I have spoken a lot recently about staff engagement and it got me thinking. What is the difference to engagement and creating a positive workplace culture?
So I have gone away to look at a few perspectives and this is my summary of thoughts.
Before I went further into exploring the elements of a workplace culture. I took a quick look at the definition of culture. I personally find it useful to pause and reflect on some of these words we throw around, mostly without giving it too much thought. When I do, I often find that it is simpler than many have made it out to be. Culture is another example. Yes, there can be many factors, however the good news is that most of it is within the influence of a good leader and organisation.
When I searched the term ‘Workplace Culture’ I also came across ‘Organisational culture’. In this discussion I have used the term interchangeably.
The crew at Sidekicker came up with a nice summary, in their words “Workplace culture is the environment that you create for your employees. It plays a powerful role in determining their work satisfaction, relationships and progression. It is the mix of your organisation’s leadership, values, traditions, beliefs, interactions, behaviours and attitudes that contribute to the emotional and relational environment of your workplace.”
So out of that definition, there is such a strong alignment to my previous blogs around staff engagement.
Yet the first main difference I discovered is that staff engagement is just one factor when creating an overall positive workplace culture. The team at RMIT University had a great outline which described having a purpose driven company culture - this is having a transparent true north I have discussed previously. Also high on the list is effective communication. Without exception, communication is always included in describing a successful business and it pops up again. There are a number of recurring themes across all of these topics right! Going further down their list is growth and development - a clear connection to one of the 8 wastes of Lean, Non-utilisation of talent. So we can also make the connection, that it is all about people.
Time and time again, the usual themes poke their heads up - clear leadership and vision, communication and also engagement. But it also embodies the values (how you live and action these everyday) aka role modelling. What behaviours do you accept and let ride versus keeping everyone to the agreed standard. It is about respecting your staff and the organisation, respecting people’s beliefs and interactions. I once worked in a team where we were encouraged to ‘respectfully debate perspectives, ideas and approaches to work’. This is completely different from arguing, complaining and dis-respect of other people’s opinions.
The last element mentioned in a lot of articles is attitude. Yes, we all have off days, we are all human after all. But we can support and encourage each other to bring a positive attitude to the role we have. This does dovetail into clarity of role and how you are contributing to the organisational success - they are all strands of the ‘positive workplace culture DNA’.
Attitude can go a long way. This is why the first book I recommend when asked about workplace culture is “The Fish Philosophies”. Bringing together four elements of collegial engagement. The four elements are:
- Make someone’s day
- Be present
- Choose your attitude
- Play (or have fun)
You can see how these can contribute to fulfilling the emotional and relational environment of a workplace environment.
It takes the right type of leadership, most likely the strengths of multiple leaders to achieve this. It is also not expecting an illusion of a perfect organisation where it is all butterflies, rainbows and hugs. It isn’t about creating a soft, don’t want to upset or hurt people’s feelings. It is about respecting each other as a person and a professional. Seriously, how hard is it to be present for a 45 minute meeting and not have your nose buried in a laptop or phone screen? It is not rocket science, but somehow we stuff it up all the time.
Like everything related to business improvement, the concepts again are common sense, easy you might even say. It is all about sticking to the plan, being disciplined about leading this approach everyday.
Summarising all of the reading - great workplace culture begins with clear leadership, communication and direction. It is about being respectful and inclusive. It is about being engaged and encouraging the right attitudes - everyday. Many of the elements of staff engagement and a positive organisational culture are shared. So it’s not extra work or effort to achieve success in this aspect of your business improvement journey.