Culture supports Employee Engagement and Performance

Article / Change and Organization

Culture supports Employee Engagement and Performance
Marcella Bremer , Consultant, Netherlands

This article explains the importance of employee engagement to organizational performance. The validated Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument is discussed as a way to engage employees in change.

Culture supports Employee Engagement and Performance

Have you seen the TV series “Undercover Boss“? Directors or executives start to work anonymously on the shop floor and find out how hard employees have to work and how they experience their work, the workplace and their co-workers. Back in the board room, the boss explains his or her surprise and then improves a few things. Instead of managing by figures, the leader has experienced the "people side" to the profits. That’s wonderful…

But wouldn’t it be much better to engage employees in a more structural and substantial way? Wouldn’t you prefer employees to participate to improve things, instead of passively waiting for a magic fix by the boss?

If you build engagement into workplace culture, your organisation will start to thrive. So even if employee engagement is not your main motivation, maybe it is this intended organizational change or organizational performance that should improve…

Whatever your reason, it is important to involve people to get them moving. And it is crucial that anything that should change, aligns with certain aspects of the current culture and acknowledges this current situation, before it can move into the desired direction. Sounds simple, doesn't it? But it is often forgotten. Big amounts of money are spent on new systems, lean management consultants, business process re-engineering - but success depends on people's ability to DO it.

If you skip this step, either the involvement or the relation with the current situation, you have little chance of achieving successful, sustainable change. Resistance, secret sabotage or plain apathy is likely to get in the way. Organizations can’t change without people changing! We can’t change others. But we can engage them and entice them to give their best.

So how do you engage employees, improve performance and change organisations? I often use the Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument.
The Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI) was developed by Cameron & Quinn. Statistical analysis showed that 2 dimensions are really decisive for organizational effectiveness and performance:

  • To be internally focused and integrated or externally focused and differentiated.

  • To aim for stability and control or to aim for flexibility and discretion.

Four culture types differ on these “competing values”. Those are:

  • Clan culture: internally focused and flexible: working like a clan, friendly and people-oriented. Keyword: to Collaborate.

  • Hierarchy culture: internally focused but aiming for stability: working according to clear procedures , valuing reliability and predictability. Keyword: to Control.

  • Market culture: external focus and stability: focused on competing and getting things done, results-oriented. Keyword: to Compete.

  • 4Adhocracy culture: external focus and flexible: working to create new things, innovate and do things your own way like entrepreneurs. Keyword: to Create.

Most organisational cultures are a mixture of these 4 types. There are no “good” or “bad” cultures, but you can see good or bad fits. If your call center embraces hierarchy culture, your customers will be annoyed with internal procedures while they just want their problem solved quickly… If you want to know your current organizational culture, you simply do the assessment that judges the 6 most determining aspects of culture:

  • dominant characteristics

  • organizational leadership

  • management of employees

  • organization glue

  • strategic emphases

  • criteria of success

Assessing these again for the preferred situation, you get a profile for your future culture. The gap between current and preferred culture indicates the need that employees feel for organizational (culture) change. Using the assessment online will only take 15 minutes and you can invite as many employees as you like. When you’ve got the visual and quantitative results of all employees in a profile, you can follow the OCAI change procedure to involve everyone. Here you add the qualitative part in OCAI-workshops, that enables organizations to engage employees and executives in a feasible way. Customize the assessment outcome to your situation, working on questions like: "What exactly does this mean for us? What should we do more or less of? How will we do this? What obstacles might be ahead? What if..."

Working with the OCAI outcome to build engagement and change
Organizations can develop a change program that people are willing to implement when they have contributed and feel “ownership”. In this process, hidden objections and resistance can be turned around, plans can be improved and the concept of organizational culture is chunked down from values to daily behaviour. Following the OCAI change process, involving all employees, you can work in a structured way on organizational identity, beliefs and capacities, and come down very practically to daily behavior and measurable performance. The involvement of all employees is a condition for successful, sustainable change and engagement. By the way, so is true commitment of executives. It sounds extensive, but you win a lot of time, effort and money if you take this seriously at the beginning of a change process.

Let’s develop the workers, the workplace and the world! That can’t be done by bosses alone. The old, “industrial” management style is based on a parent-child relationship that keeps employees dependent, passive and waiting for the boss to solve problems and arrange things. Our modern, highly-educated, autonomous professionals will only become engaged employees and improve organizational performance if they are taken seriously and actually get some space “to do their own thing”. Give them ownership on workplace issues, trust their input and get their best!

Using the OCAI tool, you’re able to engage, improve and change your organization! You can find the assessment online at

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