4 Areas to Assess Your Company’s Culture and Personality

A cartoon shows a man in a haz-mat suit about to enter the business office of a person with a toxic personality

Everyone has a personality. Personality is a conglomeration of characteristics or traits…the way individuals think, feel and behave. For example, some people are naturally sociable and friendly; others, as in the cartoon, are anti-social and irritable.

Companies have personalities too…we just call it organizational culture. In an organization, corporate culture is the way employees think, feel and work. It is how things get doneA company’s “personality” or culture includes the values and assumptions that influence key business practices and behaviors. It is often best exemplified in company leaders and in who they choose to hire and promote.

No longer just a nice-to-have, corporate culture has become integral to a company’s success. When the right environment is created, when it aligns with a company’s strategy and when a company hires with the desired culture in mind, the organization is well on its way to peak performance. Culture matters…a lot. In fact, a recent research report from Harvard Business School maintains that an effective culture can be the reason for up to half of the difference in performance between organizations in the same business. Our own organizational alignment research found that cultural factors account for up to 40% of the difference between high and low growth companies.

If corporate culture is so important, we should have some way to measure it. Only then can we know how well positioned we are in the marketplace vis-à-vis the competition. To assess the viability of your culture, we offer four aspects of culture that lend themselves to a system of metrics:

1. How aligned are your strategic drivers? The foundation of every company strategy is the alignment of its vision, mission and values. We call these three important components “strategic drivers.” We define vision as what the company hopes to become…the business it will be in tomorrow. Effective vision statements focus on unique, inspiring, challenging, motivating and memorable future possibilities. Powerful mission statements lay out the organization’s business and fundamental purpose in a manner that is short, believable, relevant and achievable. Meaningful corporate values describe your fundamental beliefs that guide your most important decisions and actions. If you want to get a sense of your corporate culture start by determining if employees understand, believe in and are committed to your vision, mission and values. Check around and ask your employees from one end of the enterprise to the other. If there are gaps, there will also be holes in the culture you are trying to create.

2. How well do employees communicate within and across teams? Our recent organizational alignment research pinpointed information flow and transparency as one of the top 5 factors in creating 58% faster growth, 72% greater profits and a 16.8-to-1 difference in employee engagement. An open culture is distinguished by the ease and flow of moving ideas and suggestions from one employee to the one who can evaluate and implement them. Check to see that there are no barriers to formal and informal channels of communication. You want employees to be able to send, receive and understand information and you want innovative thoughts to flow freely.

3. How agile are you when change is needed? Our organizational alignment research highlighted market responsiveness as the most influential alignment factor and change agility, how well leaders and employees respond to key changes required to remain competitive, as the third most important cultural factor for high growth companies. As a leader, you may not always be the first to know of changes in the marketplace. Stay on top of what is happening on the front lines. Seek feedback from employees on what they observe of the competition so you are not caught flatfooted when you need to make shifts in product mix, sales approach, or resource allocation. How well do your employees respond to change?

4. How accountable are employees for their performance? Every employee should clearly understand what is expected of them in their job and how their success and failure will be measured. Then it is up to management to see that performance standards are clear, transparent, fair, timely, accurate and maintained. For those who excel, see that suitable recognition and rewards are given. And by the same token, for those who perform below expectations, see that there are consequences. When performance accountability is high, people know where they stand, are clear about where they need to go and know what they need to avoid. Do your people know where they stand?

Strong cultures help companies perform. Keep track of how your culture is developing because it matters. Assess your organizational culture.

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