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Business Journal
Few Workers Apply Their Company's Values to Their Jobs
Business Journal

Few Workers Apply Their Company's Values to Their Jobs

by Nate Dvorak and Bailey Nelson
Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • Culture is simply how employees interact and how work gets done
  • A significant part of any company's identity is its culture
  • Organizational identity has five significant drivers

This article is the second in a two-part series.

As the first article in this series reported, just 23% of U.S. employees strongly agree that they can apply their company's values to their work every day. And only 27% strongly agree that they "believe in" their company's values.

These findings suggest workers don't buy into their company's values and culture -- or what leaders say their company's values and culture are. In many companies, gaps exist between their desired culture -- the one leaders envision and strive to realize -- and the culture that employees experience. Though there are many different definitions of organizational culture, Gallup defines it as how employees interact and how work gets done.

The Five Drivers of Organizational Identity

Culture is one component of any organization's identity, which Gallup research shows has five significant drivers:

  • leadership and communication

  • values and rituals

  • human capital practices and policies

  • work teams and structures

  • performance

These drivers shape how employees conduct themselves, how leaders make decisions and how work gets done. Leaders can apply them to align employees with the company's desired culture and push the organization toward its ideal identity.

Leadership and communication. The ways that leaders define, embody and communicate the organization's aspirational identity can bridge the gap between what a company's culture is and what it could be. Leaders also influence whether employees will embody those values, especially with customers.

The messages employees receive should consistently guide their actions and behaviors and align them with the company's ideal culture. Actions always speak louder than words, and when leaders' actions, goals and policies don't agree with the company's purported identity, this creates mixed messages that confuse employees and stifle organizational progress.

Values and rituals. When it comes to organizational culture, values and rituals set the tone for how employees interact with others when representing the company. Culture starts with a differentiated, well-articulated purpose, and a company's values should align with its purpose as well. Values should be relevant to employees in everything from day-to-day tasks to companywide meetings.

For example, if a company's identity is focused on innovation, leaders should use companywide meetings to recognize workers who excel in new product development. Recognizing work that highlights specific values communicates an organization's desired identity to employees, fostering a culture focused on what matters most to the company.

Human capital. Businesses that seek to foster a culture that delivers on the company's brand promises must select, engage and develop employees in ways that introduce and reinforce the organization's desired identity. Too many companies establish their hiring, engagement and development programs in silos. While this approach can produce pockets of success, it doesn't support an overarching identity that differentiates the company from others.

For example, a new employee might be attracted to a company because it promises a culture of autonomy, only to be met with a demanding manager who micromanages projects. This kind of experience is highly disengaging. A disingenuous approach to managing employees ultimately affects customers when they are served by employees who don't believe in what they're selling or the organization they are representing.

Throughout the entire employee life cycle -- hiring, training and development, engagement, and promotion -- companies need to be consistent when delivering messages about what is unique and important to that organization.

Work teams and structures. A company's internal structure should support its strategy and desired culture. Structure dictates who communicates with whom, how frequently and on what topics. Processes and structure also affect how customers and employees perceive and experience the company.

Many companies maintain structures and processes based on what's worked in the past, rather than designing internal structures that bring its purpose to life and offer a competitive product or experience to customers. By intentionally crafting a corporate structure with purpose, brand and culture in mind, leaders can inspire employees to uplift the organization's desired identity.

Performance. Aligning a company's measurement and performance systems with its desired identity optimizes business performance. Everything from goal setting to accountability to incentives and recognition must encourage employees to fulfill the company's purpose, deliver on its brand promise and create a culture that promotes success. Misaligned measurements and incentives create confusion and inconsistency for employees and undermine customer experiences.

Many departments or teams implement initiatives without considering how well those programs align with the organization's identity. This approach results in silos that limit performance and stifle progress. Instead, leaders should objectively review their organizational identity and decide whether their performance systems and processes align -- then promote messages that are consistent with their desired identity.

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