The Difference Between Company Culture and Employee Engagement

Employee engagement and company culture go hand-in-hand, but there are some distinct differences between the two. Join Chris Lennon as he discusses the disparities between the two and how to leverage them together to help your company thrive. This webinar will cover:

  • Ways to boost employee engagement
  • Employee engagement trends
  • Company culture pitfalls to avoid
  • BirdDogHR’s strategies for engaged employees and a thriving company culture


ANN TORRY: Good afternoon and good morning, everyone! Welcome to today’s webinar titled “The Difference Between Company Culture and Employee Engagement.” We are really glad that you joined us today. My name is Ann Torry and I’m from BirdDogHR. I’ll be the moderator for today’s session. I would like to quickly cover some event housekeeping items at this time. You may have noticed that you entered this online session in an audio silent mode. Therefore, if you have questions throughout the presentation, please use your Q&A box to submit those and I will ask those to our presenter at the end of the session. Also, today’s session will be recorded and available to all attendees after the webinar.

In addition, we’re really excited to offer this webinar for a one-hour HRCI CEU credit. For those of you interested in taking advantage of the CEU, please make sure you stay on the webinar for the entire duration and we will email you the activity code later this week.

So, as we’re waiting for a few more people to join, I did want to share just a little bit more about BirdDogHR. In 2017, we’re celebrating our 20th year in business and we were just named to the Inc. 5000 “Fastest Growing Companies” list for the third year in a row. We started with roots in recruiting software and job distribution, and evolved into a full talent management solution. Our presenter, Chris, and I have been working with online HR solutions for over a decade, so we have quite a few stories to share about culture, engagement and how they can help or hinder company growth. Chris is an active participant in the talent management community, bringing over 18 years of experience to BirdDogHR. He has presented at numerous industry events and has been quoted as an industry expert in Talent Management Magazine, CLO Magazine and New Talent Times.

Here’s Chris.

CHRIS LENNON: Thank you, Ann, and thank you to everybody else for joining today. So, like many of you, I’ve worked at companies where the culture is amazing, and employees are engaged, and you get a lot done. I’ve also worked at companies where I wouldn’t speak quite so positively about the culture or engagement. Companies where engagement and culture [unintelligable] toward the end, and I’ll explain more about that in a little bit in a story later on in culture. We often associate engagement to a positive culture — and vice versa — but they aren’t the same thing. They do circle around each other and they play with each other like dance partners, but they’re not the same thing.

Employee engagement is the feelings that individuals have toward their work at the company. It reflects how motivated they are and how bought-in they are as an employee to the organization and to their role there. Whereas organization culture is the behavior of the organization that it displays as a collective. This behavior is the response that your, like, your organization “operating system,” for example. The unique structures, the processes, communication methods and everything that the organization creates that sends signals to the employees on how they should behave to be accepted within that organization.

So, the difference is important to understand if you want to influence either engagement or culture. Having highly engaged employees can help you drive culture, and then the culture can influence how engaged your employees are. But there are many nuances that both culture and engagement have. Knowing which element you need to focus on is important in order to ensure that you’re turning the right dials for the outcome that you desire.

So, we’re going to start with employee engagement first. And, before we kick it off, we’re going to give a poll. So, Ann, whenever you’re ready go ahead and kick off the poll. The poll, for you as attendees, is to rate your perception of the employee engagement level at your company. Is it off-the-charts high? Is it very good? Is it okay? Is it, eh…less than okay? Or, so bad that even your company mascot is asleep on the job?

So, while we’re waiting for those results to come back, I will tell you little bit about employee engagement and what it can do for your organization. Ann, did you — how are we doing on the poll, by the way?

ANN TORRY: We are doing really well. We’ll give people just a few more seconds here and then we’ll go ahead and close and share. So, I’m ready to share the results.

CHRISS LENNON: Okay, excellent. So, with the results it looks like 0% said it was off-the-charts high. 26% said it was very good. 50% said it’s okay. 22% said, eh…it’s less than okay and only 2% of you have sleeping mascots. So, that’s good. So, it’s very set right in the middle. I mean, it’s almost split right down the center, with 50% of you right in the middle of the road and the other, you know, 50% above and below that by one nugget. So, that’s pretty amazing but it’s not necessarily surprising.

So, Ann, if you want to go ahead and close the poll, I’ll go ahead and continue sharing my screen. Perfect, thank you. Okay, so as we start talking about engagement, I do want to go through some statistics. This will help us get a better understanding of the impact that employee engagement can have. So, I want to look at the numbers and I have to warn you: there might be a lot, so bear with me. Don’t fall asleep. They’re all important and I promise I’ll get out of the numbers pretty soon.

