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Josh Levine Shares His Corporate Culture Design Secrets
Josh Levine Shares His Corporate Culture Design Secrets
Alexandra Zamolo
Alexandra Zamolo, Content Marketing Manager
6 min read
Employee engagement statistics are low—and even lower for non-desk employees— which is a hard truth for most employers. Reports show that disengaged employees cost companies between $450 and $550 billion a year. So why aren’t companies doing more to address this expensive problem? The most successful companies in the world have the highest levels of employee engagement, yet engagement initiatives are frequently put on the back burner. At Beekeeper, our mission is to connect every single employee to keep them engaged within an organization to improve productivity and reduce turnover. To help combat the problem of employee disengagement, we’ve partnered with an expert on corporate culture, Josh Levine.

About Josh Levine

Josh holds a BS in Engineering Psychology from Tufts University, and BFA in design from the Academy of Art University. As a brand strategist and culture design expert, Josh has helped local and global organizations engage customers and empower employees for over 15 years. One of his most recent ventures was co-founding CultureLabx where he leads brand development. Culture Lab is a community of founders, designers, and practitioners committed to redefining workplace culture by hosting experiments to help business leaders understand its value to the employees, the company, and the community. His writing has been featured in publications including Fast Company, The Design Management Journal, and 99u.com. Josh teaches at California College of the Arts' renowned MBA program in Design Strategy and is Principal of the brand consultancy Great Monday. Great Monday helps companies with culture design because the team has found that when employees know why they work, they are more motivated, more invested, and are happier doing it. His book "Great Mondays: How to Design a Company Culture Employees Love" will be published in 2018 with McGraw-Hill Education. Josh met with us to discuss what a great corporate culture looks like, why it’s important, and how to achieve it.

Corporate Culture Q&A

1. What defines a great culture? A great culture is a high bar. When everyone from executives to employees to contractors understands a company’s purpose and values—the why and how’s—and make choices based on those, you are on your way. Purpose is the reason a company is in business beyond making money. Values are the three to five shared beliefs that guide behaviors.

2. Why is culture so important for a company’s brand? Today culture *is* the brand. As social media and the internet more broadly continue to shorten the distance between the inside of a company and the external world of customers, employee and organizational choices are more exposed. If you attempt to convince communities through “brand marketing” of a story not aligned with what’s happening on the inside you’ll get called out, and fast.

3. What is “culture design” exactly? It’s the two-part process we use to help our clients find, tell, and live their story. First, a company needs to establish and codify behavioral expectations by defining their unique purpose and set of values. Then they create the tools with which they manage their culture—new practices that help employees understand, connect to, and embody those culture touchstones. Through the process, the organization has created a living document we call the “culture code.”

4. How does culture affect communication and operations? For the business, culture is about empowering choices that move it towards its goals faster. If we all know why we are here (purpose), and how we should get there (values), we have more context for how we should work with one another, prioritize strategies, and make more effective decisions— communications and operations included.

5. What is the ROI of culture? There are a few ways to get to this question.

ELTV

You can estimate employee lifetime value, or ELTV, which looks at how even marginal increases in speed to onboard, productivity, and tenure generates exponential gains for the company.

Turnover

The rate of employee turnover can be useful because it can be tracked so easily. Multiply how many employees left in the past year by 25-50% of their annual salary, and you have a good sense of what your cost of turnover is. Not all those departures can be attributed to culture alone, of course. To increase fidelity of this metric, leaders need to look at the qualitative data from off-boarding conversations. Which of those had themes like discontent, lack of opportunity, or managerial issues? Those are culture related. Just like any survey, the longer this number is tracked and measured, the more useful it becomes.

Employee Sentiment

Employee sentiment is a great one if you have enough data points. The mistake most companies make here is the annual employee survey. That’s too much too late. Instead, spread your questions out over time. Monthly or even quarterly single question polls keep response quantity and quality high. If you can only ask one question my favorite is “how likely are you to recommend working at this company to your friends or family?”

@Mentions

Even increases or decreases of mentions on social media regarding customer experiences can be looked to as measurable impressions. The assumption underlying all of these is that investments in improving culture increases employee engagement which improves customer satisfaction and the bottom line. There’s a lot of variables in there so none of these are perfect, but they all can be useful.

6. What are the easiest ways to improve a company’s culture? Start small. There’s no need to try to change an entire organization to make a difference. Think of how you’d like your sphere of influence, the 10-20-30 people that you interact with most, to start behaving and embody that. You have to be the culture change you wish to see in your world. Beekeeper is an employee engagement and team communication app that caters to non-desk workforces. Our customers such as Marriott, Heathrow Airport, and Seaboard Foods experienced immediate operational improvements and elevated corporate culture.

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