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Organisational culture levers for employee engagement

Elissa Farrow
February 20, 2013

In my last blog post I talked about the Corporate Leadership Council’s (2004) levers for engagement, day-to-day work levers. This blog post covers the second set of levers relating to organisational culture.

Internal communication
Organisational culture is enriched by a commitment to open communication. Best case examples I have seen is where the internal communication within an organisation is weighted as vital as the external communication and marketing.

One organisation I worked with (on its organisational development and change team) was going through rapid growth. It had had a dedicated professional focused on building internal communication channels. They did this through a formal strategy, clear roles and responsibilities and a number of channels such as newsletters, events, ‘lunch and learn’ sessions all focused on the organisational values and examples of best practice and not so best practice that could be learnt from.

This set of communications started to form the internal knowledge management structure of the organisation and a history or ‘story’ that could be passed down around the growth journey. Since then I haven’t seen an organisation that emphasised internal communication as much: the reward was that the employee engagement grew as a result.

Reputation of integrity
Ethics and values are big words that in many organisations have lost their true meaning. As one of the many jobs I do professionally is the Director of Ethics for the International Institute of Project Coaching. Ethics, and what is means to act with integrity, is a key platform underpinning its professional accreditations and focus.

Integrity is often associated with words like morals, honesty, soundness of character and telling the truth. In change projects, integrity is critical to ensure that people are told the truth about what is happening. Yes I acknowledge the truth needs to be packaged appropriately, but the best change processes I have managed or been part of is where management doesn’t sugar-coat situations. From a perspective of connecting to a solid ethical standard, they are honest with what they know and don’t know and focus on trying to support staff as best they can in the change.

Employment engagement comes where a culture of integrity exists, where staff are encouraged to solve problems and to name values that are ‘anti-values’ or against the agreed set of values and behaviours under which an organisation says it operates. The best examples are where customers to the organisation can also see this openness and actively participate in feedback and see improvement as a result.

When was the last time you felt you did something truly innovative in your change project? One of the key levers that we hear about in top organisations is the space for staff and management to innovate without penalty. The opportunity to take a dream and give it a go with the backing: if it didn’t work then there are learnings to be had, but the creative process of innovation was paramount.

Factor innovation time into your week. Some organisations I know allow staff to have half a day or even a day of innovation time where ideas are proposed, workshopped and then backed if the benefits look solid.

A culture of engagement relies on an organisational culture that promotes the above three elements combined with the day-to-day elements.

Elissa Farrow
Elissa is a founder and lead consultant for About Your Transition and has extensive experience in strategic organisational adaptation design, facilitation and delivery. Elissa has supported organisations to define positive futures and then successfully transform to bring lasting benefits. She has proven adaptative capacity and can successfully transfer her skills to different contexts. In 2018, Elissa commenced her doctoral studies through the University of the Sunshine Coast. Her published research is exploring organisational adaptation to the evolving field of artificial intelligence using qualitative and participatory research methodologies. Elissa is an experienced board director and considered a thought leader in her field having won a number of national and local awards for contributing to Women in Project Management and for Change Management Research.
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