Every CEO wants to believe their employees are clocking in for more than a paycheck every day. They believe in their corporation’s mission and perceive their employees to be just as enthusiastic and engaged as they are. They believe their employees’ compensation is more than enough motivation to fully dedicate themselves to the company’s mission in their day-to-day operations. However, a recent study conducted by Glassdoor has shed a very different light on employee engagement with regards to corporate culture.
Glassdoor surveyed 5,000 adults across 4 different countries, including the United States, and found that salary is not the only factor in an employee’s satisfaction with their job. Job seekers are upping their standards when applying for jobs. The study concluded that 70% of applicants would not apply to a company unless its values align with their own. This will only become more prevalent as time marches on, with data points on age producing some unexpected results. The study defined the demographic of millennials as individuals aged 18-34. Those individuals indicated they valued a company’s culture more than the level of compensation. This is significant, because millennials are currently the largest employed generation in the workforce.
As they age, corporations will feel the pressure to change their corporate culture so they can retain existing employees and create a healthy corporate environment for future employees. Social media and smart technology are largely responsible for this shift in the attitude of job seekers. Not only is news and information about corporations ubiquitous and accessible, but current and former employees also have platforms like Indeed and Glassdoor to share their employment experience with the world. With a constant communication line to the rest of the world, the line between one’s work life and personal life will only continue to become more blurred. As such, daily happiness and satisfaction within one’s job is more important than ever.
The study went on to state that 74% of employees who participated in the survey said they would leave a position if the company’s culture has declined. Amanda Stansell, the senior economic research analyst for Glassdoor, points to all of these as reasons why corporations must take their current culture into account, “Even if the company culture is good, it can change, especially if they aren’t reactive and constantly measuring employee satisfaction and actively working to improve it.”
Forbes also noted in recent months that many corporations are expanding internal investigation teams in order to address pervasive internal issues more efficiently. The more we know about the cycle of corporate culture tells us when leadership is engaged. CEOs and management must engage with their employees beyond their quotas and productivity level. Some leadership may believe things like a pitch-in or birthday parties for employees are enough to keep employees happy, but the problem runs much deeper. Employees want to see leadership actively improving daily operations by listening to employee feedback and instituting new strategies that contribute to the health of the workplace. This means supervising communication lines and holding apathetic employees accountable when they contribute to stalls in operations. It is an opportunity to lead by example for the entire workforce. When employees see engaged leadership, they feel validated in their part of driving success within the corporation. This leads to increased engagement within the workforce, which leads to increased productivity. Increased productivity means happy leadership, which starts the cycle anew with happy employees.
When a corporation is functioning as a well-oiled machine, it can be easy to neglect the corporate culture in day-to-day operations. If productivity is up, leadership remains happy—but executives and management must make a focused effort to take an interest in their employees’ happiness in the workplace. This prevents employee apathy, improves daily operations, and overall, contributes to the long-term health of the company. The company retains employees at a higher rate, which decreases turnover expenses, and creates a fortified workforce essential to promoting success.
Culture can be the beginning and end of your company. Many executives and other members of leadership simply think of corporate culture as what the company stands for. This can be expressed through a corporation’s mission statement, their reported “vision,” or their promise to deliver their customers with the best products and services available. Corporate culture actually goes much deeper, beneath the surface to which the consumer public is privy. The MISTI Training Institute actually defines corporate culture as “the set of enduring and underlying assumptions and norms that determine how things are actually done in the organization.” It is not enough for leadership to state that they have inspiring beliefs and mission statements, if they do not run corporations to reflect those beliefs.
Even after hearing a more definitive explanation of
corporate culture, many executives may still shrug their shoulders and insist
that they have a great corporate culture. They think operations are
streamlined, employees are engaged, and there are no weak links in the chain.
They take solace in the fact that they have things like Taco Tuesdays, or
Casual Fridays that improve the work environment and keep employees happy.
While these are great ways to foster comradery within the workforce, they are
band aid solutions to happy employees. The bottom line is: Healthy corporate
culture begins with happy employees.
A recent study conducted by Glassdoor indicates that a majority of working individuals in the United States would prefer a healthy corporate culture to a higher salary or rate of pay. Their day-to-day becomes manageable when they feel as if they are part of a larger team with a greater purpose. This graphic displays the cyclical nature of healthy corporate culture in motion. The cycle begins with happy employees. When trying to improve employee morale, leadership should strongly consider an internal audit of their company’s culture to identify pervasive issues within their corporation’s operating structure. Events like birthday parties for employees, or buying lunch for the office every few weeks are nice gestures by leadership, but they cannot act as solutions to repetitive issues. When these issues are not addressed within the corporation, employees often feel as if their value begins and ends with their productivity, as if they are cogs in a larger machine they cannot control. When leadership actively engages with employee concern on operation issues and makes dedicated and focused attempts to fix them, employees feel as if their voices are heard and their input is valued within the organization.
