Recently, we conducted global research, in which we surveyed individuals across both small- and large-scale organizations.
According to the results, leaders reported that they spend 74% of their time on strategy and 26% of their time on culture to improve business results. However, 96% of leaders stated that culture has a greater impact than strategy on their overall business outcomes.
If most leaders readily agree that company culture has the greater influence on achieving business outcomes, why do many leaders still spend more time and resources on strategy?
The underlying cause of this trend is likely due to the notion that many leaders don’t know where to start when building culture. Instead, they default to strategy because their business knowledge causes them to know exactly what strategy looks like – how to create, communicate and measure it. Others opt for a superficial approach to culture, embracing team-building exercises, company outings, and other well-intended but somewhat ineffective activities. While this may seem favorable, this form of culture is at risk of becoming a passing fad, one that is sporadic rather than steady.
The best leaders do more. They understand that culture can, and oftentimes should, be changed. If you’d like to improve your culture but don’t know where to start, we’ve made it simple.
Corporate culture, defined
Before we explain how you can improve your organizational culture, it may benefit you to get a brief definition of this topic. Culture involves the experiences and beliefs that determine how employees interact with each other, as well as how management interacts with their teams. This may be demonstrated in the organization’s business hours, office setup, benefits, dress code, turnover rates, hiring practices, client satisfaction, and a variety of other particulars involved in everyday workplace operations.
There are plenty of ways leaders can prioritize organizational culture. Here are some ways company leaders can improve their culture to create engaged employees and drive results.
1. Align culture with strategy
Do your culture and strategy seamlessly work together or are they in conflict and competition? If you believe your organization represents the latter, you are dealing with a credibility issue, as your employees are hearing you say one thing but seeing a completely oppositional strategy. Perhaps you are interested in establishing a culture of quality, but your strategy is focused solely on quantity. If you focus too heavily on metrics and immediate results, your organization may feel a sort of cultural friction, as employees believe that you aren’t serious about your culture initiatives.
The best way to understand the intersection of culture and strategy is by looking at some of the most well-known brands in the world. Disney’s strategy is to create a memorable, world-class experience every time a guest visits one of their parks. It links their strategy directly to its internal culture of creating a positive experience for all of its employees. At another famous organization, Apple, executives have created a strong company culture of innovation in order to line up with their strategy of being an industry leader in innovation.
2. Connect culture and accountability
Organizations typically don’t want to focus on the negative attributes of their business. This shouldn’t be surprising; what leader thrives off reading negative reviews of their services or planning ways they can deal with controversies? However, when something goes wrong, business leaders should be accountable and must be ready for such culpability.
When a company takes immediate responsibility for a crisis, whether it occurs publicly among the client base or internally among its employees, they can regain their reputation and improve employee engagement exponentially. Rather than pointing fingers or dismissing the problem, organizations should create a culture of transparency.
3. Encourage culture as a movement
Too often, cultural values become static, background noise that is present but not impactful. Organizations that have been around for a long time oftentimes boast their model of corporate culture, which has remained unaltered since its founding decades ago. While tradition can be a positive attribute in some senses, it has no place in a company’s culture.
Culture is not something that is written in stone. If you want to get results, your business should encourage an evolution of its culture practices, just as it has with its goals and strategies. Let’s look at another company that has an exemplary culture: Amazon. This massive corporation has had to evolve its culture alongside its strategy a number of times over the years, as it evolved from an internet bookshop to an electronics marketplace to a grocery delivery service to the world’s biggest online retailer. Their values have remained the same, but their culture has evolved many times to keep up with their ever-changing strategies.
4. Create results and shape change
Business consultant and philosopher Peter Drucker once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” When you allow your culture to work in collaboration with your strategy, you will feast on exceptional results. Once you align your culture with your strategy, connect culture with accountability, and allow your culture to evolve, you may be well on the way to achieving desired results.