Harnessing a Workplace Culture of Purpose 17:36, July 15, 2016

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Harnessing a Workplace Culture of Purpose

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Meaning. Purpose. Fulfillment. All of the aforementioned terms make up what many businesses strive to achieve in creating and harnessing a healthy corporate culture. Successful companies can generate a positive impact for their employees by fostering and integrating goals that benefit not only the business’ core activities, but the workers’ experience as well.

A Business Imperative

As advised in a 2013 Deloitte Core Beliefs & Culture survey, “For successful organizations, creating meaningful impact beyond financial performance is becoming the new normal… a business imperative.” The survey’s findings revealed that organizations with a focus that goes beyond monetary profits, and also imparts a sense of purpose among their employees, are more likely to find long-term success.

For all the benefits a meaningful corporate culture can provide, the survey also revealed that 68% of employees and 66% of executives believe that “businesses are not doing enough to create a sense of purpose and deliver meaningful impact.”

90% of the survey respondents who agreed that their company does have a strong sense of purpose also said that the business had been successful that year, and 91% added that their company has a history of strong financial performance. They were also more likely to agree that their company has a distinct brand (91%), a clearly defined value/belief system (89%), strong customer satisfaction (94%), and employee satisfaction (79%).

In contrast, of employees who said their company doesn’t have a strong purpose, 65% said their company performed well over the last year and 66% said their company has a history of strong financial performance. They were also less likely to say their organization has a distinct brand (61%), a clearly defined value/belief system (38%), strong customer satisfaction (63%), or strong employee satisfaction (19%).

The percentages are enough to make one consider their own company’s culture.

Money Can’t Buy Happiness

Employees seek a strong culture of purpose to fuel their motivation. If employees don’t enjoy their job or their company, what is keeping them around or making them work efficiently? Employees who don’t enjoy their jobs tend to not stick around or work efficiently.

A 2012 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) employee job satisfaction survey found that 47% of employees believed that corporate culture was very important to job satisfaction, while 64% said that they feel satisfied with their company’s corporate culture. According to an Employee Retention report conducted by TINYpulse, “employees who give their work culture low marks are nearly 15% more likely to think about a new job than their counterparts.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 29% of American employees feel valued by their companies. For all those that don’t feel valued, not much outside of a salary increase can keep them around if they’re not feeling fulfilled. And to quote that old adage, “Money can’t buy happiness.”

To be sure, compensation is important. In an SHRM research report released in May 2014, 60% of employees rated compensation as “very important.” However, is compensation enough to keep an employee working for a company they don’t find purpose in? Employers should be considering what they can do to make their company more culturally sound, so that employees feel fulfilled with the company instead of sticking around for a pay raise. Consider how to make employees enjoy coming to work, experiencing job satisfaction in multiple facets instead of just salary.

It’s one thing if an employee doesn’t feel that their efforts are being reflected in their compensation, it’s another to be at a level of comfort with one’s salary, because at that point of equilibrium, an employee has to think about what other aspects of their job are important to them. That’s where culture fits in.

Allowing employees to have room for learning and growth can lead to job satisfaction. Providing challenging projects, harnessing healthy relationships with coworkers, being flexible, prioritizing work-life balance, being open to career advancement—all are aspects of a job that employees can use to make or break their ties with their employer. Compensation doesn’t make up for a toxic or draining work environment, it doesn’t spark motivation or contentment. It might not hurt, but in the long run it won’t help.

Difficult, But Rewarding

As employee satisfaction is linked to retention and long-term business success, employers should be putting an effort into creating and maintaining a fulfilling company culture. It’s crucial for employers to develop a better understanding of what motivates employees to stay not only with a company, but with their company. Simply put, figure out what your company’s roots are, the foundation that makes it strong, in order to keep talented workers from jumping ship.

Here are some things you can do to harness a meaningful company culture:

   (*)   Make the job more than just about salary. Beyond fair compensation, employees are more likely to stay working for a company where they feel safe, accommodated, and have a culture they believe in. A raise won’t change how an employee feels about their work environment if they already have negative experiences.

   (*)   Engage your employees. Keep quality employees focused and challenged. Listen to their feedback and ideas and let them be engaged in the company’s mission.

   (*)   Encourage workplace harmony. Fostering healthy communication among employees can help them to foster good working relationships and contribute in creating a positive work environment.

   (*)   Be communicative. “Our employee engagement survey found that the No. 1 contributor to employee happiness is transparency. Money and promotions are important, but what people want to know is the truth about the state of the company. The cost of improving transparency is almost zero, but it requires an ongoing dialogue between management and staff,” B.J. Shannon, manager of customer happiness at TINYpulse.

   (*)   Recognize and reward employees. This is a big motivator for employees. For all the work they do, appreciation and recognition goes a long way.

In the 2012 SHRM employee job satisfaction survey, corporate culture and employee engagement are explored. A few efforts employers can apply to help ensure employee satisfaction in the hopes of retention and harnessing a good corporate culture are…

   (*)   Establishing and ensuring work/life balance. The SHRM survey contends that this factor can be more important than financial rewards.

   (*)   Performance feedback. Immediate feedback may soon be bulldozing over the annual performance review. When an employee knows how they’re currently doing, they can focus on improving immediately or keep up the good work. Either way, not having to guess how their employer feels can be motivating and empowering to many employees.

   (*)   Opportunity to progress. Employees are not as likely to stay with a company they can’t advance with.

Creating and harnessing a culture of purpose in your company can be difficult, but rewarding. It requires a lot of thought and components, but can ultimately lead to a successful long-term impact on your business and employees.

Compliance training is one way employers can create and harness a culture of purpose. If you’re unsure about how to do it, this case study on Namely, an HR-compliance startup that combined growth and culture with training, provides an inside look.

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Nicoleta Leontiades
Nicoleta Leontiades is an Instructional Writer at EverFi—assisting in drafting, editing, and customizing content for the company's courseware. With a BA in English Literature and predominantly a creative writer at heart, she enjoys working on the company blog and expanding her voice by researching and writing about a variety of issues that impact the well-being and rights of students and employees.

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