Support Your Desired Culture
How do leaders support your desired culture in the wake of the recent high profile cultural derailments of companies like VW, Wells Fargo, Uber, and the Veteran’s Administration?
Volkswagen’s Workplace Culture
Whereas Volkswagen had won plaudits for creating a low emissions vehicle with better fuel economy (a so-called “green” car that was welcomed by its loyal customers), it ruined its brand by purposefully falsifying records. Their emissions reports were a fraud, and the cars were as smog-belching, if not worse, than their competitors’ on the road.
While they are trying to improve their culture through increased transparency and decentralized decision-making, CEO Matthias Mueller is finding that culture change is more difficult than expected.
Wells Fargo’s Workplace Culture
Or take the case of Wells Fargo whereby their employees fraudulently signed up customers for unauthorized accounts (over 2 million!) in order to hit sales targets and receive bonuses. While the dust is still settling, most attribute the problems to a cutthroat corporate culture to win at all costs.
These stunning debacles ruined the reputation of these businesses for years to come and they may never fully recover.
What Happened Culturally?
Their culture went toxic. In both cases, greed conquered ethics. Instead of adhering to a cultural norm of “following Federal regulations” or “putting customers first,” both companies systematically cheated. Their brands have suffered. They have lost customers, and they will pay hefty fines and face criminal charges.
These are, of course, extreme examples of cultural failure. But there are many examples of cultural erosion that are less drastic and closer to home. Perhaps you have observed some shifting away from the workplace culture your organization proclaims; you sense your organization is moving toward a less desirable culture that can eat away at the well-being of your employees and the reputation of your company.
Six Ways to Support Your Desired Culture
Based upon more than two decades assessing corporate culture, here are six ways to support your desired culture to combat the kind of cultural failure that destroys employee engagement and organizational health:
For example, a strategy to grow faster by offering transaction-based services to Tier 2 and 3 level clients will not succeed if your culture is built to deliver customized and relationship-based customer experiences. And conversely, you cannot espouse an intimate customer-centric culture if your strategy is to scale off-the-shelf solutions to the masses.
In fact, McKinsey found that companies in the top quartile for diversity are more likely to have higher financial returns. When it comes to your desired culture, be sure that new ideas and differing points of view are not squelched.
If you are undergoing culture change, establish key financial, customer, operational, people, and rate of change metrics to always know where you stand.
The Bottom Line
Supporting your desired culture and keeping your behavioral norms aligned with your strategy requires commitment and vigilance. Set clear expectations for the results and behaviors that are consistent with cultural goals. Then hold all employees accountable for measuring up to them.
To learn more about how to protect and support your desired culture, download How to Create a Purposeful and Aligned Culture
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