laciI just finished talking with Erin Osterhaus, Managing Editor at The New Talent Times, who shared with me her thoughts on the criticality of employee engagement in building a high-performance culture.

I just finished reading Kevin Sheridan’s book, Building a Magnetic Culture: How to Attract and Retain Top Talent to Create an Engaged, Productive Workforce. Kevin talks about some of today’s hottest companies, like Google, PepsiCo, Groupon, and others—and how a good portion of their success is directly attributable to how they attract and retain the highest performers by nurturing their unique workplace culture.

And I just finished writing (publishing very soon!) Brandon Hall Group’s analytics-based perspective on how businesses get the greatest business success by leveraging culture as a driver to virtually every dimension of high-performance talent management — attracting, managing, developing, motivating, engaging, and retaining top talent. These organizations have what I refer to as a  “WoooHooo!” Culture. As shared in our latest leadership and talent management research, “WoooHooo!” Culture organizations outperform their “non-WoooHooo” counterparts on virtually every business metric — revenue per head, turnover in key talent positions and, yep, employee engagement, which happens to be one of the greatest indicators of cultural success.

Sheridan invests some time in his book describing three types of employees: actively engaged, ambivalent, and actively disengaged. While I tend to believe that most organizations are afflicted with the three-types (not two) camp, it feels to me like the better descriptor is 5-90-5: 5 percent do the heavy lifting to create a magic culture and thus leading the organization to higher levels of performance; 90 percent show up; and 5 percent well, they don’t even show up – they just collect a paycheck.  The point is, if you are interested in staying ahead of your competition for the long haul, you need to figure out how to migrate your employee population to the two-camp model and have the 90 percent join the first 5 percent (and just write off the last 5 much like your financial organizations writes off bad debt). To improve your odds of moving to the 95-5 model, create a “WoooHooo!” Culture.

To build it, high-performing organizations (HPOs) have just three items on this year’s holiday wish list – the critical three dimensions of a “WoooHooo!” Culture: the work environment that attracts the top performers, engages them, and retains them. To build a “WoooHooo! Culture,” leaders and managers at HPOs:

  • Instill trust: Employees feel valued when they are invited to share their ideas, feelings, and opinions. They do that only when they feel they can trust their senior leadership and their peers. Nurturing and building an environment of trust starts by communicating regularly and transparently about business challenges and goals and sharing with employees what the planned solutions are.
  • Listen proactively: Trustworthiness climbs and culture continues to improve when employees feel listened to. Invite their opinion. Get them involved in generating solutions. Listen, really listen, when they offer ideas. Better yet, when their ideas are invaluable, execute them and let them know you acted on their ideas. This builds a shared understanding of your company’s future and involves employees authentically in charting and sustaining a course for success.
  • Recognize relentlessly: Focusing on employees’ quick wins and highlighting success stories about their invaluable ideas will keep morale high and engagement soaring. Every one of us is subject to productivity lapses and poor attitudes when doom and gloom prevails in our workplaces, virtual or physical. Acknowledging a contributing employee in a company meeting, writing a quick thank you email or text (and copying her manager), and showcasing contributors’ names on a public list for all to see are very inexpensive and highly effective means of recognition.

If your new year’s resolution is to be long on business results, then keep your 2013 holiday wish list short – just these three items. Doing so will rally more employees working together to achieve more….to build a “WoooHooo! Culture.” Creating that culture is your ticket to entry for optimized performance and new levels of business success next year.

Happy holidays!

Laci Loew

A principal talent analyst and consultant with Brandon Hall Group, Laci is expert in all areas of human capital management particularly talent management, leadership, leadership development, and succession management. She has worked in the public and private sectors consulting global and matrix Fortune companies across all industries on integrated talent initiatives. Laci holds a bachelor of science from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; earned her MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management; and is currently a PhD candidate in organizational psychology. Laci’s hometown is Chicago and she is based in Las Vegas.

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