Company Culture Vs. Employee Engagement: What's the Difference?

Posted by Molly Shanahan

April 5, 2017

It’s not always easy to spot where company culture ends and employee engagement starts. There’s certainly a lot of overlap between these two areas but clear and significant differences do exist between culture and engagement.

Recognising how these two areas work together means you’ll be in a better position to influence their impact and how they shape the direction of your organisation.

Company Culture - Setting the Framework for How to Approach Each Situation

Fundamentally, culture is about the way a company approaches a situation. Even when presented with very similar problems, companies will work to solve them in different ways. This is to be expected, and even celebrated, company culture is unique which means the way individual companies execute is also as individual.

All the different variations in company culture are shaped by the mission and vision of the organisation - where does it want to go and how is it going to get there. Where companies have a clear mission and vision, it is more likely that the purpose and direction of the company culture will be well-defined. Netflix is a well-known example of this thinking. Its culture code has over 15 million views on SlideShare and has become a key point of differentiation for the organisation. Every organisation has a culture - whether they want it or not. The only decision they have is whether to nurture or neglect it.

Employee Engagement - Understanding the Impact of Culture on Each Person

Unlike culture, which typically sits at a macro level in an organisation, employee engagement is much more focused on everyone in the team - as individuals. It prioritises how each person feels about the approach a company takes; it doesn’t define the path itself. For example, are they on board with the company culture or do they feel uncomfortable with the way they’re expected to behave?

While culture will directly influence employee engagement, the impact that culture has will vary between different employees. The way people interpret and feel about their purpose will depend a lot on whether they are receptive to the approach set by the company culture. As well as this, interpretation will also impact on employees personal motivation to get the job done, and how satisfied they are with the job they’re performing.

Low levels of employee engagement can act as a warning sign that a company culture isn’t working. Often this can also be indicative of an organisation where managers give the orders and employees are expected to carry them out, without any feedback loop or necessary support systems in place. When employees can see that their contribution is valued and has a purpose, they’re more likely to feel engaged and connected to the company culture.


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Topics: Culture, Employee Engagement

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