Helping Your Organization Reach Its Goals: The Role of Culture in Engagement

Helping Your Organization Reach Its Goals: The Role of Culture in Engagement

There has been much discussion about employee branding, recruitment and retention, and connecting culture with organizational values. But what is the role of culture in engagement? How can your organizational culture, when aligned with the business goals, support the achievement of the articulated and unarticulated goals of the company?

Employee engagement programming on its own cannot move the needle, first, you must address the culture of an organization.  While you can affect the culture of an organization through engagement programs you need to ensure that the culture reflects the values of the company, which takes time to authentically be mastered. Successful cultures are like thumbprints of the organization and have many dimensions. Companies need to look at the behaviors they want to reinforce, model those behaviors at every level, support those behaviors through activities such as performance management, collaborative wellness activities, team construct,  employee recognition programs, responses to celebrations and illness, how the organization cares for others, social gatherings on and off-site, and connected activities. The culture of a company is a reflection of the beliefs and behaviors of an organization that guides how management and employees behave towards one another and approach to their business. Hiring decisions should model the desired culture, which may disrupt the current culture, and buy-in takes time and commitment. Consider assigning multi-level culture champions to support the change. When culture aligns with the company’s values, the organization will attract the right talent, and ultimately you will have a connected and engaged workplace, easing and supporting the employee engagement programs supported through empowerment, transparency, and trust.

How do you get there?

Employees choose to work for well-branded company’s known for highly engaged workforces with growth opportunities. Usually, they have exciting projects, amazing clients, often with people they know or aspire to work with, ultimately their “squad”. Strong talent tends to stay with company’s only when there is supportive management, open communication, a voice, feeling of empowerment at more junior stages than ever before, growth opportunities and a trust in management. Culture supports these through the behaviors of the company including actions, words, and consistency in the way a company operates. Culture is what is often the hardest to articulate, but the first to be qualified. When someone joins or leaves a company, they often cite culture as the chief reason for the move.

The Tactics

Transparency in engagement programs is key. Closed door meetings promote feelings of being left out of the loop, and trigger unease that something must be wrong. Senior managers should promote inclusiveness, walk the halls, be approachable and get involved in general meetings in an authentic way. Bad news should be reported internally first and fast, genuinely without the appearance of spin, and include the team in messaging to clients and the public. In fact, the same rules apply for good news!

Empower your manager with training and reward tools. Then train them to know how to use them for each level. Give them the tools and they can champion the initiatives, and be sure all managers have access to the same suite of tools. Empower all employees to move the needle on company performance, to jump into brainstorms, to support the business goals. When employees feel they are stuck and powerless, they tend to disengage.

Celebrate, reward, and recognize the wins. Those things matter and are often taken for granted. Model incentive programs that work for your business, whether it’s balanced scorecard or alternative bonus programs choose something that works and is simple to understand.  Make sure your performance management programs are ongoing conversations that include legitimate career pathing where both the employee and the manager have roles and goals.

Voice is also important. Use tools such as mini-surveys or hold roundtables to get feedback and create a listening/active listening workplace where voices matter eliminating favorites or a “managers only” environment. Keep an eye on trends and make sure every employee matters. Retool language to be inclusive, not exclusive and make sure it becomes part of everyday vernacular and in printed language including branding, recruiting and performance management materials. Encourage empathy and energy simultaneously towards collaborative solutions. Move the conversation from “what will you do for me” to “how can we do this together”.

Connecting Values to the Business Results

Communicate the “why” you do what you do, and how each employee fits into the picture. Nothing increases discretionary effort like a clear vision and values statement that connects to the goal and drives the result, where each employee can see how their part matters and circles back to them. From the CEO to the management team to every employee, everyone should be on the same page. Communicate, and re-communicate, live, and across all your channels.

Be sure your CEO walks the walk and is visibly living the values they state on behalf of the company. If the workplace reflects meaningful work, trust in leadership, supportive “management for all”, growth opportunities, and a positive work environment devoid of politics, a sustainable engaged workplace is possible.

