A High Growth Culture Must Be Designed
We believe that a workplace culture occurs by design or by default. What does it take to build a high growth culture that can keep your organization thriving and performing at its peak?
First it takes a clear picture of the critical elements of a winning culture and then the resolve to never lose sight of what matters. In short, you need to keep your eye on the prize.
Recent Organizational Culture Research
A recent Harvard Business School research report found an effective culture can account for up to half of the differential in performance between organizations in the same business. Our own proprietary organizational alignment research, found cultural factors account for up to 40% of the difference between high and low growth companies. You shouldn’t need much more than those figures to be convinced that corporate culture matters.
Five Research-Backed Elements of a High Growth Culture
Our 25+ years of experience with clients combined with our research of 410 companies across eight industries highlight five key elements of an organizational culture that can support high growth and success:
1. A Clear, Believable and Implementable Strategic Purpose
A healthy corporate culture is based upon a clear, compelling vision and the strategic plan to achieve the vision. The first steps to a clear, believable and implementable strategy are to have agreement on four strategic driver questions:
A clear vision combined with a meaningful mission, compelling value proposition and the few key strategic actions for the next year should align all the business decisions and investments throughout the organization. Ideally your overall corporate strategy should fit on one page.
2. Authentic Corporate Values that Represent the Core Beliefs You Collectively Stand For
Values are the heart of a company’s culture and play a foundational role in creating and sustaining a high growth culture. Done right, corporate values guide the mindsets and behaviors to execute your business and talent strategies in a way that works for everyone.
Though most companies have a list of so-called values, few are really good at practicing them. And this is where the rubber meets the road. If for instance a company values “open communication,” there should never be negative consequences for honest and constructive feedback.
If they are important, corporate values should be supported and reinforced in all corporate policies and practices.
3. Differentiated Talent Selection, Development and Promotion Processes
Company culture should be reflected in how you attract, develop, engage and retain talent. By selecting, growing and rewarding employees who model and uphold your organization’s beliefs, you will strengthen the culture and attract those who fit.
You will know you are on the right track when your highest performing employees are a strong cultural fit.
4. Powerful Stories that Align with Your Desired Culture
When you can tell a powerful story that clearly illustrates your corporate culture, you have a compelling tool to sustain the culture and differentiate your company from the pack. For example, if many corporate stories are about “how hard people work,” and you want a culture that supports a “work-life balance,” then you need to create new stories.
The bigger the desired culture change, the more dramatic and compelling your new stories need to be to overcome the “old stories.” Similarly, if you want to create a “process efficient” company culture focused on cost savings like Walmart, you should work to eliminate the heroic stories that make employees at Nordstrom’s so proud.
5. Physical Environment and Location
While more is being accomplished through virtual and global teams, it would be very challenging to support and foster an open environment if offices were separated with closed doors. And it would be difficult to encourage innovation unless you had a ready stream of creative thinkers who cluster around academic hub and technology centers.
To this extent, geography and building design can affect and even shape your corporate culture.
The Bottom Line
The culture of an organization is comprised of many factors. But these five research-backed elements of a high growth culture represent the first leadership steps to building a strong, vibrant culture that will create high growth and high performance.
To learn more about creating a high performance culture, download The 3 Levels of a High Performance Culture that Matter Most
Why Employees Change Their Mind
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