Everyone wants a competitive advantage. In our last article, we talked about the critical nature of purpose (a North Star) and strategic clarity. They provide much needed direction in a time of change and uncertainty. The third key to better results in 2021 is culture. And it’s considered by many to be the most important.
- Companies with strong cultures saw a 4x increase in revenue growth compared to those with weaker ones.
- A recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that 9 out of 10 CFO’s believe improving company culture would increase their company’s business value and performance.
Culture is what bonds people together (or doesn’t) – and it usually determines how effectively you pursue strategy. Whether your organization or team will be remote, blended or back in the office, one of your 2021 priorities should be ensuring your culture is positioning you to take advantage of opportunities.
Just Words on a Page?
Culture is a Reflection
Build, Maintain and Adapt Intentionally
Start with your North Star and strategy: Purpose and strategic clarity need to be defined and communicated regularly. They provide the context and direction for the culture choices the company makes.
Align it with the company’s brand: Your brand is how your company is perceived and experienced by the customer and other stakeholders. David Matting, Head of Trends and Insights for TrendWatching notes “There’s really no such thing as internal culture anymore. Your culture is always public, and it’s your most powerful, public-facing asset or liability.” It’s difficult to tell the market you are, for example, positioned around an outstanding customer experience when your business doesn’t support an outstanding employee experience.
Define the behaviors that epitomize values. Values are often stated as words or phrases like ‘act with integrity’ or ‘delight the customer’. What does that look like? Define the behaviors that epitomize those values. By watching how people behave, what they say and what decisions and trade-offs are made, any leader or employee should be able to say what your culture is.
Connect roles and work to purpose. What does a salesperson, developer, machine operator or the CEO do (and not do) that represents the best in your culture? Go beyond traditional job descriptions and define how that role connects to the purpose and culture. Hire for those attributes; expect them, celebrate them and reward them.
Actively and regularly assess. Whether through surveys, focus groups or an assessment by an external consultant, regularly take a step back and assess how well people in your organization understand the cultural goals.
According to Gallup, Only 41% of employees strongly
agree that they know what their company stands for
Leaders also should be asking how well their teams reflect the stated culture. It’s easy for employees and leaders alike to become unmoored from cultural goals. An honest look will continue to position your culture as a competitive advantage, including when it comes to attracting talent.
Adapt in real time. Change can’t wait. When the culture no longer represents who the organization or team should be, adapt it to meet changing needs.