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Employees enjoying company culture
4 Min Read

Company Culture Definition Through the Lens of Engagement


People love to talk about company culture. It’s a hot topic at networking events; a common question on “top company awards” applications; and a common inquiry from interviewees and new employees. But what is the true company culture definition? Does anyone actually know what they’re talking about? Have we been so mesmerized by the over-the-top cultures of Google and Facebook that we’re unsure how it applies to our own organizations?

Social cultures around the world don’t spring up overnight, and neither do those within a company. Instead of making flashy gestures to try and “manufacture” a company culture, it’s important to start with the basics.

Our Company Culture Definition

It’s hard to explain a term as broad as “company culture.” Company culture means something different to each organization. That’s what makes cultures unique. Perhaps it’s better to start with what it’s NOT:

  • It’s not simply office perks and benefits like snacks and foosball.
  • It’s not an office mandate or rule book, handed down from company leaders.
  • It’s not built using an exact formula.

Harvard Business School professor and author Clayton Christiansen believes:

“Culture is a way of working together toward common goals that have been followed so frequently and so successfully that people don’t even think about trying to do things another way. If a culture has formed, people will autonomously do what they need to do to be successful.”

A company makes hundreds (if not thousands) of decisions every day. Over time, these decisions form collective norms. These norms are a component of corporate culture. They’re what make us say “it’s how we do things here.”

If we work backward from that concept and incorporate company mission and values along the way, I believe we’ll end up with something that resembles, determines, and influences the employee experience and collective organizational culture.

But is simply having company culture good enough? Can it stand on its own?

Culture vs. Engagement: Understanding the Difference

Just because you can define and point to your company culture doesn’t mean your organization is healthy. Cultures will be formed whether you want them to or not, meaning that it’s just as possible to have a poor internal culture as it is to have a positive one.

People tend to lump corporate culture and employee engagement into one entity. But they’re not the same thing. Engagement is an outcome of culture and a measurement of culture’s effect on the employee experience. The employee experiences you create out of the norms of the company affect what’s going on in each employee’s head and heart, which are key components in defining employee engagement. Think of it this way:

Company Culture: “This is how we do things around here.”

Employee Engagement: “This is how I feel about how we do things around here.”

How your employees respond to your internal culture and their resulting engagement has the power to influence your organization’s business success, making it crucial to invest in improving and maintaining culture by way of engagement.

Build a Better Culture by Measuring Engagement

Is it possible to define a strategy for your culture? Not exactly. Culture is organic and collective, not defined from the top down. But is it possible to influence or affect culture? Absolutely. The best way to start is to assess how your employees function within your culture by measuring their engagement.

At Emplify, we help you put a number on your employees’ engagement as an indicator of the health and effectiveness of your company culture. Through a series of psychometrically valid annual and quarterly surveys, we provide clear, reliable insights that company leaders can use to target employee disengagement, make improvements, and ultimately increase productivity and revenue. With the help of an Emplify engagement expert, your Emplify Scorecard helps you determine and prioritize where to make changes throughout the business and benchmarks your culture against measures that will actually improve it through the lens of engagement instead of arbitrary “perks.”

You don’t need to have a set definition of company culture in order to build it. Examine the elements that help your company and its employees make decisions every day, and if they’re not exemplary of the environment you want to create, measure and make adjustments at the foundational level to build a culture you can be proud of from the ground up.

See how other companies build exceptional cultures by checking out our Ultimate Guide to Company Culture Examples!