How to Infuse Meaning into Your Organizational Culture

5 cartoon-like robots are going in one direction while a 6th cartoon figure is walking on his own in another direction

Worker-like robots may get the task done, but what do they contribute when you need more? Organizations that want higher performance need to find a way to deeply engage their employees and get them to give it their all, advocate for the company values and goals and be ready to stay for the long haul. Employee engagement is not a new concept but it has become more than just a “nice-to-have;” it has become a critical factor in creating an organization’s competitive advantage.

It stands to reason that the greater an employee’s commitment to their job, the higher their performance and the greater their productivity. When you have an engaged workforce across the company, the increase in productivity is enormous.

So what can leaders do to increase engagement and create a culture of high performance? Here is what we have learned over the last two decades of specializing in designing, delivering and implementing employee engagement surveys:

Employees are consistently motivated to stay and perform when:

1. They understand exactly what is expected of them.
To deliver what is asked of them, employees need to have a crystal clear understanding of their success metrics and their role. They need to know just how what they do fits in with team and company goals. There should be clarity and meaning directly attached to their job. That’s what separates those who, robot-like, check time cards and those who attack their job each day with gusto.

For example, I am a volunteer ski patrol in the winter. My role is clear: help ensure skiers are safe and help those who are injured. My success is measure by my ability to use my EMT and ski training to help injured skiers quickly and safely get to advanced care. I love to ski, be outside and help others. I am a highly engaged volunteer.

2. They care for and are cared for.
The team matters. Being on a team is a two-way street. As a member, you watch out for your colleagues and are willing to lend a hand when needed. The reverse, too, is true. You know that your team members will support you. Engaged employees have a clear picture of what their team must accomplish in order to succeed and they are willing to do what they can to see that the team is successful.

For example, a recent COO was struggling to succeed at one of our high tech clients. His workload and the complexity of what was required increased dramatically. His team was underperforming. To turn the corner, we identified what critical few things his and his team needed from the rest of organization to succeed and what, in turn, the organization needed from him. In a short 6-months, his team’s performance has improved 35%.

3. They feel ownership and pride in what they do.
When employees have some choice in the role they play, they feel more committed to their job. Savvy leaders understand this. They know and take advantage of the strengths of their individual team members by, whenever possible, giving workers choices around what they do and how they do it in a way that aligns with their organizational culture. That gives employees a sense of ownership and empowerment. As for pride, the more they feel that what they do makes a difference—in the world at large, for the customer, for the team, and for themselves—the greater their sense of achievement.

Once employees understand exactly what is expected of them, feel cared for and feel ownership and pride in what they do, make sure that you consistently reward the behaviors and results that you seek while simultaneously ensuring fair consequences for sub-standard behavior and sub-standard performance.

Learn more about creating a high performance organizational culture.

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