It’s no secret that having a strong corporate culture has a direct impact on employee engagement. L&D teams have a pivotal role in improving, strengthening and supporting culture throughout your organization. But do you know how to effectively engage your employees and help them thrive?
First, What Exactly Is Corporate Culture?
What we refer to as corporate culture is really a unique set of values, attitudes, and beliefs that guide an organization and its employees on how they should interact with each other and customers. It’s also the workers, the office itself, and the narrative, or corporate mythology, that the organization tells about itself. A company’s culture impacts decisions about people, practices, and everything else. In short, corporate culture is what determines how and why things are done in a company.
How Corporate Culture Impacts Employee Engagement
It is well established that a strong corporate culture leads to direct improvements in employee engagement. When well-defined and communicated, it clearly sets expectations for expressed behaviors and norms to let workers know what’s expected of them and their colleagues. The result is that they feel connected to, involved in, and supported by the culture, motivating them to be more involved with their team and how they contribute to the company. This leads to feelings of acceptance and inclusion, guaranteeing higher employee engagement and happier employees.
Examples of top global companies with strong corporate cultures
At the 215 years old publishing company, culture is built internally through employee resource groups (ERGs). Employee-led ERGs are the voice of global colleagues—reflecting the company’s cultural communities and common interests.
- ¡Hola! – empowers employees of Hispanic/Latin American heritage, and colleagues interested in or connected with the culture.
- Asian & Pacific Islander Resource Group – connects colleagues from diverse backgrounds within the Asian community.
- BERG — Black Employee Resource Group – supports and promotes individual and collective growth within the Black communities.
- Generation Wiley – encourages engagement between junior and senior colleagues.
- Pride@Wiley – fosters a productive, inclusive work culture for all LGBTQ+ colleagues and allies
- Wiley Global Green Group – promotes and encourages environmentally sustainable lifestyles for colleagues through education, outreach, and events.
- WWIT (Wiley Women in Technology) – a forum for women in technology to advance their skills and leadership potential.
- Women of Wiley – empowers the women of Wiley in their professional and personal lives.
In addition, every ERG contributes to Wiley’s Enterprise Committee, continually helping to make their workplace more diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
The outdoor equipment manufacturing and retail giant is known for its uniquely strong corporate culture. Its employee-owner structure provides financial incentives for all employees while its outdoorsy culture encourages bonding and communication. Employees aren’t just urged to enjoy the outdoors and the company’s products, they are actively supported in doing so via worker-arranged wilderness adventures. When employees share a common interest in the company’s products and lifestyle, they’ll form deep bonds with each other and with the company – leading to a happy, dedicated workforce.
Considered one of the best places to work in all of New York City, SquareSpace prides itself on a flat corporate culture with few layers between employees and top management. This structure tends to allow employees’ voices to be heard without being drowned out by or filtered through extra layers of management. In addition to excellent health and vacation benefits, the company’s office space itself is a vital part of its culture, featuring relaxation spaces, fully stocked kitchens, catered lunches, guest speakers, and other events. Their culture of freedom, fun, and personal empowerment contributes to confident employees and good morale companywide.
The footwear giant Zappos is well-known for putting its values at the very core of the organization. It’s so committed to only hiring employees who fit with that culture that it offers every new employee a $2000 payment to quit after one week. This helps weed out workers who don’t quite fit in without shame while encouraging sincere buy-in from employees. Additionally, the company encourages all employees to think outside the box, valuing creativity and open communication. From day one on the job, each employee is instilled with the company’s ten core values, including its dedication to excellent customer service and a fun workplace for all.
The video-conference app that everyone got to know during pandemic lockdown is more than just a typical tech startup with good benefits. The company considers employee happiness as a core value, working under the assumption that happier employees do better work. Office events and celebrations are common and new hires and remote workers are taught the importance of their own happiness from day one. The company is committed to every employee’s growth and development, even encouraging and supporting workers’ personal passions and interests. Zoom prides itself on being a great place to work where every employee is treated like family.
Does your corporate culture measure up?
Though anecdotal evidence might be in abundant supply, you need to measure real data to get an accurate picture of the health of your corporate culture. Fortunately, those data are available to most companies. Here’s what you should measure and how:
- Employee referrals. In a healthy corporate culture, employees recommend friends and acquaintances to fill open positions. The number of employee referrals you receive when hiring will give you a general idea of how employees feel about your culture.
- Employee turnover rates. How long do employees stay at your company? If new hires and high-potential talent leave quickly, that could be a sign of a toxic corporate culture. If your employees often stay for years, it’s likely that a positive and healthy corporate culture is one of the main reasons.
- Productivity metrics. A healthy and strong corporate culture should lead to happier and more productive employees. Are employees reaching their goals, even exceeding them, or falling short?
- Communication metrics. The main sign of a healthy corporate culture is engagement. Are employees engaging with corporate initiatives, training, and other activities? Email open rates, read receipts, and intranet page views can give you solid insight into whether or not employees feel like a part of a larger culture, as can participation rates in workplace activities.
How L&D can strengthen corporate culture
Here are some tips for how L&D teams can develop and support a thriving corporate culture long term:
- Identify your corporate values. If your corporate values are blurry, start by discussing with leadership and Brand which values define you as a company and why. Once identified, make a plan for developing those values through initiatives, activities, and training (including onboarding!). These values need to be interwoven into every aspect of your culture to make an impact.
- Get buy-in from the C-suite. Leaders and managers must set the example by modeling corporate values and placing the culture at the core of everything they do. Actions speak louder than words and executives who are guided by their corporate values will encourage and inspire others to embrace those values too.
- Communication is vital and will make or break your efforts. Develop a strategy for communicating your corporate culture, and supporting it, via emails, meetings, seminars, and other activities. Put your culture at the center of all your corporate communication so that your values are constantly reinforced.
- Incorporate corporate culture into your training and onboarding strategies. From day one, introduce new hires to the corporate culture and the values that should guide them in their work and interactions with colleagues. Reinforce those values with ongoing training, learning and activities.
- Reward examples. When your employees complete a project or launch an initiative that supports your culture, give them recognition! They will feel good about their efforts and it will encourage other employees to launch similar activities of their own.
- Make it fun! Just because you take your corporate culture seriously doesn’t mean that supporting and strengthening it has to be serious or dull. Make it fun and inclusive with group learning activities, interactive or facilitated training, team and individual competitions, and gamification.
A healthy and strong corporate culture can have a big positive impact on your people, organization, and bottom line. It’s a key contributor to employee engagement as well as attracting top talent and worker retention. As an L&D leader, you can and should put your corporate culture at the center of everything you do, including making it a key part of your training strategy. A thriving corporate culture makes for a thriving company, and L&D teams should be top contributors to making this happen.