I recently revisited the book Delivering Happiness. Tony Hsieh talked about how he lost control of the culture at his first company, Link Exchange. He let it evolve naturally, and what started off as a great culture with a small core group, took a new direction on its own as they rapidly grew. The result was a company he did not recognize or want to work for. He lost his passion for the business that he had created because he no longer connected with his people or the purpose of the organization. It was a great lesson learned that strongly influenced the way he managed Zappos, ultimately contributing to the company’s enormous growth in 10 years to a billion dollar business.
Culture is directly connected to employee engagement. We have an epidemic of unengaged workers because so many organizations have let their cultures drift, or worse pay lip service to it – saying they care about culture but not backing that up with their actions, hires or communications. That is a quick road to a toxic culture.
There is no quick fix or silver bullet for employee engagement. You cannot force or bribe a person to be engaged. It has to come from within - an intrinsic desire to contribute and be part of something bigger.
Having a great culture comes down to alignment. The company needs to know who they are, what they stand for, and what they want to create (Vision, Mission, Passion, Purpose, Product). It is that sense of self that makes a company attractive to people: clients, employees, investors, etc. It should guide the company and its employees in all decisions and actions.
If you want to engage your team and build the right culture, the first step is knowing what you want to create, and the second is communicating that to the team. It is not easy, but if you put someone in charge of culture and charge everyone in the company to defend and support that culture (values), you are well on your way to creating the universe you envisioned.