This leads to improved engagement on behalf of those valued
employees. They are prompt to work, freshly-groomed and instilled with a sense
of purpose as their co-workers progress with them towards the organization’s
goal. The level of communication between employees will not only improve in
quality, but the rate of response to correspondence also has the potential to
increase dramatically, because the employees are engaged in the process and are
eager to complete tasks on time—possibly even early.
Once employee engagement is up, leadership can expect to see
an increase in the productivity of the workforce as a whole. Engaged employees
approach their task with the confidence of a professional, and the confidence
that comes from the feeling of support within the organization. Studies have
shown that productivity can increase by as much as 28% when a corporation’s
culture is given a major overhaul.
When productivity increases, everybody in the company
benefits. Having their requisites satisfied, leadership can let their focus
extend beyond daily operations. This expanded scope of supervision leads to
higher engagement on behalf of leadership, which feeds back into a healthy work
environment in which they are happy to reward the stellar performance of their
employees. When employees feel their work is valued, the cycle begins anew.
This shared body of beliefs that the company claims to have
in the public eye should go all the way to the CEO and be directly reflected in
the day to day operations of the company. When leadership remains plugged in
and continues to expand the scope of their supervision, internal issues cannot
pervade within the workplace. In healthy work environments, the level of
improvement that can occur week to week will only serve the company’s larger
The biggest mistake executives make when trying to improve their corporate culture…
The corporate culture within any company, without question, effects their bottom-line day to day. Just to name a few avenues, this occurs through operations, interpersonal relationships between employees, and a level of engagement from leadership that requires consistent enforcement of their established mission and values. Because a corporation’s internal culture often remains hidden from consumer view, it’s not uncommon for leadership to simply restructure operations. Unfortunately, if every aspect of a company’s culture is not examined, this solution is just a band aid.
The Ice Berg Metaphor
When concerning a corporation’s culture, we often use the iceberg metaphor as a means of defining it. Ten percent of a corporation’s values and culture are above the water where the public and consumers can see it, and the other 90% lies below the surface. It’s that 90% that directly affects a company’s employee morale, productivity, and bottom line. A corporation often places its highest priority on how they are perceived by their consumer base, and therefore that 90% of company culture and values are either placed on the back burner, or corporations find themselves at a complete loss of how to get in front of the issues.
Some other band aid fixes for happy employees include things like discounted vending machines in the breakrooms, or regular celebrations of major holidays and birthdays. These lovely notions might improve culture for a day or even a week, but the pervasive internal problems will remain.
Happy employees are engaged employees. When a corporation’s culture is healthy, employees feel invested in the success of their companies. The company’s success becomes internalized as their own success, and they are more likely to be plugged in, to take initiative, and to think outside of the box when it comes to problem-solving.
When employees are leaning into their positions and actively working towards a company’s goals, that leads to smoother daily operations. Engaged employees are constantly finding ways to improve their processes so they can generate higher rates of productivity within their positions
When daily operations are streamlined, this yields higher levels of productivity within the company. An employee’s daily duties are no longer a monotonous checklist, but a recipe for success for their company. An engaged employee’s success is the success of everyone in the corporation, and the same is true of productivity. A single employee’s increased productivity is the entire company’s success. Not only does this set an example for all employees, but increased productivity is what helps a company grow, mature, and prosper.
This one is a no-brainer. Anyone who has ever been employed knows that a happy boss makes a happy employee. Leadership sees the increase in engagement and productivity and lean into that success. Good leadership will reward that success in tangible ways that will have long-term effects on the company’s culture. They promote or give raises to those employees who are giving 100%, empower those employees through collaboration and development, and are more open to the thoughts and ideas of employees who are contributing to their success.
When leadership is actively encouraging employees through a pure manifestation of the company’s mission and values, employees feel as if they are making a difference within their organization. This increases the feeling of purpose and desire for cooperative teamwork. These feelings inspire employees to continue their pattern of success through the diligent, genuine practice of a company’s established mission and values. Increased morale means happy employees, and that’s where the cycle begins anew, exponentially influencing a company’s success with each cycle.