So, before I get any further I want to stop and ask a question: Why is this topic worthy of a webinar? Because it’s a topic that people are talking about, certainly. If you go to Google Analytics and search for searches in the HR space, a lot of people are asking questions about engagement and culture. But why now? Why are we talking about engagement now in terms of 2017? Has something happened that’s caused this fervor? Well, let’s look. The next couple of slides compare the change over the last 10 years, so I decided to look to see what’s going on in 2017 that maybe wasn’t happening in 2007. So, I have a report from PeopleMetrics Employee Engagement Trends Report that has 2007 data, and Dale Carnegie Employee Engagement Study with 2017 data. So, they’re two different studies — so keep that in mind — but I think the data is certainly relevant.

The number of engaged employees — so those that were very engaged or mostly engaged — went from 34% to 29% in the last 10 years. That doesn’t seem like a huge shift, but this one is shocking: Actively disengaged employees. The number of actively disengaged jumped from 13% in 2007 to 26% in 2017. So, those of you that I answered the poll — it fits with what you were saying. A lot of you are in that belief that, yep, you have a lot more employees that are not as engaged as you would like them to be. Virgin Pulse, which is a company that focuses on engagement, has indicated that 88% of businesses plan to focus on employee engagement. So, clearly, employee engagement is seen as a critical issue today in 2017.

Okay, so employees are disengaged. What’s the driver behind that from a business standpoint? Well, let me tell you a little bit about some benefits if you have engaged employees. First, we see that companies with engaged employees are at least 20% more productive and profitable than those that aren’t. Further research from The Hay Group indicates that a company can have two and a half times more revenue than its competitors that have low engagement. And customer satisfaction — we know customer satisfaction goes up when you have engaged employees.

Remember the definition I gave for employee engagement: it reflects how motivated and bought-in an employee is to the organization and their role there. When employees are engaged, they care more about the success of the company. They see how their job impacts the company. They see how their interaction with customers makes a greater impact for those customers and more importantly impact on the company. So, those who interact with customers, they generally feel a greater sense and stake in making the customers happy. According to Gallup, companies that have engaged employees, they see a jump in customer satisfaction ratings by 10%.

Alright, you ready? Poll number two. Ann, if you can pull up poll number two…

This poll: How would you describe employee retention at your company? How would you describe employee retention at your company? First option: No one ever intentionally leaves our company. Option number two: Most employees want to stay here. Option number three: It’s not great but it’s not horrible either. Option number four: We lose more than I’m comfortable with. And, option number five: We have a real problem with employee retention.

So, go ahead if you haven’t already responded to the poll. I see a couple more answers coming in. Ann, how’s it going on your side?

ANN TORRY: Yeah, it looks really good. A great majority have voted, and you’ve got a great audience. These people know about employee engagement and company culture, so good job you guys. We’ll close it and share the results.

CHRIS LENNON: Awesome. Okay, so let’s look at those results. 53% are in that kind of middle-high road area, where most employees want to stay there. That’s great. That’s actually really good. 21% of you say, “it’s not great, but it’s not horrible.” And, equally so, 21% say, “we lose more than I’m comfortable with.” And, unfortunately, there is 6% of you that, you think you have a real problem. Interestingly, no one selected the very top option of “no one ever leaves intentionally” and it’s probably because I made that really definitive maybe we should have lightened up on that a little bit. But, good job! It looks like a lot of you — a lot of your employees — choose to stay there and you feel like you have a pretty good handle on retention.

So, we can go ahead and close the poll, Ann, and I’ll continue on with the presentation.

So, the reason I asked the poll about employee retention is I want to correlate employee retention along with engagement. So, why do employees quit? It’s all about the monies, right? It’s all about the dollars. Actually, it’s not. Compensation is not the top reason people quit. There are several other factors that matter a lot more, including work-life balance. Advancement opportunities within the organization. They have to have mutual trust — they pay attention to things like mutual trust. They pay attention to things like office relationships and they also care about recognition. I’ll talk about that a little bit later as well. The interesting thing about office relationships: I actually saw a study that said employees are more likely to stay within the company if they feel like they have personal relationships with their co-workers, and you’ll see that as kind of a trend throughout the presentation today as well.

Still on the topic of retention: 37% relates to the number of engaged employees who are out there looking for jobs or watching for opportunities. So, this is not surprising, because 37% of your people are out there — if somebody contacts them and says, “Hey, are you interested in a job?” — they’re at least going to listen and hear what the opportunity is. But, they’re not necessarily actively looking. They’re just kind of one of those “casual shoppers,” if you will.

However, 56% of your employees that are not engaged are out there looking for jobs. And, of your employees that are completely disengaged, 73% of them are actively looking for a job — and let’s be honest, if 73% of your disengaged employees are looking for a job, that’s not horrible. But — because you don’t necessarily want a disengaged employee working there — the point, though, is you don’t want to lose all of your staff, so you want to make sure that the majority of your staff are not disengaged. Because, as we know, the cost of losing an employee is high, right? According to SHRM, it’s about 38% of the employee’s annual salary to replace them.

The benefit is, if you have — for companies that traditionally have high turnover — if you have engaged employees, a high percentage of engaged employees, your turnover rate decreases by 25%. If you are a company with traditionally low turnover rates, you will see that spike to 65% lower turnover if you have a highly-engaged workforce. So, again, this reinforces: you want a highly-engaged workforce!