Connecting Culture to the Organizational Values

Culture is the very pulse of the company developed and shaped by the people who, over time, defined how the company approaches business, talent, recognition, internal communications and key differentiators in the marketplace. The organizational culture, when aligned with the business goals, can organically move employees to support the achievement of the articulated and unarticulated goals of the company with the right engagement programs. When engagement is high and relative to that discretionary effort is high, employees will be more inclined to put that effort towards the “win”. The culture of group achievement is supported by employee engagementAlan Adler said,  “Organizational culture is civilization in the workplace.”. The thriving civilizations and organizations are those where the community of talent is working together towards the common goal, highly motivated towards its success. Connecting people towards a shared purpose and beliefs with supported engagement programs will sustain the organization and help the organization reach its business goals.

Bonus Time is a Good Time to Review Your Variable Compensation Plan

Bonus Time is a Good Time to Review Your Variable Compensation Plan

As many companies pay out bonuses in March, it’s a worthy time to for Human Resources professionals to look at how to make the most of their variable compensation plans. Variable compensation is how you structure base pay plus any additional compensation including bonus. More and more, variable compensation is used to attract and retain the best talent at every level. The role of variable compensation should achieve the following:

-Improve performance

-Ensure company goals are known by all

-Share in success

-Motivate desirable behaviors

-Improve retention

-Create focus on desired results


The basics

To be effective, there must be common company goals with clear links to how each individual role aligns to company performance. As a first step, create measurable job descriptions before reviewing your compensation plans. People want to know what the company means to achieve, and how their job function can help the company meet that goal. Compensation plans must have clearly defined measurements to the business and the ways in which they can contribute to their earnings. Variable compensation plans should be inclusive, whenever possible. The targets should be competitive, so there are reach goals within the plan. Targets should stretch each employee to perform beyond their daily routine, while still realistic and reflective of the culture. Communication is key and training managers to understand the plan to share with their employees is critical to plan success. Be sure any plan is not overly complicated to administer. When it comes time to measure and pay bonuses, there should not be an undue burden on finance and payroll to calculate the variable pay feature per employee.

Be inclusive!

Historically, such plans have only included senior leaders and not only does this disenfranchise the managers and employees, but it only achieves the result of paying out top-line profits, and tends to be subjective. When variable comp plans are as inclusive as possible, it increases the discretionary effort and the business results. The more people who participate, and understand how they will benefit from putting in that effort, the more chances you have of great financial results. This is how you can really amp up motivating your workforce, in concert with your culture, engagement and L&D programs.

Maximize your compensation programs

Additional talent benching programs can be put in place to identify your rising stars and career path those who show potential in areas that can strengthen business units. Match your rising stars with programs that will help them meet their professional and business goals while they are participating in variable comp. This will further strengthen your compensation programs, as well as goal achievement, retention, and engagement. has a lot of information on the 9 box grid which can be used for talent benching and succession planning. SHRM article on 9 box methodology

Maximizing variable compensation programs also is dependent on total rewards and recognition programs. If the only time you reward your employees is at bonus time, you are missing opportunities to motivate and recognize KPIs (key performance indicators). Strong incremental performance should be recognized to reinforce overall momentum in driving individual and team performance. Having reward and recognition programs in place, which are manager and often peer-driven, also drive a culture of performance and connectivity.

Ways to structure variable compensation plans

Variable compensation plans need structure. Discretionary plans designed without much planning or thought, and without the constant monitoring, could lead to employees manipulating the system. Structured plans such as balanced scorecard, where you create practice or unit scorecards for each level based on four performance categories: financial, customer, internal process, organizational goals can be funded by the year-end company profits. There are modified and hybrid plans that fit many private and public companies to include many variables inclusive of stock awards and other compensation tools. Your incentive targets can vary by level in the company.  Those in more senior roles should have higher incentive targets for practice or business unit results than those in entry to mid-level roles. Ask yourself the following questions when designing a variable compensation plan:

-How does your annual incentive plan compare to your competitors?

-How can you modify your incentive plan to make it more effective to everyone?

-How can you show that your plan supports your business objectives?

-How will your plan improve your ability to be competitive in the marketplace?

-Will your plan be flexible as your business continues to evolve over the next 3-5 years?

Human Resources professionals designing these plans have many resources, including peer HR pros. Variable compensation when done right provides more equitable bonus award based on their direct efforts and performance. It can foster an open collaborative and high-performance environment, and improve business results.