How Does Culture Affect the Workplace?

A drawing of an open working area to help ask How Does Culture Affect the Workplace

How Does Culture Affect the Workplace?
As clear and compelling as your strategy may be, it must go through your culture to be successfully implemented.  Because your workplace culture must be aligned with your strategy, smart leaders ask “How does culture affect the workplace?”

The relationship between culture and strategy was recently highlighted in a study of 1,200 senior executives by Bain where 91% agreed that “culture is as important as strategy for business success.”

The Definition of Workplace Culture
Before we answer the question of “How does culture affect the workplace,” let’s define corporate culture.

We define corporate culture as how things actually get done in an organization. It can be measured by observing and understanding the way employees think, behave and work.  This includes the known and unspoken values and assumptions that drive key business practices and behaviors – especially those of a company’s leaders in who they hire, fire and promote.

Why Organizational Culture Matters
Corporate culture does indeed have a “hard” and quantifiable effect on performance and we know that a winning performance culture is how an organization can successfully outperform its peers.

  • According to a recent Harvard Business School research report, an effective culture can account for up to half of the differential in performance between organizations in the same industry.
  • And our own organizational alignment research found that culture accounts for 40% of the difference between high- and low-performing companies.

So How Do You Create a High Performance Culture?

1. Get a Clear Picture of Your Current and Desired Culture
First you need a clear picture of your current culture in terms of organizational health (the values and behavioral norms) and strategic alignment (the degree to which your culture helps or hinders strategy execution). Your corporate culture assessment should highlight the strengths to reinforce and the cultural weaknesses to shift that are preventing you from achieving organizational health and strategic excellence.

2. Get Everyone on Board
Work with management and employees to explain what you are trying to do, why it must be done and ask for their suggestions on how a high performance culture can become the new way of life. Make sure you include discussions on needed systems adjustments, accountability tracking and reporting, and the reinforcement of desired behaviors.

Any culture transformation needs to be a company-wide effort in order to succeed.  Leaders must be on board, and employees must be allowed to actively create the values and behaviors that they will be most proud of and willing to stand behind.  Actively win over any naysayers or compassionately persuade them to move on.

3. Keep Everyone on Board
Culture shifts by their very nature occur slowly. To keep moving on the right path and maintain a positive momentum, you will need to communicate (and over communicate) the purpose and progress on a regular basis with the workforce.  And you will need to recognize and reward the cultural behaviors that drive the strategy forward in a way that makes sense – over and over again.

The Bottom Line
Strategy (the What) and culture (the How) are inextricably linked.  You can’t achieve your business goals if your culture gets in the way.  Actively involve everyone to win over their hearts and minds.  Is your corporate culture helping or hindering your business strategy?

To learn more about “How does culture affect the workplace,” download The 3 Levels of a High Performance Culture

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