Okay, we’re coming out of the statistics. I promised we would. Hopefully you’re not asleep.

I’ve beaten you up with statistics enough; let’s talk about the next steps. So, first, how do you gauge your current engagement levels? The most common way to measure employee engagement — let’s see if you can guess. Raise your hand if you thought it was employee surveys. You are absolutely correct. Employee surveys are the way that — oh, I’ve got them right up there on the slide, the words, so that was cheating! Surveys ask employees how they feel about their engagement, and that’s great. That’s a wonderful place to start. It’s the most common. The thing with surveys: When you ask employees about their engagement, you are asking them to subjectively evaluate their feelings and you are reporting on those through the survey — and again that that’s a great place to start.

Most companies use an annual survey. I would highly encourage you to look at the option of doing “pulse” surveys, which are more frequent employee surveys. And, depending on the size of your company, it doesn’t have to be every employee every single time. Pulse surveys work really well, if you have enough employees, to get a random mix of employees and you periodically ask them similar questions, to generally fewer employees. But, if you want, if you’re the size of BirdDogHR, you can ask every two months about how they’re doing as an employee.

You can ask them the number of network connections and the time they spend with people outside of their immediate team or region. So, I mentioned this in one of my earlier slides about having personal relationships. This isn’t quite about having a personal relationship, but it’s about having relationships throughout the company, not just in their own little silo. And, again, building a broad network beyond the core team is a sign of high engagement.

You can ask them the percentage of participation in ad-hoc meetings versus recurring meetings and processes. When they participate only in highly-structured events, that can be an indicator of low engagement. If they are participating in a lot of ad-hoc meetings and initiatives, that means that they are, again, engaging and they care about their job. Obviously, there’s a balance — you don’t want your employees in meetings eight hours a day, but you get the understanding. You can have a good idea of ad-hoc meetings versus scheduled meetings.

Next: Time spent collaborating directly with customers outside of the normal scope of work. This, and other measures like it, can be an indication of how highly engaged people are to help their colleagues, even though they might not get credit for it. So, again, another lead indicator.

So, these are examples of the types of things that you can drill down a little bit deeper than the subjective questions that you’re asking your employee. It gives you a little bit deeper evidence of how engaged your employees are.

So, if your employees are engaged, you can tell because you’re going to see things like — key indicators — things like enthusiasm. Your employees are more enthusiastic about their work. You can feel that. You can see that when you talk to them.

They’re going to seem inspired. They are motivated by their leaders. They’re going to seem empowered. Employees that are allowed to do work their way — they’re given the autonomy to make decisions and move forward with their work, independent of having to check in with a manager every two days, for example, or every two hours. They also seem confident because the employees are sure that they can achieve excellence.

So, those are four key indicators of engaged employees.

So, we’ve talked about the benefits of engaged employees and we’ve talked about how to measure engagement. We’ve even discussed key indicators, so you can tell if your employees are engaged or not. But, how do you influence employee engagement? So, now you like, “Okay, Chris, my employees are, you know, kind of engaged.” Like most of you said on the poll results, you’re kind of in that middle area. You want you want to bump it up. How do you do that? According to Josh Bersin, who is from Deloitte, there are five key elements that drive engagement.

First: Meaningful Work. This was alluded to in the previous slide. Autonomy. They have — they are selected to fit the work that they’re working on. They work in small, empowered teams. They have a little bit of time for slack.

Hands-On Management: Management has clear transparent goals for their employees. Management is available for coaching and investing in management opportunities or development opportunities. Modern performance management. Take note of that: I will speak to that one a little bit later.

Positive Work Environment: A flexible work environment — maybe they have families. Maybe they need to periodically go home and make sure their kids come home from school. They have to pick them up from school. Things like that. That helps drive engagement. A humanistic workplace. A culture of recognition. Again, there’s the word “recognition.” Inclusive, diverse workforce environment.

Growth Opportunity: You are providing training. You are facilitating talent mobility within your organization. They have the opportunity for self-directed learning.

And, number five, Trust in Leadership: Trust that the leadership is following or has a mission and a purpose — the company has a mission and a purpose — that’s set forth by the leadership. That they’re continuously investing in their people. That they’re transparent and honest and that they’re inspirational.

So, I mentioned before, in an earlier slide, that people don’t leave because of money, they leave because they aren’t engaged. In a study from Dale Carnegie, they’ve concluded that the drivers of employee engagement are, in fact, people-related — and this reinforces what many of us already know: Employees don’t leave companies, they leave people. Most employees who are dissatisfied with their direct manager were also — “shockingly” — disengaged. Most employees who lack confidence in the abilities of senior leadership are also not fully engaged. So, this reinforces what Bersin said on my previous slide, and highlights the criticality of having strong relationships with employees.

I saw this infographic a while back — maybe a year ago, I don’t know, it’s hard to remember sometimes — but this was created by and I’m very specifically putting that website up there. I encourage you to seek out this infographic. It’s a nice refresher for me, especially for those of us that are managers, to refer to periodically just as a reminder of the things that we want to focus on with our employees. I want to focus on the top four, specifically. I’m not going to read all of this slide to you, but I do want to point out the top four.

