This is How Your Employees Really See Your Company Culture How do you close the gap between what you, the employer, envision and the reality your employees experience?

By Heather R. Huhman

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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This article is included in Entrepreneur Voices on Company Culture, a new book containing insights from more than 20 contributors, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders.

Company culture has become more and more important in the workplace, but when VitalSmarts surveyed 1,200 employees in July, it found that many employers were missing the mark.

Related: Changing Your Company's Culture in 3 Easy Steps

While leaders want to believe they've created environments filled with innovation and teamwork, there's a good chance their employees see the workplace as one of obedience, competition and predictability.

Here's what the ideal culture looks like, what employees really think and how to close this communication gap at your company:

The ideal culture

As you climb the corporate ladder, the comments about a company's culture become more and more positive. These leaders dream of a workplace full of innovation; they believe they've provided the necessary tools for employees to move successfully forward. They make sure that new methods are always being created to better the work process for employees.

These visions of an ideal work culture will also include a culture of teamwork where employees are on the same page and working together in a productive manner. In this world, there'll be no such thing as generational gaps because a company's employees will all have the same training and correct amount of knowledge to complete their daily tasks.

Employee reality

Unfortunately, the happiness that employers believe their employees are finding, with innovation and teamwork, isn't employees' reality. Globoforce conducted a survey of more than 800 full-time U.S. employees in November of last year and found that 47 percent of its respondents did not feel that their company leaders cared about or actively tried to create a human workplace.

Related: Your Team Can't See the Big Picture if Your Don't Show Them

So, maybe employers should consider a reality check: Their employees are dealing with the reality of generational gaps, technology advancements and challenges and the ever-changing nature of work. All of these issues, combined with the overwhelming feeling of leaders not actively trying to better the work culture, create frustration and decreased productivity.

Generational gaps also create tension within the ideal teamwork vision. Employees from different age segments view the nature of work differently and place different values on various workplace benefits. Unify surveyed 9,000 knowledge workers in January and found that 16- to 24-year-olds described the ideal workplace as creative, successful and exciting.

In contrast, 35- to 44-year-olds wanted to be part of a workplace that is creative, successful and supportive.

With one generation looking for excitement in the workplace and another seeking support, the lines can get blurred in terms of employees understanding one other when they work together. This type of miscommunication can damper employee happiness and production.

Feeling that the proper tools aren't being delivered or updated can push a company's culture into a frustrating, unproductive standstill. Companies with outdated technology, and those with newer technology but no ongoing education, are hurting themselves and their employees. Innovation growth can't happen if employees are dealing with hindering technological issues.

How to close the gap

Understanding how employees view company culture is pertinent to keeping current employees happy and productive. Giving them specific goals, assuring them that their frustrations are being heard and addressed and instituting employee reviews are a few ways to get on the same page.

In this context, performance-management tools like Reflektive enable real-time feedback, performance reviews and goal alignment. Listening and really hearing any feedback employees have gives employers a view of reality that they may not have otherwise. This new online vantage point helps employers draw a new roadmap for workplace culture.

Performance reviews in particular help employees stay connected with employers about their progress. Innovation will increase when employees are in complete understanding of what needs improving. Separate reviews for each employee are important because everyone feels his or her performance is being reviewed off of a range of job responsibilities.

Aligning goals in weekly meetings is another step. Goal-setting can begin the process of closing the generational gap by encouraging teamwork. Encouraging goal-setting that includes all generations' point of view will bring the team closer together. So, create guidelines that will make a task "exciting" for the younger generation, and line up tools to help everyone show "support" for the older generation.

The Unify survey described above also found that, for most, the ideal workplace is an informal one. Ninety-five percent of knowledge workers said they didn't want to work in a controlling environment.

Related: How to Thank Your Employees Like You Mean It in 3 Simple Steps

With this statistic in mind, perhaps the most important goal you can set and achieve in order to create a cohesive company culture is discovering what matters most to your employees, and then taking steps to deliver it.

Heather R. Huhman

Career and Workplace Expert; Founder and President, Come Recommended

Waldorf, Md.-based Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager and president of Come Recommended, the PR solution for job search and HR tech companies. She writes about issues impacting the modern workplace.

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