How CEOs Can Boost Engagement By Harnessing Trust

A study of Glassdoor data reveals a startlingly high correlation between the ratings for “company culture” and “senior leadership”—showing that the two are mutually dependent.

Company culture is a measure of company cohesion, and creating the right culture starts at the top. That’s what our data scientist found when he studied the Glassdoor data on employee satisfaction: a startlingly high correlation between the ratings for “company culture” and “senior leadership” shows that the two are mutually dependent.

Our data also indicates that poor company culture can serve as a red flag for future financial performance. Companies where senior management scored at least a four out of five on the Glassdoor ratings saw stock prices increase by more than 8% on average compared with those where senior management was rated poorly. And companies that performed well on culture and values saw average increases in stock prices of 6%.

Clearly, senior leaders who want to boost the bottom line and create a stronger workplace culture need to focus on building employee trust.

The Importance of Employee Well-Being

Engaged employees stay longer, gripe less, innovate more and promote better customer satisfaction. Unhappy employees, on the other hand, lack an emotional connection with their work. They feel drained at the end of the day and experience higher levels of workplace stress that seeps into their personal lives, which may be why they take an average of 15 additional sick days per year than engaged employees. Research has even shown a relationship between workplace stress and the well-being of employees’ children.

Given how easily—if unintentionally—we can hurt their lives, we need to hold ourselves accountable as leaders for the well-being of our employees.

Creating the Right Workplace Culture

Years ago, the consulting company I ran became a victim of its own success. We started out with a tight-knit family atmosphere, but that culture didn’t scale with the business. As our Glassdoor reviews declined, I had to think about employee engagement and its impact on culture and productivity.

Here are three things I learned that helped to turn engagement around:

1. Reshuffle your priorities. The stresses of leadership and putting out fires can consume our lives. Sharing news, giving updates and thanking employees don’t feel as urgent, so we figure we’ll do it if we can get to it. But because employees are a business’s strongest leverage point to win, innovate and save costs, we need to see communication, culture and employee engagement as strategic priorities. If you think of them as must-haves instead of nice-to-haves, you’ll engage with them more fully.

2. Be omnipresent. Employees need to hear from their CEOs more often than at quarterly meetings. Yet too many leaders get mired in their day-to-day work and neglect employee communications. Leaders should be constantly beating the drum and sharing strategic, tactical, uplifting, personal, gratifying and day-in-the-life messages on a regular basis. Employee trust is won by ongoing habits, not one-off actions.

3. Shift to an employee perspective. Not every employee will relate to business strategy, appreciate its importance or understand what is in it for him or her. That’s especially true when executive talk gets boring and long-winded. Employees need to receive information regularly, and it should be timely, concise and relevant to their jobs. Try to see the world from their perspective so your messaging can be inspiring and clear. That’s the kind of communication that will help them feel important and included.

The first strategies I adopted to deal with declining employee engagement weren’t universally successful. But because company culture was a priority, I kept trying different tactics to strengthen engagement. Once I formalized communication processes, I noticed a real change—one that was reflected in employee well-being and business success alike.