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Columbia Business Monthly

Is Your Workplace Culture Where It Needs To Be? In Today's Business Climate, It's the Key Competitive Advantage

May 03, 2018 01:17PM ● By Makayla Gay

By Doug Claffey, CEO of Energage

  Top Workplaces outperform average organizations on many levels, but one key distinction stands out: Leaders of Top Workplaces see the competitive advantage of creating a workplace culture where employees are highly engaged. And they make culture a strategic priority, day in and day out.

Every organization has a culture. Some are intentional, some accidental. Companies that claim culture is a priority but don’t back it up are just fooling themselves. Failing to focus on culture is how leaders lose their jobs and how companies cease to exist.

In fact, culture is the only remaining sustainable competitive advantage. Great business strategies can be copied, but culture cannot. When an organization’s culture fails, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes public and costly.

Nationwide, less than a third of employees are truly engaged at work. But it’s a different story at Top Workplaces. Of the 47,000 organizations Energage has surveyed in more than a decade, Top Workplaces achieve almost double the engagement rate. Companies that score in the top 10 percent on our surveys see engagement levels above 85 percent.

Greenville-based Think Up Consulting had an engagement rate of 88 percent, highest among all South Carolina companies surveyed for this year’s program.

Recognition and bragging rights aside, employee engagement translates into stronger retention, higher productivity, and better performance. Employee engagement is the outcome of a healthy workplace culture. In today’s business environment, culture distinguishes the world’s most valuable companies. It’s where value is created or destroyed.

Leaders at Top Workplaces are intentional about defining and forging a unique culture that directly supports specific business goals. Not that all cultures are the same. Even among Top Workplaces, some thrive on high energy and fun, while others benefit from quiet intensity.  So ask yourself:

What defines your workplace culture?

How do you know?

Are you happy with it?  

Is it helping or hindering your business objectives?

Whenever I ask leaders these questions, the answers spur terrific discussions. The challenge is understanding how to measure culture and how to change it. The most tangible measure of culture is employee engagement. Great workplace cultures flourish when a team of talented people share an organization’s values and embrace its objectives. We look at these key factors in engagement:

As an employee, do you feel you are giving your best?

Do you want to stay?

Would you recommend the organization to others?

Strong cultures become self-sustaining: they attract like-minded people who will thrive in that environment. That’s why Top Workplaces can be picky about who they bring onboard, whereas other organizations have to pay more money to keep people.

Creating a great workplace culture requires raising the level of trust and connection among employees so they commit their best every day. Top Workplaces do this, and they do it consistently well. So when leaders at aspiring organizations ask me how they, too, can capture this advantage, my answer is this: Get intentional about workplace culture.

Doug Claffey is the CEO of Energage, a Philadelphia-based research and consulting firm that surveyed more than 2.5 million employees at more than 6,000 organizations in 2017. Energage is the research partner for Top Workplaces.