You can see how the proportion of highly-engaged employees experience on the left compared to those that are disengaged experience. 92% of engaged employees — easy for me to say — 92% of engaged employees have had someone to talk to them about their progress. 97% said someone encouraged them about their development. 88% have been recently praised. 98% have the opportunity to learn and grow. So, again, I encourage you to go find that infographic, print it out, keep it at your desk if you have employees working for you.

Also, I was watching an episode of ‘Firing Line’ with Bill Kutik. If you haven’t seen this, this is also another thing that I would encourage you to do. You can go to YouTube, type in “Firing Line” or type in “Bill Kutik” and you’ll get a bunch of videos where he’s interviewing HR practitioners, HR analysts. And, in this particular one, he was interviewing George LaRocque. In this particular conversation, the thing that I found most intriguing when I was listening to it was the quote that “engagement happens when managers talk to employees, not gives them little gifts.” That might have stuck in my mind a little bit, because I give my employees gifts periodically — gift cards or little trinkets or things just to show my appreciation for them — but the important thing is: that’s not — that doesn’t take the place of ongoing conversations. I still have ongoing conversations with my employees, and I’ll talk about that later.

It’s important to note that we need to be empowering our company leaders and managers to have these conversations, and often that will come at a cost, because the business community has done a horrible job over the years of educating our managers how to be effective communicators and mentors to their employees. We’ve done a great job of promoting somebody who is good at their job to become a manager as a level of reward, a level of respect, a level of confidence, but we haven’t necessarily given them the tools to manage people. And, again, it’s all about the manager relationship with the employee that drives engagement.

There is a fundamental shift happening in performance management. 70% of companies out there are reconsidering their performance management strategy. Many companies are coming to the realization that only doing annual performance reviews is not enough. I know it’s shocking that getting feedback from your managers on their employees once a year isn’t enough, but it’s true — it’s not. While some are dropping their annual reviews altogether, most, from my experience, are choosing to keep the annual review, but they supplement it with something that is more frequent — more frequent touchpoints. The important part of those engagements are for managers to take a vested interest in the growth and the development of their employees, and to help the employee understand how their role impacts the success of the company, and I’ll share a little bit about that from a personal example a little bit later.

Last slide on engagement. Oh, don’t worry, there’s lots more slides on culture and stuff coming up here in a second. This one is from Office Vibe for all three statistics you see there. If you have that managerial feedback ingrained in your company, you will see employee engagement increase and you will have lower turnover. Most of you probably don’t wear suits to the office like those two do. As a matter of fact, I just read that casual dress wear has become the most common dress code — not even business casual, but casual. It’s possibly for new businesses starting up, I can’t remember exactly — but the dress code is oftentimes driven by, or at least a part of, the company culture.

Which takes us to the next slide for company culture.

I defined company culture for you on one of my earlier slides, but it’s been awhile so I’d like to remind you: Company culture is the personality of the organization. It includes the company values, the company mission, the expectations for how employees behave and the atmosphere, including what to wear.

According to Larry Alton, there isn’t a “correct” company culture. That’s important to note. There is no right or wrong culture. Whatever works for your company is great — but it has to work.

So, why are companies focusing on culture now? Similar to why are they focusing on engagement? Well, for starters — Identity. Culture contributes to the identity and the values of your company. For example, if your corporate culture is one that prioritizes setting and meeting goals, then your individual workers will be much more likely to set and meet goals of their own. It’s a good way to set and maintain the direction of your employees, for example. And without it, it’s hard to keep up on your company’s values.

Image. Corporate culture adds to your brand identity. If you treat your employees well and you have a fun-loving corporate atmosphere, for example, your customers will see you as a fun-loving, generous brand. So, depending on your target demographics, that could be a major boon for sales and customer loyalty. If that doesn’t fit your target market, then, obviously, that would not necessarily be a good culture or image to have.

Retention. A strong company culture attracts better talent. Let that sink in for a second. More importantly, it retains talent. So, when people feel like they belong to an organization, they’re more likely to stick around for the long term. That means lower turnover, like we talked about, fewer new hires to be dealt with and better chemistry among your team.

So, another clipart image with a guy in a suit. I apologize, I apparently need to find more modern clipart, because, as I said before, suits are on the way out. Casual work attire is on the way in. This guy has a box, but we know he didn’t get fired because he’s smiling, right? So, he must have quit. He’s very happy. He’s walking out the building. A Columbia University study shows that the likelihood of job turnover at an organization with a rich corporate culture is merely 13.9%. Whereas, the probability of job turnover in poor company cultures is 48.4%. That’s a huge spike.

Keeping employees because of a positive, strong culture will have ancillary effects. As quoted by Rob Markey in the Harvard Business Review blog “Transform Your Employees into Passionate Advocates” — I’m not going to read the quote to you, but basically, he says if they are passionate and your culture is strong, they will stay longer, work harder, work more creatively and find ways to go the extra mile for your customers, for your organization, for your shareholders — because they’re happy.

