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Culture and engagement: The naked organization

By Bill Pelster, Deloitte Consulting LLP; Josh Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP; and Jeff Schwartz, Deloitte Consulting LLP
This article is more than 2 years old.

Culture and engagement are now business issues, not just topics for HR to debate. There’s no place for organizations to hide; nearly every corporate decision is immediately publicly exposed and debated. Many once-private issues are now posted online for every employee—and every potential employee—to read. An organization’s culture—which can be loosely defined as “the way things work around here”—is increasingly visible for all the world to see. Given the spotlight of this new transparency, an organization’s culture can become a key competitive advantage—or its Achilles’ heel.

This year, in a Deloitte survey of more than 3,300 business and HR leaders around the globe, employee engagement and culture issues exploded onto the scene. An overwhelming 87 percent of respondents believe the issue is “important,” with 50 percent citing the problem as “very important”—double the proportion in last year’s survey. The high level of concern is not surprising. Research shows that in most companies, engagement is low. According to the Gallup polling firm, only 13 percent of the global workforce is “highly engaged.” Upwards of half the workforce would not recommend their employer to their peers.

Although culture and engagement can play such a critical role in business performance, most organizations do a poor job of measuring their achievements or shortcomings. Very few companies have a process or tools to measure culture and learn where it is strong, weak, or inconsistent. At a time when corporate culture is being continuously debated, shaped, and redefined on social networks, the once-a-year engagement survey is perilously obsolete. Fortunately, new tools are emerging to provide organizations with real-time sentiment and employee feedback. A new breed of vendors offers pulse survey tools, employee sentiment management tools, culture assessment tools, and real-time employee monitoring tools to help leaders and supervisors rapidly assess when engagement is high and when problems are arising.

What steps can companies take to help strengthen engagement and promote a positive organizational culture? Leaders can consider the following:

Engagement starts at the top

Make engagement a corporate priority, and modernize the process of measuring and evaluating engagement throughout the company. Benchmark the company, strive for external recognition as validation of efforts, and reinforce to leadership that the engagement and retention of people is their No. 1 job.

Measure in real time

Put in place real-time programs to evaluate and assess organizational culture, using models or tools to better understand where it is strong, where it is weak, and how it really feels to workers.

Make work meaningful

Focus on leadership, coaching, and performance management to help employees make their work meaningful. Reinforce the importance of a coaching and feedback culture, and teach leaders how to be authentic and transparent.

Listen to the millennials

Their desires, needs, and values will shape the organization’s culture over the next 10 years.

Simplify the work environment

Read our research on the simplification of work to help reduce the burden of today’s 24/7 work environment.

The old adage “culture eats strategy for breakfast” can apply to most every organization today. Business and HR executives should understand that highly engaged companies attract the best talent, have the lowest voluntary turnover rates, and are more profitable over the long run. Companies should use 2015 as a time for change. By focusing on driving engagement through the right corporate culture, companies can work toward improving execution, retention, and financial performance.

Read more about the future of organizational culture here.

This article was produced by Deloitte and not by the Quartz editorial staff.

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