Organizational Culture Defines Engagement

Dr. MaryJo Burchard works in the East Coast office of MasterMinds Leadership to help leaders clarify and focus on what's most important to them, optimizing their personal and professional effectiveness through data-driven coaching and training. “The greatest gift we can give to others is genuine care and connection,” said Burchard. As an integral part of the MasterMinds Leadership team, she continues to develop resources to help people map out their contribution and needs in times of upheaval, change, and crisis.

This is Part 3 of the Dr. Burchard Interview Series, and MaryJo discusses how organizational culture defines employee engagement.

Part 2 discussed the process of change readiness, as an individual and as an organization, and you can read that article here.

Part 1 focused on her background and her holistic human perspective in her work, and you can read that article here.

In the fourth and final part of the Dr. Burchard Interview Series, MaryJo discusses how to motivate a diverse work environment. Read here.

Interview – Part 3

Q: When we think about either challenging the culture, confirming or reinforcing the culture, that really turns our mind to thinking about the importance of organizational culture. What kind of return have you seen that for organizations that invest in building stronger cultures for work?

Dr. Burchard: I think it depends on how they approach it. Setting out to change a culture is tricky. You are not going to get the same return on investing in everyone equally. Maximize your efforts: look for the influencers, the role models who already behave like the culture you want. These are the people others are watching – the people who already represent what you want everyone to be. Invest in and celebrate those people. Pour into them. Celebrate and reinforce those targeted behaviors and interactions that they are already reflecting. Invest in them, and watch the ripple effect on the culture.

As a leader, you emulate what you want others to be. But you’re just one person. So publicly reinforce others who emulate the same values. Since you cannot be everywhere, that is the way you can build a stronger culture. Find the people that already have a positive influence, and then they will do the work you can’t do because you cannot be everywhere.

Redefining Organizational Culture

Q: Jo, representing Regent University’s School of Business and Leadership, you were featured in several interviews on the Hampton Roads Business Weekly series on TV in Virginia for your work on employee engagement, understanding motivation, and play in the workplace as a stimulus for creativity and happiness in the workplace. Those interview segments have continued to be replayed for several years. What is it about these topics that makes people want to learn more?

Dr. Burchard: One of the strongest messages of Hampton Roads Business Weekly in general, which is also reflected in those segments – is the affirmation that “the little guys” can creatively compete for top talent with “the big guys” by being the good guys. Things like kindness and happiness and making room for play in the workplace are huge selling points. For so long, “productivity” was synonymous with “no-nonsense.” Traditionally, the idea of play in the workplace has been a no-no, something people do in secret to let off steam or stay sane when nobody is looking. Showing research that an atmosphere of intentional play in the workplace can actually promote productivity still surprises people. It challenges traditional ways we approach work.

The idea that building employee engagement does not have to cost a lot of money can also be affirming. Mom-and-pops that can't compete with the gym memberships or in-house cafés can have a loyal, fully engaged "work family” by caring and connecting meaningfully to each person. That’s priceless.

Money Isn't Everything

Leaders and organizations of every size need to be reminded that human beings are motivated by so much more than money. Learning what motivates people requires taking the time to see them. Search for clues that give them meaning: ask who the people are in the pictures on their wall, or what the is story is behind their tattoo, or what that lapel pin on their jacket means. Give people an opportunity to shine about the things that are most precious in their lives, and they will engage. That doesn’t cost any money. It’s so simple, and yet so powerful.

A high budget can be helpful in fostering engagement, but a low budget doesn’t have to mean low engagement. This is great news to the “little guys,” who may have assumed that they’re just not big enough, rich enough, or fancy enough to attract top talent, and it is absolutely not true. If you have compassion and vision for others, you can compete.

Many gifted people would rather be highly valued and adequately paid than highly paid and under-appreciated. I think that could be why those segments have been replayed. Small companies and organizations need the affirmation that can compete without the fanciest name or budget if they give people the things that matter most.

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