CareerBliss.com recently released its list of the 50 Happiest Companies in America for 2013. CareerBliss receives thousands of independent employee-provided reviews each year. These are analyzed for key factors which affect work happiness, including work-life balance, boss relationships, co-worker relationships, company culture, compensation, and control over the work they do each day.

The happiest company in America for the coming year is Pfizer, which moved up from 11th place in last year’s list.

Every company on the top 50 list should be proud of that accomplishment. They are working hard to create a happy, rewarding work culture for their primary internal customers: Their employees!

To what extent does your company intentionally create a happy, rewarding work culture for staff? You can go to CareerBliss to see if your company is rated. An even better place to start: Ask your employees.

Most senior leaders put greater thought into their products and services than they do into their culture — yet culture drives everything that happens in an organization, for better or worse. Because of this fact, corporate culture may be your company’s most important asset.

If you leave your corporate culture to chance, you may experience a culture that hurts or hinders employee performance and work passion.

Employees don’t miss a thing. They know what works and what doesn’t work in their organization’s culture. Their perspective is the most important data you can tap regarding the quality and health of your organization’s culture.

Consider new research from management consultancy Orion Partners. Its survey of over 2,000 employees found that 24% of employees thought their bosses were overstressed, poor communicators, and lacked empathy. Only 5% of employees felt that their managers were empathetic, explained why organizational change was good for employees, or rewarded employees for their efforts.

Almost half (47%) of employees said that their managers made them feel threatened. 85% said that their managers cared more about what they did than what they were feeling.

Every one of these issues is fixable. Most managers can easily reframe key messages in ways that demonstrate care, that encourage employees, and that make employees feel heard and valued. The trick is to invite employee opinion, then refine behaviors to better serve their needs — and, in the process, create a safe, inspiring work culture.

What are proven ways to gather reliable, valid employee perceptions about your work environment? Employee surveys are a very effective “formal” means to gather this data. Informal ways include regular one-on-one meetings, “breakfast with the CEO,” town hall meetings, exit interviews, or discussions that organically happen when leaders “manage by wandering around.” It’s amazing what leaders can learn if they are available and present for these conversations.

The path is clear: Ask employees what they think of your company and culture. Then share the results, no matter how depressing the data. Then act — repair lousy systems, coach lousy bosses and employees, etc., to improve your company work culture day by day.

The worst thing you can do after asking employees what they think? Do nothing with the information you gather.

Do you think corporate culture is your company’s most important asset? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

CORPORATE CULTURE SURVEY: What is it like to work in your company culture? Contribute your experiences in my fast, free Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis are shared on my blog site’s research page.

Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe to my podcast feed via RSS or iTunes. The music heard on these podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.

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