Company culture and employee engagement seem to be on the minds of every company. There are cottage industries and full time consultants who make their living telling companies how to engage employees and craft a company culture that fosters growth and long-term commitment. There are employed experts from the likes of Google, Apple and Southwest Airlines that write articles ad naseum about how they do it and what you can learn from them. But building a good company culture and raising employee engagment isn't easy.
Engaging Every Employee Perfectly is Impossible
Here's the problem: if it were as simple as a 5 step process or even a “do this and you will get that” method, then everyone would have these issues solved. Obviously that is not the case – even in the companies that I mentioned above there are employees that are not engaged and are spending their work time searching for their next job. People leave the “best” companies every day. So does that mean that they are selling everyone they hire a pipedream without a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?
No, it doesn’t.
The hardest part of company culture and employee engagement is that you cannot be all things to all people. It’s like church and music – no matter how great the music is there are going to be people that want contemporary and people who want hymns or people that want piano and people that want guitars. That’s human nature – we want what we want. Consequently, we are not all motivated by the same types of things. The ping-pong table in the lunch room and games at lunch with co-workers is great to some but not to all. The free food saves me some lunch money but it won’t keep me here. Bigger companies can offer many different options that increase the odds of them catering to a wider swath of people – more than the typical mid-size or small company could ever muster.
Know What You Want Your Company Culture to Look Like
So what do you do? You have to first figure out your work environment, what you want your internal culture to be and look like and then work to understand your ideal hire. What type of person or personality is going to fit in your culture? What can you offer that will engage and motivate that type of personality? In a smaller company you have to become more specific to the type of person that would respond to what you are able to offer and then you build a hiring profile around that person.
For example, if you have a small customer service operation and you have people making lower wages, maybe the ability to earn extra PTO hours/days is a huge motivator. Or having a compressed schedule that gives them a four day work week with varying shifts and days to make sure customer needs are still met. Maybe it is community service events, and you figure into your hiring profile that you want people who care about the community. When you do these events they have the added bonus of adding a high degree of employee engagement.
If you can get good at aligning your corporate objectives and culture building activities with the type of people you hire, your opportunity for engagement and having a positive corporate culture will go up significantly. Instead of taking a shotgun approach from an article you read, you take a deliberate and focused approach and make your hiring decisions accordingly. You need to understand current employees' drivers and motivators, especially for people that have been there long term and are solid team members. You need to understand why they have stayed and make sure not to upend any of those reasons. Ultimately you are looking for an evolution, not a revolution, and in doing that you will protect your current good employees while creating a foundation to build on with future hires.