Human Performance and Achievement Resources
red line
Home Articles & Publications Directories Link Directories Topics Directory Search
Article: Creating an Engaging Culture Related Resources

Creating an Engaging Culture
by Karen Schmidt

Does your organisation have an engaging culture? Is it the kind of environment where people can thrive or do you find that your new hires start out fully engaged but over time, as they become ingrained in the culture, they lose their energy and start to resemble your less-than-engaged employees?

Culture, or the way we doing things around here, can make or break an organisation. The cultural norms of your organisation don’t need to be written down. In fact, the strongest norms are those that survive despite an absence of formal documentation. For new employees, often the first time they become aware of the culture in their new organisation is when they do something that is not acceptable within that culture. In other words, they learn the hard way!

It is vital when recruiting new people that you are able to give them a clear understanding of the cultural environment they will be working in so that both of you can determine if they are the right cultural fit.

The traditional cultures

There is no one definitive workplace culture. There have always been a variety of cultural norms to choose from. Unfortunately, most of the traditional cultures have been less than desirable. See if you recognise any of your past (or present) employers in the following descriptions.

Hard work culture
Work needs to be difficult and unpleasant. People should not have a good time at work. They are paid to do things they dislike. If they seem to be enjoying themselves then we had better change things so they don't. In this type of organisation there is no place for social interaction and complaining about how hard you are working is encouraged.

Be seen culture
Also known as the "present and busy" culture. It doesn't matter what you are doing as long as you look busy. This is a culture that encourages people to work long hours just to be seen. The question is are they really doing any valuable work? Organisations with this culture encourage people to have messy desks, to miss deadlines and forget meetings. After all, they are too busy!

Don’t question culture
People leave their brains at the door and don't question anything for fear of rocking the boat. This breeds a reactive organisation where staff don't use their initiative. They wait for management to tell them what to do. The result can be lots of mistakes and a lack of innovation. Even when they can see something is about to go wrong, people working in this culture have been taught to keep their mouths shut for fear of being seen as “disloyal”.

Us versus them culture
The us and them can be management versus unions, head office v the branches or the sales department v everyone else! In this type of organisation one group believe they are more important than everyone else and they let them know it. This culture can develop when separate business units are created and have to compete for limited customer dollars. Suddenly the other business units become competitors. It is also commonly seen in the early days of a merger or takeover.

Old school culture
Typical of conservative organisations and those that have dominated their market for a long time. It is like a family and management are the parents. They don't want to change anything for fear of upsetting the winning formula. But times change and so should organisations. Beware . . . if you don’t fit the standard profile of an old school culture employee because your career options will be limited.

The new cultures

The new revolution in the workplace is all about developing a positive culture that encourages people to contribute, to get engaged. These new cultures are alive and well in younger, leading edge organisations but that doesn’t mean more established organisations can’t also adopt a new culture.

Let's have a look at some of the new options in workplace culture.

Results not effort
This new culture rewards people for the results they achieve, rather than simply for the effort they put in. This might sound unfair but in practice it is extremely fair. After all, what keeps an organisation going is usually its ability to make a profit and results mean profit. So no more clock watching or obsession with billable hours . . . if you get a result you have succeeded!

Feel at home
The office doesn't look like an office anymore. People are wearing comfortable clothes, having meetings over coffee in the company café and working surrounded by comfortable furniture. Since we spend 8 (or more) hours a day at work a new culture of the home away from home makes sense. The level of creativity and innovation in an organisation is boosted when you adopt a more comfortable approach too.

Work anywhere, anytime
Technology has allowed us to take work out of the office and on the road, into the air and into the home. The idea of working anywhere at anytime has flow on effects. Less travel time, reduced stress and less absenteeism as people are able to care for sick children and run personal errands while still getting the job done. There will always be a need to bring people to together at some point in the working week but why make them do it every day when we all know that distractions in the workplace reduce productivity.

A happy person is a productive person
In this culture, work is allowed to be fun, giving people a chance to let off steam, get creative and be happy! The organisations that are realising that happy people work better are seeing amazing results. Regardless of your industry there is always the opportunity to inject some fun. So how do you find out what makes your people happy? Simple - ask them! Remember, in this new, flexible culture don't try to find a "one size fits all" solution to the question.

Making the change

Changing the culture of an organisation is a bit like steering an oil tanker. It's a long, slow process and you don't see results immediately, which is why so many organisations give up. But the benefits are worth it . . . imagine a workplace with low absenteeism, high productivity and lots of creativity. The kind of workplace where people are fully engaged. Sounds too good to be true . . . well, it isn’t. Look around and you will find examples of organisations that have made the change. If no one in your industry has done it yet, why not start a trend. You will have people queuing up to work for you!

Karen Schmidt from Let’s Grow! is the re-engagement expert.
Her mission is to help you refresh, reignite and re-engage your team for success.
Contact her on 0411 745 430 or visit


Home Articles & Publications Directories Link Directories Topics Directory Specialized Interest Directories Performance & Productivity Blog Search

Website and contents ©1997-2011 C.S. Clarke, Ph.D. (Except where otherwise noted. Articles and content from other contributors are copyright to their respective authors.) All rights reserved.