How to Make Organizational Culture Your Secret to Success

a woman is holding her finger to her lips as if to say shh for culture as the secret to business success

Want to know a secret? Fortune magazine claims that, according to its annual survey of the best companies to work for, the organization’s culture can be the secret to business success. This is both the good and the bad news.

For companies that have a well-established, purposeful and aligned corporate culture based on clear, strong, well accepted and well understood  values and behaviors, this is good news—they are on the right path. For companies whose corporate culture is not well defined, whose employees do not behave in a consistent way, or where the cultural norms are not fully aligned with the strategic intent of the company, the news presents a tough challenge.

What can leaders do to develop a high performance culture that aligns with and ignites their business strategy?

  1. Create strategic clarity
    First, know that strategic clarity accounts for 31% of the difference between high and low performing organizations. As a leader, you must create a clear and compelling strategic direction that your stakeholders understand, believe in and feel that is implementable at your organization.  While this is no easy task, it is an imperative step to creating a high performance environment.   Why?  Because corporate cultures are not “good” or “bad.”  They are either “aligned” or “unaligned” with the strategic direction of the organization.  A culture either helps or hinders strategic execution.
  2. Define core corporate values and cultural norms
    You need to figure out just what your company stands for. What is central to your mission? What values, behaviors and practices are at the core of the way you want to do business? Strategic clarity answers the “what” and the “why.”  Culture shapes the “how.”  Involve all employees in this process so your organizational culture is not just from the point of view of leadership but also reflects the world in which the work force lives and operates. When the organization’s purpose, philosophy and desired practices have been drawn up, communicate them simply and clearly across the company.
  3. Ensure cultural consistency
    Next you must see that your organizational culture is not just described but consistently lived, monitored and rewarded – especially by leadership. This means that all your internal systems, practices and processes must support the way you want your employees to do business each and every day. If, for instance, cooperation across business functions is a core value to execute your strategy, a compensation program that rewards individual rather than team achievement would be at odds with your desired corporate environment. To build a high performance culture, smart leaders expose and adjust any conflicts between strategies, cultural norms, success metrics and reward systems.Additionally, your hiring practices must be aligned with the kind of workplace you want to shape. Recruit, hire and onboard with emphasis on cultural fit. Mismatched new employees will only undermine the environment you desire and will not last long if they feel out of sync with the rest of the work force.

So why would you go to all this trouble? A recent Harvard Business School research report showed how an effective culture can explain up to half of the differential in performance between organizations in the same business. We know from our organizational alignment research that organizational culture accounts for 40% of the difference between high and low performing companies.  An aligned and purposeful organizational culture drives 58% faster growth, 72% higher profits and 16.8-to-1 higher levels of employee engagement.

Be thoughtful and purposeful about shaping the culture you want.  Your organization will reap the benefits.

To learn more about defining an aligned and high performing culture, download How to Build a Purposeful and Aligned Corporate Culture.

 

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