Alright, next time — next poll, sorry. Poll number three. This one’s going to be an easy one, but we wanted to make sure you’re still awake. So, Ann has opened the poll. Yes or no answers. Does your company do a good job with employee recognition? Ann, do you have any thoughts while I take a drink of water?

ANN TORRY: [laughs] Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, employee recognition is so, so important, and, in fact, we’re really seeing a convergence of a lot of organizations and a lot of technology that is now available to help organizations manage employee recognition. So, that’s actually not something that BirdDogHR specifically does, although I think you could probably configure the system to do that. But, you know — even like Virgin Pulse and some of those wellness players in the market — it’s a big buzz word for employee recognition, and there’s a lot of ways to manage it, but also a lot of ways to streamline it, as well.


ANN TORRY: So, we’ve had a good majority of the folks vote, here, so we’ll go ahead and close the poll.

CHRIS LENNON: The real question is: how many have fallen asleep, right?

ANN TORRY: No, none of them have!

CHRIS LENNON: Yay! Good job! Good job. Okay, so: “Does your company do a good job with employee recognition?” This is sad — 73% of you said “No.” 27% said “Yes.” So, let’s talk a little bit about the benefits of employee recognition. Best-in-class businesses are 41% more likely than others to empower employees to recognize each other for great work. I’ll give you some examples here in a little bit. Recognition makes 92% of your employees feel appreciated. That has other benefits, like 86% say they’re prouder and happier where they work. They’re more satisfied with their jobs and it increases engagement for those employees and they will work harder when they’ve been recognized. So, recognizing your employees. It doesn’t have to be expensive to recognize employees and it gets them more motivated, more satisfied, more engaged.

So, tips for peer-to-peer recognition. Time and time again, companies, they’ve discovered that the one-size-fits-all approach to employee recognition is ineffective. That employees — they’re unique and they respond to different types of recognition. So, it’s important to get to know your employees. Know what motivates them. If a company’s too large to effectively get to know the people on their staff, then that becomes more difficult to recognize them personally.

I have a little personal story tell on this particular one.

One of my employees — I wanted to recognize, and I wanted to give him a bonus, so I went to my boss, the CEO of our company, and I said, “Hey, Todd, can we give this person a bonus?” and Todd said, “Yes, absolutely, we can do that. What were you thinking?”

And, so we started talking, of course, about, you know, a financial bonus. This is why I love working at BirdDogHR and why I like working for somebody like Todd, because he didn’t stop there. He said, “Well, let me ask you a question, Chris: What gets this person excited? He has a truck; should we do something with his truck? Should we, maybe, get him new wheels? Should we do—” you know, blah blah blah?

And I said, “No, he’s already done all that for his truck.”

He said, “Well, tell me more about him.”

So, I said, “Well, here’s some personal information about this person. His mom has not been doing very well. She has dementia and she lives with him — and him and his wife and their kids, they have a hard time, you know, getting away.”

And he said, “Well, that’s sad. What can we possibly do for that?”

It was his idea to look into what’s called “respite care.” So, we had one of our HR Generalists do some research for respite care in our community. Somebody went out to his house, met with him, his mom, and determined, you know, what kind of respite care it would take. Yes, financially, to BirdDogHR it cost a little bit more — not a lot, a little bit more — than what we were talking about giving him in terms of a financial bonus. But, keep in mind, with the bonus dollars, that you oftentimes lose a big chunk of that to taxes. In this case, you wouldn’t have to necessarily pay taxes. BirdDogHR was going to cover the cost of the respite care. We were going to send him and his wife and his kids on a little vacation over the weekend. So, it was something that was very touching to the employee. As a matter of fact, he kind of got emotional in my office when I told him about it, and it was a really, really strong message to him — and to anybody else that found out about it — that BirdDogHR cares about the employees. So, making recognition personal is important and has a major impact.

Encourage peer-to-peer recognition. So, giving the employees the opportunity to recognize each other. Engaging co-workers makes them want to up their game when you allow them to recognize each other.

And, last but not least, timeliness. Timeliness is key. You want to make sure that when you reward your employees, you do it very close to the time of — based the work that they’ve done. And this goes back to the whole — you know, the annual review cycle breaks down tremendously in this, because timeliness… a year ago means nothing, right? Timeliness is what happened last week. What happened two weeks ago, at the most. What happened a couple of days ago is wonderful. So, making sure that your recognition is on point.

Recruiting for culture fit. Switching gears entirely. Recruiting is your first opportunity to showcase your culture to potential employees. You want to make sure that your employer brand, though, is synonymous with recruiting these days. But you want to make sure that you’re honest. You want to make sure you represent your culture appropriately. If you are misleading about the work environment you have, because you think it’s cool — you want to be Zappos; most of us on this call probably have heard about Zappos and their recruiting policies, and the way that they go about getting employees. It works very well for their culture. As a matter of fact, many of us have also heard that they offer you $1,000 to leave after you go through onboarding, because they want to make sure the people that stick around are the people that want to be there — but that doesn’t work for everybody. You can’t fake your culture. So, you want to make sure that when you are advertising for your positions that you absolutely represent your culture, but you want to do it in a way that is appropriate.

