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Ayushee Shal

Ayushee Syal

Writer, Culture Amp

Culture and engagement are often used interchangeably when describing the overall environment of a company. While they’re highly correlated and typically go hand in hand, there are essential distinctions that make each unique.

As a company grows, measuring culture and engagement becomes increasingly crucial to business success. In this article, we’ll explore the difference between the two and the importance of implementing and measuring them correctly. 

Culture vs. engagement 

What is company culture?

Company culture is the overall practice, behaviors, and priorities that unite and motivate employees to achieve company goals.

Culture is often considered the secret behind memorable brands and successful businesses. This is because culture is a company's foundation, and a strong culture is built with continuous and conscious effort. A healthy and effective culture goes beyond just how your business is perceived. Positive cultures keep employees engaged and invested by creating an environment that encourages people to do their best work. This impact on productivity and revenue naturally positions an organization for long-term financial success.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to building company culture. Culture is born out of the priorities and values of a company, so it’s unique to each organization. While company culture can vary as widely as the businesses in which it’s found, its purpose remains the same – to consistently help the organization move closer to its goals.

What is employee engagement?

While culture is critical to the success of an organization, it’s more qualitative than quantitative. On the other hand, employee engagement serves as a quantifiable measure of the health of a company’s culture and its effectiveness. In a way, engagement presents a report card of your cultural impact – showcasing the successes and failures and identifying areas for change.

Simply put, engagement is the level of connection, motivation, and commitment a person feels for their workplace. By understanding and tracking employee sentiment around teamwork, leadership, and learning and development, you’ll collect a wealth of employee engagement data over time. These findings uncover areas that are effective and areas that need attention to help you assess the overall impact of company culture.

Defining your culture

There is no such thing as "the right culture," but there are certain guidelines to help ensure your culture aligns with your vision and values. The key to establishing a strong culture is ensuring that the company's and individual employees' priorities are in sync.

For example, Company A is an organization where key decision-makers believe that launching a product first (even with some flaws) is more important to success than launching the perfect iteration. This contrasts company B, which believes that quality wins in the long run and would prefer to hold back on product launches until all flaws are removed.

The way that each company prioritizes its work sets different expectations for the individuals on their team – modeling two starkly different company cultures. For company A, someone who does high quality at a slower pace would likely miss the mark. While for company B, the same individual would probably be a highly sought-after candidate.

The intersection of a company and an individual’s ideology, beliefs, and behaviors are the main factors that should define culture fit. It’s vital that both the company and the individual find the right fit since misalignment leads to fatigue and unhappiness, ultimately impacting productivity.

Measuring culture and engagement

Measuring culture

There is no direct way to quantify the importance of culture, so to understand its impact, businesses can use employee surveys to help track whether or not:

  1. Employees share a common set of beliefs and priorities
  2. Individual goals align with company goals
  3. Employees take collective actions towards achieving those goals

A lack of consensus indicates areas that could use attention, while unity demonstrates a solid cohesive culture. Measuring and decoding company culture is important because it can increase or erode employee engagement. Accounting for it helps identify an organization's strengths and opportunities to improve and increase employee engagement.

Measuring engagement

Employee engagement surveys are a diagnostic tool to help identify whether a company’s cultural practices are successful. When measuring engagement, there are three distinct markers of highly engaged employees:

  1. They speak positively about their organization – improving its reputation in their networks
  2. They’re invested in their work – thereby striving to achieve organizational goals
  3. They have higher retention rates – increasing the ROI on training and engagement initiatives

Finding a competitive advantage

Today, most companies recognize that culture is a trustworthy source of competitive advantage. While almost everything within a business is replicable – strategy, processes, tools – the one thing that can't be copied is your culture. Engagement is a guiding light as companies strive to hone and refine their culture. Both are critical and ultimately determine the fate of your organization.

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