HomeEmployee ExperienceEngagementEmployee EngagementWhat is the future of organisational culture and employee engagement?

What is the future of organisational culture and employee engagement?

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HR expert Vlatka Ariaana Hlupic explores how workplace culture can be adapted to ensure engagement is maintained and offers actionable ways to transform your company culture and create a more engaging workplace.

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Given all the challenges the world and businesses are facing, the future of organisational culture and engagement needs to be implemented now. Business as usual is not an option anymore. However, for many leaders this path is not straightforward, it requires awareness and persistence.

My research shows that some companies are already achieving good levels of engagement from changing their leadership mindsets and organisational culture. Based on The Management Shift framework, this kind of transformation means moving from controlling to engaging mindset, and from orderly to collaborative culture.

The Emergent Leadership Model

The 5-level framework, also known as the Emergent Leadership Model, is at the heart of The Management Shift approach for transformation. It demonstrates that our individual mindset goes through five levels, with a corresponding organisational culture at each level. Every level is characterized by different thought patterns, emotions, language utilised, leadership style, and organisational outcomes.

At Levels 4 and 5 employees are engaged, loyal, productive and happy. They are committed to the company’s mission, they feel that what they do matters, they have clear goals and they feel respected by their leaders. They feel that they belong to a team with whom they can share their ideas and opinions without fear of being punished or rejected.

At level 3 and below employees are dissatisfied and not engaged. According to a recent 2022 poll by Gallup, millions if not billions of people around the world are not happy in their jobs – or they could be happier if only they felt more supported by their leaders.

The striking data is part of a recent Gallup report, which also revealed that 17.5% of employees are actively disengaged, and only 15% are engaged. One of the largest challenges employers are now facing is how to engage their staff. This seems to be a serious challenge for many companies globally.

Since the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, the workplace has rapidly changed. Employees want to work in hybrid workspaces and the command and control style of leadership is no longer working. This is far more evident since millennials entered the workforce, they also do not want to be micromanaged. With a new generation of workers with different values and expectations, companies are facing a far bigger challenge than they did in the previous decade.

With these challenges in mind, how can workplace culture be adapted to ensure engagement is maintained?

It is not just about perks such as free healthcare, but rather how organisations can create genuine connections between colleagues and encourage loyalty.

Some of the strategies to achieve this include:

  1. Creating an environment where people can be themselves,
  2. Providing opportunities for collaboration and teamwork,
  3. Offering employees a variety of work and the chance to upskill.

What are some methods for measuring engagement and culture and how effective are they?

There are many ways to measure workplace engagement and culture. One of the most popular methods is the use of surveys. Surveys are a great way to get feedback from employees and find out what they think about their work environment, but is very important to take action based on feedback. Surveys should not be just another bureaucratic burden.

Additionally, companies are measuring workplace engagement and culture through observation. This can be done by observing how employees interact with one another, how are they interacting with their managers and the leadership team, also by observing their emotions, body language and language used. Employees anchored at Level 4/5 of The Management Shift framework would use keywords such as “we”, “us”, “our”, “team”.

Another factor to consider is the level of trust that exists between employees and management. Employees who trust their managers are more likely to be engaged in their work. Conversely, when employees do not trust their managers, it often leads to a lack of engagement or loss of talent.

A healthy workplace culture is one which fosters collaboration and participation. The employees need to feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves, they need to feel their work has meaning and purpose and they are making a difference in the world. They need opportunities for growth, continuous feedback and they need to be able to take ownership of their work. A participative company culture, for example, is one where employees are encouraged to contribute their ideas, thoughts and opinions. This type of company culture generally leads to a more engaged and creative workforce.

There are many strategies that can be used to achieve a positive, engaging company culture. They include: promoting teamwork, having a strong mission and values, creating psychological safety, distributing decision making on the bases of knowledge rather than formal position in organisational hierarchy, sharing inspirational stories, allowing experimentation with new ideas and celebrating successes.

Suggestions for additional ways to transform your company culture and create a more engaging workplace

  • Brainstorm ideas with employees to identify any quick wins within the company
  • Articulate clearly your company purpose and embed it in organisational DNA
  • Develop strong two-way communication where employees’ voice can be heard
  • Communicate your company roadmap and any upcoming changes with employees with clarity
  • Remove obstacles to trust and transparency within the organisation
  • Creating a caring culture where leaders show compassion
  • Get leadership on board and create awareness for leaders how they can inspire high levels of engagement and productivity
  • Share the benefits of any upcoming changes with employees. Highlight the outcome if changes are not made.
  • Use the right, enthusiastic and energising language to convey your messages of change and direction.

How can management adapt their style to ensure employees feel engaged and cultural values are upheld?

When it comes to the relationship between management and their employees, it is important for the two groups to be aligned and work on common purpose.  In some cases the cultural values of the company may be more conservative, while in others they may be more relaxed. It is important for management to adapt their style to ensure employees feel intrinsic need to be engaged and that their cultural values are being represented.

There are a few different things management can do in order to create this balance. They can start by getting to know their employees’ hobbies, interests and personal values and by understanding their individual motivations.

An engaging caring culture enables employees to feel valued, supported and motivated to do their best work, while a collaborative culture encourages creativity and innovation by encouraging employees to share ideas and work together towards common goals. By creating a unified and purposeful as well as humane and collaborative culture, leaders can ensure that their organisation is best placed to succeed in the face of challenges.

Professor Vlatka Ariaana Hlupic is Professor of Leadership and Management at Hult International Business School (Ashridge) and founder and CEO of Management Shift Solutions Limited.

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