After you recruit the top talent in your company, by leveraging your culture, you want to immerse your new hires during the onboarding process. Keep in mind that onboarding starts before Day One. You have an opportunity to introduce your culture by sending them an email with links to videos. Some companies even build customized new hire portals that the employee can access before Day One. All of these things have an opportunity to set a culture, and I’ll talk a little bit more about positive onboarding.

Some ideas that you might have during the onboarding that introduce your culture:

Meet the immediate team, whether it’s a new hire lunch, maybe it’s a dinner, happy hour, all three. Making sure your new hires meet all of the key players, and not just within their department. Remember, I talked earlier about setting those relationships across departmental boundaries so they’re not in a silo. So, make sure they meet key players throughout the company. Introducing those employees to any social activities that you guys might have, whether it’s softball, bowling; I went golfing last night with some people that I work with.

Obviously, structured training during onboarding. You also want to touch base very often with new hires, because 33% of your new hires know within the first week if they’re going to stay with the company long term. That’s amazing. One-third of new hires know within the first week whether or not they’re going to stay. 86% know within 6 months. You have a very short window of making a positive influence on new hires.

So, recruiting and onboarding set the promise of your culture. But how you develop and engage your employees? That delivers on that promise. And, culture isn’t static; it changes over time and it requires attention, and even though it does change over time, that’s okay, so long as it doesn’t sour. You have to spend time to groom the culture to ensure its success by revisiting, for example, mission, vision. You want to make sure you are checking in with your leaders and making sure they are properly representing your culture. And, if you are a company that contributes to your community — and I hope you are — have your volunteer efforts dropped off? Do you need to kind of remind yourselves to kick in a little bit?

And even if you do all of that maintenance, extraneous things can happen to your company, as well, that can impact your culture. For example — first another personal example: For a company that I worked for that will remain nameless, we had — the leadership that hired me and brought me into the company — we had a very vibrant culture; we had very engaged employees.

There was, you know, stuff that was beyond most of our control that had to do with the board, and they were dissatisfied with some of the leadership, and so they started replacing the leadership in the organization, including our CEO. Old CEO that was one of the founders: kicked out. New CEO comes in. New CEO certainly had an impact on the culture. A lot of the leadership was gone — the old leadership. A lot of the new leadership has come in. You could tell the engagement of employees has dropped off; the culture, the vibrancy of the organization had dropped off tremendously.

One of my favorite stories was: We were on a town hall conference, and on this conference call, toward the end of the conference call, the CEO said, “I would like to bring up a topic.” Keep in mind, all employees in the company are on this call, or at least supposed to be.

CEO says, “I would like to bring something up. I have had numerous people come up to me over the course of the last month or so complaining about how the culture of the company has changed. I can assure you the company’s culture has not changed one bit. It is the same company that it was 4 months ago —” blah blah blah blah blah blah, and he went on and on.

I couldn’t believe it. My jaw dropped, as did most people’s on that call. You can’t dictate culture on your company. Especially, the CEO can’t just get on a call and say, “No, everything is fine. Nothing has changed.” It has. If your culture does start to change, you need to acknowledge it. Maintenance is great, but when things happen you have to step up and you have to start taking control of the situation, and not just wish it away by telling everybody that it’s fine.

Alright, last part of the presentation today. We promised some examples, and we thought what better examples to give you than our own, personal examples from BirdDogHR? And the strategies that we’ve employed to try to get our employees engaged and to have a thriving culture.

We’ll spin into long conversation sometimes. Sometimes not. Sometimes they’re very short and sweet and to the point, but the point is: Every two weeks I’m asking those questions, so I can get a good pulse for my employees. And then what I do: during the same meetings, I will periodically throw in some of these zingers that are intended — you know sometimes I’ll do it every couple of months, every three months, maybe quarterly, and I won’t ask the same questions twice. I’ll just kind of have this running list of questions that I pull from based on how long the employee’s been here, based on their goals for what they want to do with their career. Then I ask them some of these exciting questions:

So, if they didn’t have to be here and they had to leave work what would they miss? What does that tell me? It tells me what’s important to them and what gets them out of bed and gets them coming to work and makes them engaged in their work. And those are the things that I don’t want to take off their plate; I want to make sure I put more of those things on their plate.

What do they want to sleep through? While I’m not necessarily going to change it, it might impact the way that I structure their job and hopefully try to help them with some of those. So, take them or leave them. We’re just sharing examples of things that we do here at BirdDogHR.

As far as developmental opportunities to make sure that our employees feel like they are getting opportunities for professional development, we absolutely offer an online course catalog. We do that for our customers, so why not make that available to our employees? They can select one from over a hundred online courses. We send many employees to conferences and tradeshows. That’s a great way for them to stay on top of the industry.

