputably important to employees and their ability to engage in the organization and their work. Yet executives are still missing the mark on several points.

Thankfully, executives (94%) and employees (88%) alike agree company culture is important to business success. But there are big misses on several fronts, too.

Employees Say Strategy Is Nothing without Culture

I’ve written several posts on this point. Without culture, strategy cannot be fully effective. Employees agree, yet executives are still missing the point a bit.

“However, there’s more work to be done to close the gaps on other business priorities. The study indicates executives tend to prioritize a clearly defined business strategy (76%) above clearly defined and communicated core values and beliefs (62%), whereas employees value them equally (57% and 55%, respectively). Also, 70% of employees who agreed that their companies had performed well financially said their boss speaks to them often about culture. But only 19% of executives and 15% of employees believe strongly that their organization’s culture is widely upheld.”

Unless all employees – at every level – are committed to living the culture by demonstrating the core values in their daily work (and are reinforced, praised and recognized for doing so), then that last point above will remain lackluster.

What Employees Need to Be Engaged Is Different than Executive Expectations

In nearly every survey that even comes close to this topic, executives, leaders and managers always rank money in some form as most important to employee engagement, yet employees always rank better management (communication, recognition, opportunities to grow and learn, etc.) as what they really need if you want them to engage.

“The Core Beliefs and Culture survey found a consensus (83% of executives and 84% of employees) that having engaged and motivated employees is a top factor substantially contributing to company success. However, executives ranked tangible elements such as financial performance (65%) and competitive compensation (62%) most highly as drivers of employee engagement, while employees rated more highly the intangible elements of regular and candid communications (50%) and access to management/leadership (49%).”

Someday, the cumulative weight of all these surveys will have to sink in for executives. It’s part of my mission to speed that process along.

Executives Don’t Do as Well as They Think at Living the Core Values

Your employees are watching, closely. Are you really living the core values? They are following your lead, so be sure you as a manager as setting the right example.

“Deloitte’s survey indicated a significant gap between executive belief and employee perception, often punctuated by executive overstatement. For instance, 84% of executives believe senior leadership regularly communicates their company’s core values and beliefs. Only 67% of employees feel that is true. In terms of “practicing what one preaches,” 81% of executives compared to 69% of employees believe senior leadership acts in accordance with the company’s core values and beliefs.”

Please chime in in comments, but tell me if you’re in management or are an individual contributor – what do you value most? What do you most need to be engaged in your organization?

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Tags: Deloitte, company, core, culture, executive, leadership, organization, recognition, strategy, values


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Comment by Derek Irvine on March 4, 2013 at 8:19am

Great comment, Heather. Thanks for chiming in. You're absolutely correct about the importance of hearing feedback about progress and development. In fact, I often encourage people to read Teresa Amabile's book "The Progress Principle" on this very topic.

Comment by Heather Lattuada on March 4, 2013 at 2:15am

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Hi Derek -


Great blog! For me I think trust and relationship are key with both the team I manage and from my boss. I need communication about the global picture and where we are headed as an organization so that I can continue aligning my team and myself with the future, strategic iniatives.


In my office I have noticed one of the greatest drivers for engagement is genuine, positive recognition and honest feedback about a person's progress and development. Having this infused in our culture has made all the difference. It is especially impactful when an employee's positive character traits are recognized. Other employees get to hear about positive traits that are valued and the employee being recognized gets to hear they are valued as a person and not just for what they are contributing. That makes all the difference.


Thanks again for writing!



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