What Do We Mean When We Talk About Culture and the Employee Journey?

The term “culture” gets used a lot in organizations – and although culture isn’t a buzzword it does seem to have a fungible meaning that can make it seem more like marketing speak than an actual, viable piece of any workplace strategy. However, just because a term may be overused it does not mean it is unimportant – and company culture has more importance than many realize. The term has an informal definition that most of us recognize, something about shared beliefs and values, but the idea of formalizing culture within an organization goes much deeper than that. Each organization is different, and so each organization’s formal definition of their culture will be different but it always involves actions and behaviors of leadership and employees. After all, what is the point of a set of shared values if they don’t impact the way day-to-day activities are carried out in your organization? The key thing about company culture is that it can be observed, and if done correctly, it can be directed and strengthened in a direction that affects the employee journey – another term that often gets used without a full understanding of its meaning. The employee journey can mean the literal journey (their trip to work can have an impact on their mood and behaviors for that day and thus interactions with co-workers, clients, customers, etc.), but it can also mean their journey within your organization. The employee journey is deeply intertwined with the employee experience and the organizational culture in ways that are too often overlooked because the demands of the day don’t allow us to use systems thinking to see all of the ways that these concepts interact and affect your entire business. To give one example, a large hospital in the United States was having trouble retaining employees with many of them citing burnout from commute and work/life balance issues. The hospital changed their hiring practices to find closer candidates but didn’t account for traffic patterns which can have more of an effect on tardiness than distance. After that, they tried moving employees in a rotation due to doctors’ complaints about late workers, but did not see the inherent struggle between having doctors, who are not trained in performance evaluations being the direct supervisors of these employees in the first place (culture and experience). Lastly, they provided reimbursements for public transportation without researching into how those schedules would disrupt childcare or other work/life balance issues that were already precarious. The good news is the hospital did eventually get everything figured out and put positive programs in place to systematically address underlying issues, but the point is that without a clear understanding of the connection between your organization’s culture, the employee experience, and the employee journey, any organization will waste time and resources that would have been better spent laying the groundwork of defining where they are, where they need to be, and how this will impact an underlying business issue. Because regardless of how you define these terms, successful employees lead to successful businesses, and that is a shared value. Kevin Harry Managing Partner The BCJ Group