We also do local meet-ups. It’s great not just for learning, but it’s great for networking and finds resources locally that you can call upon with questions later. And, having our people go to those local meet-ups also serves as a great secondary benefit: it builds your employer brand. It helps position — for us, for example — BirdDogHR as a contributor to the local community and helps reinforce that brand. So, when it comes time to hire people, candidates have heard of us. They looked to us. They want to work for us.

Stretch assignments. They are the best tool that I have in my arsenal to develop my team. It helps them to learn, to grow, to interact with other people in the company. It helps keep them challenged, excited and motivated. If you are not using stretch assignments, I highly, highly encourage you to do so.

Bucket Slips. So, this is something that we employed here at BirdDogHR, which is — I wish I had a picture of the actual bucket slip. I have a pad of paper on my desk, as does everybody in the company, that Ann and her team actually crafted and put together. It’s a little pad that allows me to very quickly write a note to somebody in the company. And I literally write it down, walk over to their desk and put it on their desk. Everybody in the company has the opportunity to create and give Bucket Slips. We’ve been doing it for — how long Ann — over a year? And it goes like gangbusters.

ANN TORRY: Yeah, it’s definitely been over a year and, just, it’s really, really popular. It’s really easy to do and I’ll go ahead — I’ll send out this message in the follow-up email, as well, but our Bucket Slips are based on a book called “How Full is Your Bucket?” by Tom Rath, and it’s a really easy concept to put into place. I’ll let Chris tell you more about it.

CHRIS LENNON: Yeah, it’s super easy. It’s super inexpensive: a couple pieces of paper, essentially, and some ink. And what it allows you to do is, you know, congratulate somebody or thank them for going above and beyond what their normal job is, and if they’ve done something to help you, it allows you to, essentially, “fill their bucket,” just like Ann was talking about.

And with these Bucket Slips, and that’s the reason that they’re called those, you don’t have to do this — if you decide to employ something like the “bucket slip” concept, you don’t have to do this part — but we’ve gone a little bit above and beyond, and as an incentive: Employees, when they get Bucket Slips, HR walks around and gives them what we call BirdDogHR Bucks. And, so for every Bucket Slip that they have from somebody, they get a dollar that they can redeem for swag or for gift cards. And, there’s a website that they can go to that they can get a BirdDogHR T-shirt or shower curtain or [laughs] cooking apron — I mean, there’s tons of stuff. It’s pretty funny.

Okay, kind of wrapping it up here. Other team activities that we do that help drive culture within the organization: My team, for example, we’ve gone bowling, we’ve done a party bus, we’ve gone on a picnic game day. As a company, HR sponsors events. They — Up/Down, you guys probably don’t know, it’s a local arcade place in town where, you know, you can play old-fashioned, 1980s Pac-Man type arcade games (along with maybe some, you know, adult alcoholic beverages may or may not be there).

We had a holiday party, we have chili cook-offs, we have an ugly Christmas sweater contest, which is the picture that you see here. I’m in the back and you can’t see — I did not win.

Local volunteering. Bring your dog to work. Those were the — that’s the biggest dog I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s like a horse and, yep, she brought it to work. She does on a regular basis.

Other company perks that drive culture within BirdDogHR: We have flexible work hours, like I mentioned before. We don’t — depending on the job that you have — obviously we have phones to man and we have customers to take care of and software to build, but we do offer flexible work hours. We offer flexible PTO. We have company lunches on a regular basis and we have Friday Happy Hours. So, again, these are just sorts of things that help drive company culture.

The results? From BirdDogHR, our retention rate in 2016 was 90%. That’s spot on because, according to Gallup Business Journal, 10% turnover is ideal. 87% said they’re satisfied for working for BirdDogHR. 86% said that they feel they’re doing the best work of their career. As a matter of fact, the survey results from this year just came in and I didn’t have time to put them in the slide, but I believe that number went up into to the 90s.

89% said they were excited to go to work each day. 86% said they’re satisfied with the culture in the workplace. And we have a Net Promoter Score of 46. 50 is considered Excellent, and I don’t know if you know anything about Net Promoter Scores, but it’s incredibly difficult to hit 50. So, the fact that we’re at 46, to me, is amazing.

So, those are kind of the results of things that we’ve employed here at BirdDogHR. I highly encourage you to think about employing some of those within your own company. Again, there is no right or wrong culture. There is no “what’s best for everybody is best for you.” You have to decide what works for your company. But, with that, that takes me to the end of my presentation. So, Ann, I get to pass it back over to you.

ANN TORRY: Okay, very good. So, while people are submitting questions very quickly here at the end, I did just want to share with you, you know — Chris that was a great presentation. There were so many consumable tips and we’ve even gotten some comments in from the audience. I had one person say, “I want to work for BirdDogHR!”

CHRIS LENNON: [laughs] That’s awesome.

