There is an undeniable connection between employee engagement and performance. This is evidenced by the culture-focused organisations that top the lists of best places to work, where employees often cite great leaders, excellent pay, and a challenging but rewarding environment. And while many of these same organisations also demand high performance from their employees, culture and engagement are often the foundation on which high performance is built.


It seems more organisations are starting to recognise the strategic benefits of culture; however, according to a report by Aon Hewitt, a global human capital consulting firm, many organisations fail to articulate their culture as it relates to value creation. This does not mean these schools, academies, and businesses ignore their culture. On the contrary, nearly half of the organisations surveyed identified culture alignment as a top priority. Where they fall short is in creating a useful definition of culture that aligns with “value creation,” and implementing a plan to create and sustain the culture needed for organisational success.


In other words: Most organisations that claim to value culture alignment fail to make the connection between culture and the work done within the organisation. But culture is all about the work. It’s about defining what’s important to your organisation, how you behave and how decisions are made. For instance, organisations that value innovation, experimentation and learning, are also the same organisations that develop and distribute leadership.


It should come as no surprise that Aon found that engagement and culture create “virtuous cycles” that bolster performance.


The report notes:

“In companies where culture is aligned with strategy, 44% more employees are engaged, and twice as many employees will stay. In companies with misaligned cultures, 71% of employees are either passive or actively disengaged and 75% of employees are likely to leave. Conversely, employee engagement creates and reinforces culture through the behaviors people engage in. These reinforcing mechanisms can create optimal performance conditions where great culture creates engagement in value-creating behaviors—and vice versa.”


The lesson? If you want to develop a high-performance culture, you must first understand the associated traits. Some of these traits include, accountability, strong communication, clear expectations, and steady focus on goals. By contrast the traits associated with low performance include short-sightedness, reactivity, low accountability, poor communication, and being too task-oriented.


Which characteristics best describe your organisation? If your organisation looks more like the second set of traits, the good news is that now you know, and that’s where change begins.