Every organization has a culture…whether intentionally designed or not. Culture is the how things actually get accomplished in an organization. It is how people think and behave and work. And it includes the spoken or unspoken values and assumptions that drive such key employee practices as hiring, firing and promoting.
We have found in our organizational culture work with clients that “how things get done” matters a lot. It matters in terms of attracting, developing and engaging and retaining employees. But it matters most in terms of performance. Here is why aligning your corporate culture with your strategy should matter to you:
• A recent Harvard Business School study reported that an effective culture can account for up to half of the differential in performance between organizations in the same industry.
• And, to bolster this, our organizational alignment research shows that cultural factors account for almost 40% of the difference between high- and low-growth companies.
Your culture and your talent are so inextricably entwined that it’s a little bit like the question of which came first, the chicken or the egg. But the better defined your culture, the easier it will be to attract and retain the employees you want and who will fit in. Come up, if you can, with a characteristic that identifies your culture…like a brand that distinguishes your company and the way you like to work.
Here are some examples of corporations that have established a culture that is immediately recognizable both to current employees and prospective employees:
• Zappos is known for its so-called “happiness culture” described by founder and CEO Tony Hsieh in his book Delivering Happiness. He believes that happy employees deliver “wow” customer service and beget happy customers. Just looking at Zappos’ success, it is clear that his model aligns their corporate culture to their go-to-market strategy.
• Twitter’s employees love to come to work because they truly enjoy one another. Their team-oriented culture fosters an environment where employees are really charged up about working with each other and doing something they feel matters in the world.
• REI is the place for outdoor enthusiasts both as customers and as employees. REI employees completely subscribe to the values of their company as a place where quality outdoor equipment is sold with solid guarantees and where care for the environment is foremost.
• Adobe trusts its employees and this trust is shown in the way it assigns meaningful, challenging projects and then expects employees to handle the projects without over-supervision. Training and support are always available. The open culture promotes a positive culture where employees have a stake in helping the company grow.
When you can define and live your unique core values and corporate culture in a way that sets you apart from other companies, you have gone a long way toward winning the war for talent. It enables you to better and more efficiently attract employees who will be highly engaged and who will stick around for the long-term. The better you can explicitly model and communicate your distinctive attributes, the better able potential hires (and potential customers) will be to make wise choices…for their long-term benefit and yours.
4 Steps to Create Strategic Alignment
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