ANN TORRY: So, that’s awesome. We hope that you can take some of the ideas that we shared and implement those into your own organization. Certainly, BirdDogHR, you know, with the great employee retention and customer retention that we have, we’re so proud to be an Inc. 5000 Fast-Growing Company and have thousands of companies across the U.S. implementing our system to help with their recruiting and retention processes, and kind of help get all of this employer branding and culture and engagement really organized.

So, we didn’t show our software today, but we do have an integrated interface that is responsive and mobile-friendly to make it extra easy to engage employees. And, our complete Talent Management System is modular and full-featured, so you can really configure it to meet your needs.

And, certainly, we do also offer a lot of resources to help with all of the different topics that go along with talent management. We’re doing another webinar in October about how to get the most out of performance management. So, we’ll be expanding on some of the concepts that we’ve talked about today.

So, with that, I’m going to jump into some of the questions. So, one of the questions — and I think this is a really good one, staring at the top: “I wonder how many people on the call have the authority to change how the company recognizes employees.” So, Chris, what do you think about that question, or that thought?

CHRIS LENNON: Yeah, that’s a great question — or, it wasn’t a question, it was a thought — but, you know, we’re not, obviously, going to be able to pull up a quick poll to ask you guys that question. My guess is the fact that you guys are on this webinar means that you — if nothing else — you have influence within your company. You know that there is — you’re asking the question about engagement and culture. If you’re able to ask the question, if you think that you are empowered enough to do that, then you have influence in your company. You might not be able to be the sole decision maker — I am not the sole decision maker here at BirdDogHR for anything, especially even Product, which I own — but it’s the same thing with culture. You have the ability to influence your — if you’re not on the C-suite — potentially somebody on the C-suite, your manager, other leaders in the company. Being able to share that influence is really what drives the company culture. To make a decision, you might have to get other people to buy in on that.

But, I’ll let you in on a quick little secret: Even if you are the person that gets to make those decisions, if you don’t get other people to buy in on that, on those changes — because this is — you’re talking about major things in the company — if you don’t get other people to buy in, it’s not going to work anyway. So, whether you are actually a decision maker or an influencer, being able to sell the idea internally is what’s key.

ANN TORRY: Yeah, that’s a great suggestion. So, there was a question about the website that had the infographic about engaged employees versus disengaged employees. It was from the U.K. Do you want to flip back to that slide or give the URL for that?

CHRIS LENNON: Yes. I have to click about a billion times to get up there but, I’m also flipping through my paper copy to see if I can get there faster. Oop, here I am! — and “centre” is C-E-N-T-R-E because it’s in, you know, the U.K., they spell things weird.

ANN TORRY: Okay, great. And then the last question is: “My boss says we don’t have a budget to do fun things for employees. How much would you say it cost to implement a program similar to BirdDogHR?”

CHRIS LENNON: That’s a great question. To my understanding — I don’t know the actual dollars, but I’ve asked this question before — we spend about 7% of our overall budget on things that drive culture. I’m going to give up here trying to flip through my slides. Yeah, we spend about 7% of our budget on culture. Now, if you are spending 0% right now that’s a big jump, so you don’t have to automatically go to 7%. You don’t, you know — if you’re higher than 7%, that’s great. The important thing is the bang for the buck, right?

For example, those Bucket Slips? Incredibly inexpensive and they drive a big component of the culture here at BirdDogHR. It’s weird because you’d think, “Oh yay, somebody gave me a ‘kudos’ and said, ‘good job.’” It builds. It builds. Like we said, this has been going on for a year and I’ve worked at other companies, and I was shocked to see that, one: that we would employ something like this and, two: that it lasts that long. And it’s not slowed down much. It was really hot and heavy the first couple weeks and then it’s been constant — and constant at a very nice rate. So, there are things that you could do that are really inexpensive that can help drive company culture within your organization.

ANN TORRY: Yeah, and I would just encourage people to be creative and, you know, we’ve given the example of the Bucket Slips and, you know, every Bucket Slip is worth a dollar, and then you can turn it in for apparel or gift cards — but maybe if you have a very small budget, you make it a contest and, you know, the first person to get 25 Bucket Slips gets a $25 gift card. And then you start over, so that you’re not spending as much. But, it’s a really great and easy way to do it, and you wouldn’t have to even design and print up your own Bucket Slips. You could even do it with a sticky pad of paper and call them — I don’t know, if they’re yellow call them the “sunshine cards” or something like that, I don’t know.

CHRIS LENNON: [laughs] Ladies and gentlemen, that is Ann Torry’s marketing brain at work! You just saw it live and in-person.

ANN TORRY: [laughs] Sorry for that.

BOTH: [laughter]

ANN TORRY: Alright, okay, so we are past the top of the hour. We do still have a great group of people that are with us, but to be respectful of your time we’re going to go ahead and end the webinar. We thank you for attending today. You’ll be receiving an email from me that has a link to this webinar that is archived, and if you would like a copy of the deck feel free to send me an email at and I’d be happy to send you a PDF of that.

With that — Chris, thank you for a great presentation, again, and that concludes the webinar. Have a great day everyone.

CHRIS LENNON: Thank you everybody. Bye-bye.


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