Workplace Culture: Align or Die

In this article, guest writer, Drew Corby discusses the need for alignment in workplace culture and engagement.

In 2013 the Gallup global state of the workplace study found that 87% of employees are disengaged at work, a startling figure no matter which way you look at it.

How did this happen?

We know more than ever about the people that work in our organisations, and we have the power of an entire HR industry focused on solving this crucial and costly problem.

First of all, lets be honest about why we are trying to solve this important problem:

  • Labour (employees) tends to make up around 70% of the average businesses operating costs.
  • An engaged workforce is more productive and cheaper to maintain.
  • Therefore, business are looking for ways to get the best return from their biggest cost and investment.

But here is the big but we all forget…

If you talk to your employees, they won’t be worried about your businesses return on its labour investment…

So what are employees worried about?

We tend to find three key drives to why employees are staying and leaving.

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  • My direct leader/senior leadership.
  • The people I work with.
  • The work that I do provides me with fulfillment.

Due to the fact that they are the biggest influences on culture and day-to-day working conditions.

So if culture and engagement are so important, why is it so hard to create a ‘great culture’ that fosters engaged and productive employees?

It’s the same reason there are 100’s of variations of jeans in any shopping center, one person’s utopia is another person’s desert island, multiplied by the fact we will all change over time and want different things.

So before we go any further, lets have a clear definition for a ‘great culture’:

 ‘A great culture is one that ensures it 100% aligns to what is promised and described”

So how do I align my workforce?

No matter how hard you try, a result will always be in the past, therefore to change your results you have to stop focusing on them.

I’ve used this equation for years with all my teams as a simple way to outline our way of working:

Values → Behaviours = Results – (V → B = R)

  • V: Values drive our behaviours.
  • B: Behaviours equal the results we want to achieve.
  • R: Results are outcomes and data that we use to ask questions and start conversations with.

Lets break down each step of this equation in to some practical examples on how to align your teams:


These are the guiding principles that set the boundaries, no organisation is too big or too small to have these and stand for and by them.

This is nothing new, and we have all worked for organisations that have values on the wall, coffee mugs, email signatures, intranet, on the top of every meeting agenda, however, think to yourself right now, what are the values of my organisation?

If you can’t rattle them off like your closest friends names and coffee order, then you probably aren’t using them to make decisions every day in a way that would ensure they are upfront and present in every day life.

Common Mistakes

  • Values with no definition:
    • Eg – ‘Innovation’ – Everyone wants to be innovative, but what does this actually mean?
    • Fix: Values must be linked to a behaviour that describes how everyone would exhibit that value.
    • Eg – ‘Innovation’ – No idea is bad, we champion people speaking up and running forward with new ways of working.
  • Values drive our discussion and problem solving:
    • So often we all attend an onboarding workshop and become acquainted with our new set of values, but then never utter these words again.
    • Fix: Build the values into every decisions or problem you and your teams face.
    • Eg :
      • Employee: Drew, do you think this would be a good idea?
      • Drew: Well let’s use our values as the guide, we champion people running with new ways of working, you have my full support.


  • Holding people accountable to their behaviours, will align them to the values, and this goes in every direction:
    • Employee: Drew, when I went and tried that idea and it failed, I felt like I got in trouble, which doesn’t align with our values and way of working…
    • Drew: I am very sorry, and you are 100% correct, thanks for holding me accountable to the values, lets take a look at what we can both learn from what happened.
  • Open Dialogue:
    • Think about how many meetings, conversations, emails and messages we send and receive about results we have and/or trying to achieve?
    • Fix: Designate an agenda item or project tasks to openly discuss behaviours.
    • Dan Logan has a terrific way of doing this, he calls it a grease and oil change, and Candourly, we call it Win-Fail-Fix:
      • What did we do well?
      • What did we not do well?
      • How can we fix what we want to improve?
      • How can we repeat what we are doing well?
    • This can be run at the end of a meeting, project, day, week and is a great way to create a place for people to reflect on their behaviours.


What is a good results and what is a bad results?

Using everything we have outlined, that should be pretty easy to articulate:

  • A good result is one where we have shown all the right behaviours and values.
  • The tangible measures of results are then used to drive conversation and discussion for the future.

Example: Jon achieved 120% target this month.

  • Results focus: Well done Jon, no matter how you achieved this result, we applaud you.
  • Alignment Focus: Jon achieved 120% target, and he did so be exhibiting the following our values and behaviours, Jon tell us what you did to hit this great result.

In Summary

The great thing about this approach is it changes the relationship with culture, engagement and values from something we are all trying to measure and understand, to something we are all invested in and using as a tool of business.

Good luck, and if you want some recommended books below:

About Drew Corby

Drew is the founder of Candourly, an Australian startup which is helping people ‘find their why’ when it comes to career planning, and founder of Korbin Business Solutions, helping businesses and people build sustainable and resilient teams, products and programs.

Team 6Q

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