Over the course of this four-part series, we’ve talked about how disengagement can be caused by misalignment with jobs, managers, and teams, but it’s possible that you might love what you do and who you do it with and still be unhappy at work. This happens when you’re feeling out of alignment with your company’s culture.
What is organizational culture?
According to a study by Deloitte, 94 percent of executives and 88 percent of employees believe a “distinct workplace culture is important to business success.” But what’s culture anyway?
The term “culture fit” has a lot of different meanings. For our purposes in this post, we don’t mean homogeneity, but rather how each employee’s personal set of values, mission, and goals align with the values, mission, and goals of the organization.
When employees are misaligned with corporate culture, they lack a feeling of belonging that can severely impact their performance and lead to disengagement or employee turnover. When good employees leave, it can be as simple as not feeling in tune with company values, feeling unaligned with the company meaning and purpose, or lack of trust in company leadership. But it can also be a profound disconnect and feeling of isolation and loneliness. Widespread issues with alignment can cripple your top performers and even help create a toxic environment across the organization.
How important is culture to organizational health?
To say that culture fit is important to employees would be an understatement. Forty-three percent of employees say they are looking for a new job, and culture is among the top reasons cited. According to a recent Glassdoor survey, 48 percent of employees cited company culture as important in attracting them to a new job, and 37 percent cited company culture as a determining factor.
That said, Gartner tells us that only 31 percent of HR leaders believe their organizations have the necessary culture to drive performance. Whether a small business or a Fortune 500, all companies rely on a productive culture for their success.
So, how do you know if your employees are aligned with your culture?
Here are common signs of a cultural misfit:
- They opt out of discretionary company activities—whether large or intimate.
- They have a high rate of absenteeism.
- They are not thriving with the same level of autonomy or oversight that others are.
- They don’t embrace your cultural values.
- They are consistently underperforming expectations.
- They are frustrated by rules, process, and structure that don’t bother others.
- They continually make choices that don’t align with company goals or mission.
- They contribute to feelings of toxicity.
- They are unable to align with moral or ethical standards.
At the end of the day, bad culture is bad for companies. A lack of fit for an employee is also not great for your other employees. Each time we bring the wrong people into our culture we shift that culture further from where we want to be. Bad hires—no matter how skilled—will never belong and thrive. This will usually cause toxicity to grow—affecting your business outcomes. If employees feel disconnected from your mission, they cannot help you to achieve it. This does not mean you should build a homogenous culture, but you should take care to build a harmonious one.
How can you ensure that your employees are aligned with your organization?
Here are a few ways you can ensure a better culture fit for good talent:
Communicate your goals and mission.
Take the time to cooperatively craft your purpose and mission. Once crafted, communicate and share your goals and mission with your employees to increase employee alignment. Use the mission and goals to build an employee engagement strategy. Conduct frequent employee engagement surveys to assess the effectiveness of that strategy, and tweak accordingly.
Establish and live your values, and bring your people into alignment around it.
According to a survey by ClearCompany, 44 percent of workers are somewhat familiar with company goals, but can’t specifically name them—and only 14 percent of companies have workers who understand their company strategy, goals, and direction.
Be sure to practice your own values. For example, if work-life balance is a value, make sure that workloads are distributed more evenly, employees have ample vacation time, and there is flexibility in scheduling or remote work opportunities. Core values that are communicated but not adhered to can lead to a lack of alignment and toxic workplace culture.
Offer guidance and feedback.
Reward and recognition can also help to align employees with cultural values through positive reinforcement. Likewise mentoring, coaching, and hiring employees in cohorts can help you to build camaraderie, support, and cultural alignment.
Understand the perspective of your employees.
Sometimes what appears to be a lack of culture fit might be coming from a different place. Behavioral assessments can help you learn more about the core drives of each of your employees. For example, people with more social Reference Profiles might be looking for more opportunities to connect and collaborate with others in the workplace. Those who are more analytical may not understand how culture is connected to results. Taking the time to meet these employees where they are and translate your mission, values, and goals into terms relatable to their core drives can pay off in increased alignment.
Culture is an ever-evolving aspect of your organization. Measuring, evaluating, and maintaining your culture should be a consistent effort for your organization, which will ultimately yield business results to match.
Ultimate Engagement Toolkit
Resources to better understand, measure, and improve engagement in your organization.
What's turnover costing you?
Find out with this simple calculator.
Increase engagement with these 7 steps
Company culture quiz
Find out how strong your culture is and practical ways to improve it.