Magazine article Talent Development

Intentional Crafting of Culture: Culture Is the Nexus of Employee Engagement, Values, and Action Learning

Magazine article Talent Development

Intentional Crafting of Culture: Culture Is the Nexus of Employee Engagement, Values, and Action Learning

Article excerpt

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Culture drives performance. So organizations looking to make a meaningful impact on performance must create the culture they want to deliver the performance they need. And that culture should be one that is inclusive, engages others, and creates favorable conditions for organizational and individual performance. If not, the prevailing attitudes and expectations of a workplace will create a de facto culture.

Two important components of organizational culture are employee engagement and values. This resonates in both private and public organizations. Through action learning, organizations can create value systems and develop leaders by embracing engagement and inclusion that drive culture and performance.

Workplace culture

Organizational culture defines what is acceptable and creates meaning as a result of being shared. Culture is most commonly seen as the expression of the organization's values, manifested by how people relate to one another, how information is disseminated, how people are led to feel about their work, how their organization values them, and how the organization relates to the world.

In the workplace, we act based on various assumptions and expectations, which often are unexamined and taken for granted. As an example, we make assumptions about the word "feedback" or that "nothing around here will change" or "management doesn't listen."

Reinforcing some of our assumptions and values are the physical symbols we find in our workplace, such as how we address certain people in the organization, how we dress, and our office location and size. Also, it is how we act and what is expected of us. Is it acceptable to ask questions in meetings? Or offer different perspectives than the managers? Over time, culture becomes an organizational survival mechanism. We learn lessons from what we have done or not done, and we perpetuate those lessons to become successful.

Culture, it seems, is the secret sauce that makes or breaks organizational productivity. Our culture-our values and behaviors-should be driven by the vision or the direction of the work team and organization. If we really want to change culture, how can we do it? Two areas of focus are employee engagement and values.

Addressing engagement

"Employees are the most important resource in the Federal Government and an engaged and satisfied workforce is central to achieving agency goals." So began the report on the 2014 Federal Employee Viewpoint (FEV) survey results. Close to 400,000 federal employees representing 82 agencies had something to say about engagement and the factors that shape it-including leaders, teamwork toward a common mission, staff empowerment, belonging, motivation, and organizational communication. Employee engagement is an organizational issue affecting private and public service employees, which are both under unrelenting pressure to do more with less while also being innovative.

Simply put, engagement is the extent to which employees commit to something or someone in their organization. The 2014 FEV framed engagement with several questions: Do employees feel empowered and encouraged to make suggestions, voice opinions, and make decisions? Do employees feel their contributions are considered and appreciated by their supervisors? Do employees feel they know what's going on in their organization?

These questions represent commitments--both rational, representing cost to benefit; and emotional, representing attachment to a person, cause, or organization. The strongest commitment is the emotional one because it satisfies basic needs we all have: to be included, to have control over our lives, and to create meaning for our work, who we work with, and what we do.

Our commitment also shows up in our daily work and the way we relate to our team or work unit, our manager, or our organization. Engagement results in commitment to perform at high levels and a desire to continue to work for the organization. …

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