Structure is Not Culture
The network of operations within a company will never have a direct effect on company morale. Poor daily operations due to structure are really just a symptom of unhealthy corporate culture—a manifestation of poor culture at work. To diagnose the problem, many corporations turn to independent firms to conduct corporate culture audits in order to identify the problems within a company or organization. These firms measure a company’s daily operations, their quality of communication, and interpersonal relations among employees—just to name a few factors. When a corporate culture audit is comprehensive and curtailed to the organization, the findings can be invaluable to leadership that seeks to grow and mature in tandem with their values.
As mentioned above, employees who see a consistent display of established values from leadership, they’re more engaged and productive. It’s one thing to have the company’s mission statement and list of values posted online or on the wall within a workplace. It’s a completely different ballgame when leadership puts their money where their mouth is, and serves as an example for the entire workforce. That example can have a ripple effect creating an interpersonal trust between employees, in which they all feel like they’re on a team, working towards the same goal. It is in the nucleus of that atmosphere where real change and growth begin.
Employee apathy may seem innocuous enough, but the costs to time and resources can be a slow, devastating drain on a corporation. Many corporations and organizations have at least one employee who exhibits all the major signs of checking out in their daily capacity. Even if your corporation has bulletproofed human resource operations, employee burnout can still occur. That’s why it’s imperative for leadership and management to know and identify the signs of apathy on the part of an employee.
Signs of Employee Apathy
A repeated pattern of tardiness
Poor appearance and hygiene
Complaints about lack of money and/or repeated
attempts to borrow money
Exclusive precedence on their personal life
An excess of breaks
Appearance of being busy with nothing to show
Lack of accountability, making excuses
Irrelevant preoccupation with cell phones, smart
It stands to reason that if an employee is underperforming
at their job, leadership will cut the dead weight for the good of a
corporation. There are actually three umbrella categories that are often used
to justify retaining apathetic employees: Costs, Litigation, and Personal.
The first thing leadership will think of when they notice
an apathetic employee is dollar signs. Not only is the apathetic employee hemorrhaging
their money by wasting time and resources, but the cost to replace that
apathetic employee can also be an issue. Costs are incurred to the human
resources department to find, hire, and train a replacement. Employers might
hesitate to fire an apathetic employee because of unemployment insurance rates.
Another relevant factor specifically effects small businesses, in which the
workforce is not large enough to support turnover operations.
When it’s not a matter of money, it can often be a matter
of personal feelings or relationships concerning leadership and the apathetic
employee. A manager or owner might have a personal relationship with the
employee, and their bias prevents them from pulling the trigger on termination
procedures. Personal knowledge of that employee’s personal life and their
identity as a person (rather than an employee) can color their perceptions and
increase their latitude with the employee. Avoidance behavior can also play a
role. When this happens, leadership usually resigns itself to one of two end results:
Either the employee will improve on their own without intervention from
leadership, or they will leave on their own without termination proceedings.
The independent judgement of leadership may not be the
sticking point in terminating an apathetic employee. There are often legal factors
that a corporation or organization must consider. For instance, the Age
Discrimination in Employment Act (AEDA) protects employees from being
terminated based on their age. If an apathetic employee is of a certain age,
leadership may fear legal retaliation, citing age discrimination as the reason
for their termination. In higher education, an employee may have tenure as defined
by the institution, which would prevent leadership from terminating them.
Risks in Retention
Retaining apathetic employees for any of the reasons
listed above can have serious consequences for a company who is avoiding the
issue or trying to save money. Apathetic/underperforming employees cannot
provide a customer base with quality service, leading to dissatisfaction and
consumer complaints. This can negatively impact the corporation’s brand or
campaign, with a high risk of human error, loss of valued customers, and lost
reputation. Disgruntled employees could potentially say negative things about the
corporation on their social media accounts. Perhaps most concerning, apathetic
employees can easily spread their attitude throughout a work force, and harm long-term
goals for the corporation.
Corporate Culture Audits
One apathetic employee is enough of a drain on company time and resources, but if that attitude is contagious, you could have a larger problem on your hands. Unfortunately, when it comes to employee morale and performance, you don’t know what you don’t know. That’s why so many corporations and organizations are investing in quarterly or even biannual corporate culture audits. With a corporate culture audit, an independent, third party firm, like a private investigator or security company, conducts a full overview of company operations, structure, and environment in order to identify problems at their source for the health of the corporation. With a corporate culture audit, leadership will be able to identify factors that might be contributing to employee apathy.