Commentary: In today’s business climate, workplace culture offers the key competitive edge

(Courtesy photo) Doug Claffey, CEO of WorkplaceDynamics

Top Workplaces outperform average organizations on many levels, but one key distinction stands out: Leaders of Top Workplaces see the competitive advantage of creating a workplace culture in which employees are highly engaged.

And they make culture a strategic priority, day in and day out.

Every organization has a culture. Some are intentional, some accidental. Companies that claim culture as a priority but don’t back it up are just fooling themselves. Failing to focus on culture is how leaders lose their jobs and how companies cease to exist.

In fact, culture is the only remaining sustainable competitive advantage. Great business strategies can be copied, but culture cannot. When an organization’s culture fails, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes public and costly.

Nationwide, less than a third of employees are truly engaged at work. But it’s a different story at Top Workplaces. Of the 50,000 organizations Energage has surveyed in more than a decade, Top Workplaces achieve almost double the engagement rate. Companies that score in the top 10 percent on our surveys see engagement levels above 85 percent.

Of the 125 companies surveyed in Utah this year for the Top Workplaces program, 13 had engagement rates of 75 percent or higher.

Recognition and bragging rights aside, employee engagement translates into stronger retention, higher productivity and better performance. Employee engagement is the outcome of a healthy workplace culture. In today’s business environment, culture distinguishes the world’s most valuable companies. It’s where value is created or destroyed.

Leaders at Top Workplaces are intentional about defining and crafting a culture that directly supports specific business goals. Not that all cultures are the same. Even among Top Workplaces, some thrive on high energy and fun, while others benefit from quiet intensity. So ask yourself:

  • What defines your workplace culture?

  • How do you know?

  • Are you happy with it?  

  • Is it helping or hindering your business objectives?

Whenever I ask leaders these questions, the answers spur terrific discussions. The challenge is understanding how to measure culture and how to change it.

The most tangible measure of culture is employee engagement. Great workplace cultures flourish when a team of talented people shares an organization’s values and embraces its objectives. We look at these key factors in engagement:

  • As an employee, do you feel you are giving your best?

  • Do you want to stay?

  • Would you recommend the organization to others?

Strong cultures become self-sustaining: They attract like-minded people who will thrive in that environment. That’s why Top Workplaces can be picky about whom they bring onboard, whereas other organizations have to pay more money to keep people.

Creating a great workplace culture requires raising the level of trust and connection among employees so they commit their best every day. Top Workplaces do this, and they do it consistently well. So when leaders at aspiring organizations ask me how they, too, can capture this advantage, my answer is this: Get intentional about workplace culture.

Doug Claffey is the CEO of Energage, a Philadelphia-based research and consulting firm that surveyed more than 2.5 million employees at more than 6,000 organizations in 2017. Energage is the research partner for Top Workplaces.

For the fifth straight year, The Salt Lake Tribune has partnered with Energage Utah’s Top Workplaces.

To see the 2018 list, click here.