culture employee engagement

Correcting a Disengaged Culture

Do your employees exhibit low levels of trust and reliability? Do they produce poor quality work, attempt to evade responsibility, or make excuses for bad outcomes? If so, the problem goes beyond your employees – it’s time to step back and pay attention to your whole work culture.

Widespread disengagement is a result of a dysfunctional culture in the organization, not a cause. Employees are likely tuning out for a number of reasons – maybe they don’t understand the organization’s purpose (and their role in it), don’t feel emotionally secure or valued on the job, or haven’t established strong bonds with leaders and fellow co-workers.

If you want a clear idea of what your workplace culture really is, just answer this question. “What does it feel like to work here?”  The answer to that rhetorical question is your real culture in this sense; the way people feel determines how they behave.  In other words, disengagement is a visceral response to the felt conditions of the organization, especially in the micro-culture under every manager. Understanding this relational dynamic is actually a great source of insight, if senior leaders are paying attention.

Thus, the first step to correcting a disengaged culture is to pay attention. What is the best way to do that?  Measure key drivers of high-performance and then act on what the data tells you.

Now if you hope to shift the culture towards positivity and high-performance, consider following these steps:

  1. Determine how people feel.

Survey your staff anonymously. You may discover sources of disengagement you didn’t know existed. By taking a pulse on how they feel, employees will have an opportunity to be heard, and the findings of the survey will provide you with a roadmap to change.

  1. Communicate your commitment to the staff.

Once the results are in, be transparent with employees about what the data indicates and how the organization will respond. By relaying the results at all levels of the organization, leaders will prove their commitment to improving conditions.

  1. Learn about the drivers of engagement.

Pay and benefits are not enough to keep employee-leadership relations positive. Instead, emphasize the need for your managers and supervisors to clarify the mission, validate and recognize employees, provide constructive and positive feedback, and break down barriers to collaboration.

  1. Train, practice, train, and practice.

Every person who has supervisory duties must understand the drivers of engagement and practice those skills. Failing to train managers at any level will result in rogue micro-cultures that undermine the enterprise-wide goals.

  1. Communicate endlessly.

Company culture must be communicated relentlessly and reinforced tirelessly. Otherwise, it will become subordinate to whatever else gets communicated – whether through official channels or not.

  1. Lather, rinse, and repeat. 

A one-time survey is not enough to measure a change in culture. Instead, at regular intervals, survey your employees to see how far you have come – and how far you have to go.

  1. Reinforce your ongoing commitment. 

Correcting a disengaged culture is not a project or a one-time fix. Engagement is a new way of doing business that must percolate throughout the organization and remain a consistent area of focus for your organization.

Disengaged employees are a symptom, not a cause, of a disengaged culture. Once we recognize that, we need to take action. Your commitment to change and continual reinforcement of the conditions that create deep engagement will have lasting, positive impacts on your employees and your bottom line.

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