When it comes down to it, employee engagement is all about change. Leaders must change how they think about the company’s mission and culture. Managers must change how they relate to employees. Employees will change the way they work, in some cases. Employee engagement is impossible without change management.
How do you channel that change? With a mission. And how do you organize people around it? With your culture. In the end, your culture supports your mission. Here’s how to make it happen.
Understand the Difference
Your mission is your organization’s North Star. It’s the reason why you do what you do. The shared values and assumptions that will help you move in that direction are your culture. For example, I assume that if you work at Talmetrix, you care about people. It would be hard to work here without caring for people, because that’s part of our culture. Mission is what you do; culture is how you do it.
Take a Change-Management Approach
I’ve been thinking a lot about Kotter’s eight-step process for leading change. The first step is to create a sense of urgency — and that’s what your mission does. It motivates and drives your organization.
The second step is to build a guiding coalition of people who can determine how to use that sense of urgency to get something done. Right there, you have your company culture.
Your culture will have a big influence on how you change as part of your engagement initiative. How and how often will you survey employees, and how will you share results? How will you make changes — quickly, or with more deliberation? Will you give credit for new ideas? Ensuring any employee engagement effort stays true to your culture will, in the end, help your organization uphold its mission.
Start at the Top
CEOs, board members and other company leaders should not delegate anything when it comes to building a company culture. They should engage HR leaders and other department heads when communicating company culture, but the CEO owns it. Leadership depends on getting people aligned around a culture that supports a mission.
I saw great leadership when it came to mission and culture when I was at Marriott. The company’s vision is to be the No. 1 hospitality company in the world, and it has established a culture of service that’s top of the line. I’ve seen executives walking down the hall in a hotel and stopping to pick up a piece of paper off the floor. That’s not their job, of course, but they’re not going to wait around for housekeeping to take care of something. If your leaders are willing to do that to build an organization, they’re living your culture.
Hire for Culture
It’s not just employees who need to be clear about your culture and its role in upholding your mission. You can inform job applicants and candidates about your culture as they apply, interview and get onboarded at your company. Ensure that hiring managers can talk about culture and mission during interviews, and find ways to “show, not tell,” applicants about your culture throughout the process.
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