Erica Keswin, founder of the Spaghetti Project, discusses the most important things to know about improving company culture.
Founder, The Spaghetti Project
What is your definition of company culture?
Company culture is the soul of a company. Culture is what happens inside your company when nobody’s looking or trying to impress anyone. It’s what it feels like when real values come off the walls and are felt in the halls. And it’s what happens when people are empowered to live the values.
What do you feel is the most important thing to know about company culture?
Creating a strong company culture is not rocket science, but that doesn’t make it easy. It takes hard work, intention and discipline. One of the mistakes leaders make is that they focus on too many values. A strong company culture is based on having truly functional, well-defined values that drive the behaviors that are important in your organization.
What kind of impact does company culture have on employee engagement?
Company culture has a huge impact on employee engagement. Employees (especially millennials and Gen Z who will make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025) want to work for companies with strong cultures, organizations where the values mean something and where employees feel connected to something bigger than themselves. People will absolutely leave if they don’t find what they’re looking for. So, yes, culture has a huge impact on engagement and turnover.
How can employers better evaluate and improve their company’s culture? Don’t wait until the end of the year to evaluate the culture by simply asking for feedback. It will be too late, and you will likely have lost great people. Ensure that managers are doing regular check-ins, and being proactive with “pulse” surveys, but most importantly, leaders need to have culture on their mind.
What do you feel to be the biggest challenges impacting employee engagement?
Asking for feedback and not acting on it. If you are going to ask what should be changed, make sure you are prepared to respond to the feedback or it’s worse than not asking.
In your opinion, what is the most effective way to increase employee engagement.
Honor relationships — with your colleagues, direct reports, boss, clients and yourself! It can be the little things that go a long way. Get out of your office. Walk down the hall instead of sending an email to a colleague. Pick up the phone. Take someone on your team to lunch. Left to our own “devices” we aren’t connecting. Be intentional and it will be reflected in your engagement scores.
What is the biggest challenge companies face when trying to improve employee engagement?
Most often, employees leave managers, not companies. To improve employee engagement, companies need to make sure that they have the right people in management roles and that they are providing the right kinds of professional development. Managers are the “culture ambassadors” and are the on the front lines. They need to be leading and modeling the right behaviors to ensure their people are engaged.