3 min read

Culture As An Emerging Risk

Oct 7, 2014 8:40:00 AM

Culture_BlogEmployee Engagement. Company Culture. Establishing a positive company culture matters. A company’s culture can be an incredible asset…but if not given the proper attention, it can become your greatest risk.

Culture is the values, beliefs, and the norms of a company. It’s not your policies and procedures; it’s the way you do things. It has many facets. Safety, employee wellness, employee wellbeing, and even the overall organizational health. And in order to establish a positive culture, you must engage your company leaders AND your employees.

  • 30% of American workers are engaged at work. 20% are actively disengaged. And the remaining 50% are not engaged.
  • Engaged employees are 5 times less likely to have a safety incident than nonengaged employees.
  • Highly engaged employees have lower presenteeism, or lost productivity at work. They also have less absenteeism than disengaged employees.
  • Organizations with high employee engagement experience 25% less turnover in high-turnover organizations and 65% lower turnover in low-turnover in low-turnover organizations.
  • Actively disengaged workers cost U.S. businesses $450-550 billion each year.

As the research demonstrates, employee engagement matters. It’s not a new topic, but it is constantly evolving. And has a significant impact on businesses.

Where Does A Positive Workplace Culture Start?

Company leadership. As a leader, your actions are contagious! Establishing clear organizational direction and creating clarity and buy-in from all stakeholders is the foundation of employee engagement.

Leaders should take time to look at the company as a whole and examine the culture. Identify the strengths and weaknesses. Define the goals. Then adopt a mindset for improvement to spread throughout the company.

But You Also Need Employee Involvement

Your company’s culture, be it safety, wellness, or overall organizational health, does have to start at the top, but everyone should be involved. It requires employee engagement.

Take safety for example. Your employees are your experts on the floor. They can tell you what they’re doing and what risks are involved. Make them part of the process. Have them share what risks they see and discuss ideas for improvement. New safety policies are much more likely to be effective and accepted by employees if they are part of the process, if they feel they have contributed, and if they understand why the policies are needed.

What Is Engagement?

It is difficult to define. And it varies by company. We can at least provide framework. Is participation in a wellness or safety program engagement? No. That is compliance. Engagement requires an emotional investment, a commitment. At its core, engagement starts with the understanding of where the organization is heading and how each person fits into achieving that goal.

Motivating Employees

How do you motivate your employees to engage in safety and wellness efforts? Think about what motivates them. There are extrinsic and intrinsic motivators. Extrinsic are the t-shirts, gift cards, money, and other physical items. They may motivate employees to a degree, but they have a shelf life. On the other hand, intrinsic motivators are those which are important to the individual so they are going to want to act on it. When trying to develop culture we desire changes in employee behaviors, so extrinsic motivators can only go so far, and could even potentially have negative consequences.

Effective Communication Is Critical

Is the communication you’re giving actually what employees interpret? Is the message making it to everyone? And is it believed? If not, this is your cultural disconnect, and thus a place to focus.

Take time to get to know and understand your audience. Your employee population is likely made up of different segments – different demographics, different languages, etc. So you may have to share your message in multiple ways to be able to effectively communicate with everyone.

Open communication is also important. And it needs to be a two-way street: not just communication from leadership, but also providing opportunities for employees to share.


While there is much research to support the value of increased employee engagement, the decision to make it a strategic focus comes down to leadership. Improving, changing, and evolving organizational engagement efforts are highly personalized to each company and their leaders. Often times a good employee survey can and will give you the insight you need to begin to shift the culture in your organization. Whatever your chosen path might be, action is always better than reaction so be proactive with your culture. You might be pleasantly surprised at how much impact your efforts have in areas you weren’t expecting.


Statistics from Gallup, Towers Watson, and Society for Human Resource Management.

Written by Gibson

Gibson is a firm of advisors and consultants that help clients get to the proactive side of insurance. We specialize in working with companies looking to find their edge—where they are growing as an organization, differentiating themselves in the marketplace, and preparing for current and future risk. Together we will find the perfect combination of insurance and consulting.