Distinguishing between individual engagement and culture.

Engagement and culture are hot topics today.  While they are related they are also too often talked about as though they are one in the same.  Engagement is an individual measure and culture is a collective measure.  In our research at Denison we often see a positive correlation between engagement scores and culture scores.  But not always.  Occasionally we find individuals who describe themselves as highly engaged, yet indicate the culture – the system – is dysfunctional. Conversely, we occasionally see a highly effective culture with lower levels of individual engagement. You may wonder how that can be.

High engagement, low culture: personal commitment with organizational ambiguity.

We have seen situations where individuals work for not-for-profits with a strong mission or well-known sports programs and entertainment brands, and reported that they were passionate about the work and highly engaged. However, as they got a peak behind the curtain they also reported a culture that was dysfunctional in many ways. Departments failed to communicate with each other, goals were unclear, customers were often an afterthought and employees were treated as though they were lucky to work there.

It’s possible that this kind of situation occurs in organizations that attract employees based on their prestige or their mission. Employees derive a sense of personal pride from being associated with a particular institution, or at least for the perceived brand that institution evokes. As an individual they are psyched to work there.  That can translate into high engagement scores based on the individual employee’s personal feelings about their job, even though the system operates at a subpar level.

High culture, low engagement: a well-run machine.

It’s also possible to have a high functioning system that can leave people feeling like a “cog in the machine.”  The system is effective and efficient, yet on a personal level employees believe they are unable to have much impact. In some ways this may seem like the lesser of two evils, as an efficient and functional culture holds a stronger competitive edge than one which engages but performs poorly.

However, this “cog in the machine” perception may result in employees feeling as though they are not important and unable to have much influence over how work gets done. It can lead to higher rates of turnover, as employees leave the organization to find a new place where their work is noticed and appreciated.  Stories of people leaving large, wildly successful tech firms and returning to start-ups in an effort to regain that entrepreneurial spirit are just one example.

Aligning engaged employees through culture.

Organizations and leaders that view culture and engagement as one in the same should think twice.  And those who think they can drive organizational performance simply by engaging the individual employee – beware.  Much has been made of late of the enormous investments in engagement over the past decade with little change in the overall engagement level of employees.  The ROI of engagement is in question.  Focusing exclusively on engagement could undermine the overall strength and performance of the system. However if you are fortunate enough to have highly engaged employees you should seek to connect that passionate workforce to the larger mission and align their efforts in support of the system.

Meanwhile, organizations with a clear and aligned culture but low engagement should do more to encourage and recognize individual impact. Invest in employee skills.  Provide them opportunities to work on critical projects.  Increase their decision making authority.  We’ve learned a lot about the culture – engagement connection and we welcome the opportunity to share more of what we’ve learned with you.

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Millennials standing around a table working togetherorganisational culture and climate: the difference between them.
Private Equity
As a CEO of a private equity firm, you know that firms with a strong, vibrant culture perform better in a highly competitive marketplace. Denison can work with you to build effective culture in all of your portfolio firms. Our assessment tools enable you to capture a clear picture of your current state. Our consulting expertise supports you in making the changes necessary to achieve superior financial performance. It’s about how you work as a team, how your policies meet practice within the culture of the organization, how performance aligns with your investment criteria.
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  • Provides a disciplined process and measureable action plan for
  • Offers hands-on strategic consulting to address gaps and affirm best
practices currently being used by your portfolio companies
improvement
Our approach:
Financial Services
In the financial sector, you are active in a wide variety of client environments that need to support accountability and the highest ethical standards. The trust that your customer places in your organization is dependent upon the culture that your employees exhibit every day.

You need a clear understanding of how your culture and the people in your organization function within the midst of the complexities of the current financial institutional marketplace. The Denison Model can give you that clarity. From brokerage firms, to retail banking, to institutional banking to insurance, Denison has specific, measurable benchmarking that identifies the strengths and weaknesses of your organization. With this baseline diagnostic, our consulting team can support you to put in place action plans to sustain your high standards and see financial performance improvement.
Manufacturing
The manufacturing environment is constantly being tasked with improvement in quality and delivery while maintaining the highest levels of safety. The Denison Model equips you to reach from the senior leadership team to the shop floor in a globally networked manufacturing environment to build a culture oriented to continuous improvement in these mission critical areas.

