Over the years, I have probably read and then reviewed about 65-70 books in which their authors discuss one or more aspects of organizational culture. A few address employee engagement. Hopefully, a high percentage of those who share a workplace — at all levels and in all areas of operation — are positively and productively engaged. In fact, according to recent research by firms such as Gallup and TowersWatson, the average percentage in U.S. workplaces is less than 30%.
In my opinion, Beryl Companies offers the single best example of a company that continues to possess, indeed celebrate its culture of engagement. To learn more about Beryl, I highly recommend a book written by its founder and CEO, Paul Spiegelman: Why is Everyone Smiling?: The Secret Behind Passion, Productivity, and Profit.
What follows hardly qualifies as scientific research with definitive analysis. I have selected a baker’s dozen of what seem to be the essential elements, based on what I have learned from dozens of primary sources, including Paul and his company:
1. The power of one: Each person matters. Check that, each person really matters.
2. The power of team: “Together, we know much more and can do much more than any one of us can.”
3. Solution orientation: Each person is empowered to solve problems or obtain the help needed to solve problems.
4. Trust, honesty and transparency: These are the core values by which everyone lives and labors.
5. Celebration of learning: Each failure as well as each success is a precious learning opportunity, with lessons shared.
6. Development and training: These are twin processes by which to achieve personal growth and professional improvement.
7. Clarity of communication: Everyone knows what they need to know; also, the intended meaning of whatever is communicated is identical with what the recipient thinks has been communicated.
8. Embracing all kinds of diversity: The “melting pot” metaphor is all wrong. Think in terms of a salad or a symphony. Each single part is essential but no single part is sufficient.
9. Be customer-driven: Peter Drucker said it best, “Without customers, there is no business.” However, as Southwest Airlines’ retired chairman and CEO, Herb Kelleher, suggests, “If you take great care of your people, they will take great care of your customers, and your customers will then take great care of your shareholders.
10. Networking and connectivity initiatives: The primary objectives are sharing, helping, supporting, giving, encouraging, protecting, etc. those in need, both within and beyond the given enterprise.
11. Time to think, dream, and create: Time is the only resource that is not renewable. Ample time is set aside time to renew mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual energy, energy that should be committed only to what is most important.
12. Ownership empowerment: Those who have earned the respect and trust of their colleagues are expected to take ownership of questions to be answered, problems to be solved, opportunities to be seized, etc. Over time, others who provide the support needed will also earn the respect and trust of their colleagues. Ideally, all members of an organization are equal owners. In reality, that is a journey rather than a destination.
13. Physical space: Everything in a physical workplace has been eliminated that wastes human energy, discourages interaction between and among people, and creates discomfort and distraction. Here’s a key question: “What can we do to make our physical workplace more appealing in terms of the five senses: what we see, hear, touch, taste, and smell?”