Have you ever watched a movie or TV show that features people in their work environment and thought “wow, that’s exactly what my company is like?” You know, that feeling of familiarity when you see the characters interacting? You identify with their struggles and it gives you a sense of peace that others, in fact, grapple with the same things that you do.

Here are a few movies that come to mind as Hollywood tries to address some of the corporate environments that we face:

  • Office Space — A classic satire on a passive-aggressive culture that highlights how workers can be dehumanized by leadership and the employee bonds that form to “fight the good fight” because of it.
  • Up in the Air – For anyone who has been through a merger or acquisition, this one might hit home. It explores how consultants come in and out of businesses making swift changes without a thought to the people they may impact.
  • Horrible Bosses – An over-the-top view of oppressive workplaces and the extreme length that employees will go to just to get rid of their bosses.
  • The Intern – A story that challenges the notion of generational gaps in the workplace and the uncertainty of our careers at any given moment.

Let me first say, we have some amazing companies out there with amazing cultures. They live and breathe their values and mission. On the flip side of that, we also have some companies that may remind you of the movies previously mentioned. The moral of this post is to really peel back the layers of what people want and desire in their careers. And most notably, what they expect from their place of employment.

An article was just released that’s very telling about this exact subject. It was a study about what employees really want. Often the assumption is that money will pacify people or engage them more in their work. But just like Jessie J says in her song “Price Tag”:

“It’s not about the money, money, money…
We don’t need your money, money, money.”

I believe while money works for a short period of time, it isn’t the solution for the long-term.

A Harvard Business Review article entitled, What Matters More to Your Workforce than Money, confirms my belief. It stated, “One of the most striking results we’ve found is that, across all income levels, the top predictor of workplace satisfaction is not pay. It’s the culture and values of the organization, followed closely by the quality of senior leadership and the career opportunities at the company.”

This probably comes with very little surprise to most of you. Many organizations use employee engagement surveys to “temperature check” how people are feeling about various aspects of their job, as well as their manager, senior leaders, and the company as a whole. A survey like this offers a lot of information that can help organizations highlight their successes and course correct where necessary. The big question is what are organizations really doing with the information?

As an HR professional for the last 16 years, I have consulted on and led organizational development processes and programs mapped to this very subject. I must agree that, many times, the course corrections needed shine brightly around the organization’s culture and values.

Does the company “walk their talk” and offer processes that allow people to uphold the values?
The bigger question is, do the values really matter?  
Is the culture one thing on paper, but another story in the day to day lives of employees?

Often in onboarding programs, the company puts its best foot forward and highlights their mission, vision, and value statements. They talk about their products and services that uphold those values. The best of the best show up to immerse you into the company. For some, the journey in their career at that company is exactly what was presented. For others, they immediately see a different story from their peers, boss, or others they come into contact with on a daily basis.  And it can feel exactly like the movies mentioned above.

The culture of an organization is pretty simple. Collectively, the people who work there exhibit patterns of behavior. As new people enter the organization, they’re taught a certain way of perceiving events, thinking, and feeling. It’s often known as what it takes to thrive (and sometimes survive) in a company.  These patterns of behavior effect the organization’s ability to operate internally and externally.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been immersed in conversations about organizational culture and values. Many of which stopped me dead in my tracks and had me shaking my head. As organizations continue to mature in their “people processes,” there becomes a need to make connections between:

  • Organizational Values: the manner in which the company conducts business.
  • Employee/Leadership Standards: the way in which employees/leaders uphold the organizational values.
  • Competencies: the skills and behaviors employees/leaders are held accountable to.

These must all be in alignment, in all organizational processes, if there is any hope for executing the business strategy. Sure, it can be accomplished in the short-term, but if employees are not engaged, do not feel valued, and do not understand how their work fits into the bigger picture, the struggle will lead them down a path that can cost the organization a lot of time, effort, and money.

As discussed in the Harvard Business Review article, the workforce will not be pacified by money. Therefore, if an organization wants to be wildly successful, it’s vital that all employees can see that connection between what they do every day and where the organization is going. They need to feel trust and respect. They need to know that everyone is accountable to the values and marching in the same direction to accomplish the goals.

In fact, many employees are evaluated on how well they uphold the values in employee appraisals, employee engagement surveys, and in any type of 360 leadership assessment that they may be using. If this is true, then the success of the employee and their engagement in their work, relies heavily on the organization’s ability to live and breathe the values. It’s not meant to be something shown on a website or posted on a wall.

I would love to hear insights from all of you. If you’re in a rockin’ culture, tell us what it feels like and what keeps you engaged. If you’re in a not-so-ideal culture, tell us what your organization could be doing better to keep you engaged. AND… if you’re really creative: if you could make a movie about your company culture, what would it be like? Can you think of a movie that depicts your ultimate corporate culture?

If you’re a leader who wishes to join New Dimensions Coaching in this movement to change the way we engage our employees, so everyone can have meaningful work in a positive environment, reach out  today.

Cheers to your success!