Through our consultancy services, we work with a broad cross-section of your technical and operational staff to align around the goal of producing the highest quality products in the world--on time and on budget.
Healthcare
Within the healthcare market, high performance is measured primarily in patient outcomes. The marriage of the institution with doctors, support staff and operational teams is key to achieving best-in-class patient outcomes. Denison works with you to achieve these outcomes by building a culture that is tuned to the unique ecosystem of support that patients require.

Our organizational culture assessment based on the Denison Model is a proven approach that has supported healthcare providers with actionable feedback for decades. Against four core drivers of cultural high performance, the assessment identifies what is going well and clarifies challenges you may be facing. Then our consulting team is able to support you in addressing these challenges with action plans tailored to your inclusive and diverse environment.
Case Study
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Education
At Denison, student outcomes are well understood as the goal of every educational organization. Our consulting expertise and diagnostic tools allow your team to more fully understand, articulate and implement your mission. You will gain a collective understanding of your organization’s strengths, weaknesses and challenges benchmarked against other peer institutions, all targeted toward providing students with the best learning environment.

Then, through Action Planning, we will work with you to improve your academic and operational excellence to support the diverse student learning environment of higher education, K-12 schools and related associations.
Retail
As a retailer, you know that culture drives the customer experience of your organization. The hospitality, support, and follow-up lived out by your staff all make the difference in each interaction with a consumer. It's that experience that really drives what your behavior should be.

Denison allows you to understand how your organization can support the customer experience. We provide you data that helps you understand your organization all the way through checkout. And we provide sustainable support programs that enable you to address the challenges you face to attract and retain loyal brand customers and to ensure superior financial performance.
Restaurants
Smart restaurant owners know that the patron experience is driven by the culture of their organization. The hospitality, support, and follow-up lived out by your culinary and waitstaff all make the difference in each dish you serve. You know that it is the patron’s needs and expectations that really drive what your team’s behavior should be on the floor.

Denison allows you to understand how your organization is positioned to support the patron experience. We provide you benchmarked data from across the food industry that helps you understand your organization right to the final after-dinner mint. And we provide sustainable support programs that enable you to address the challenges you face to attract and retain loyal brand customers and to ensure superior financial performance.
Government
To achieve high performance in a government initiative requires a different understanding of metrics of success. Typical financial results of business, like sales growth or ROI, are not the KPIs measured here. Rather it is advancement of the mission.

For example, Denison supports military men and women in action through our work with the Defense Logistics Agency (DOA). We provide core culture assessment and an improvement program that helps this department maintain a strong culture to fulfill their mission--addressing everything needed to support fighting men and women in combat through readiness preparation.
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Technology
Because of the ever-increasing pace in the introduction of new technology and shortening of technology life-cycle, having a culture fluent in adaptability is critical. These factors all drive the need to recoup costs and show profit more and more quickly. Being able to seamlessly change business models to drive market expansion, product acceptance and superior performance is absolutely critical in this high-potential return but volatile market. Talent is also at a premium.

Based on diagnostics structured through the Denison Model, our consultancy team will help you build a culture that knows who it is and who best will fit your organization. With this alignment, you gain a competitive edge in attracting and retaining the engineers, researchers and innovators you need to lead in introducing market-changing innovation.
Transportation
Whether you deal with business travelers, tourists, or products in the supply chain, safety and schedule reliability are two of the key deliverables. For decades, Denison has worked with leaders in the transportation industry, helping transform organizations in the face of changing markets and technologies, to ensure consumer safety and satisfaction, as well as bottom-line business success.

When you bring Denison on board, our experienced consultants help you make decisions and plans based on data benchmarked against the global industry. We put your organization on the path to high performance, with measurable benefits to your bottom line.
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