(Image credit: Marcel Kessler.)
Just because technology is moving at light speed, doesn’t mean that the conversation over corporate culture is going away. In fact, it may be growing more relevant in an era of talent shortages and higher turnover costs. A winning culture is the healthy and stable foundation upon which to build or transform, and organizations that wish to achieve agility, should aspire to the attributes that make such a culture possible.
As business strategists, transformation experts should assess and recognize cultural traits before the work of transformation begins. They should be able to answer the following questions:
“What distinguishes a healthy corporate culture from a toxic culture?”
“Does culture really matter when it comes down to the business’ ability to generate revenue?”
“Which is more important to transformation: clearly articulated goals or a clearly communicated values?”
The work of transformation includes a systematic review of the enterprises. It provides an orderly progression to enable your organization to have breakthrough success. This examination will cover your business operating model, process and technology, but it all starts with a look at corporate culture—the “soft” part of operations. Before answering the question, “How do we change our culture?,” executives need to first recognize just how the culture can affect the organization’s unique value proposition.
The Importance of Culture
Culture touches everything. It impacts your products, your technology choices and their use and it can make or break your service to customers. Culture has bearing upon all you produce. It follows then, that if you want to transform anything within your organization, from your business model to your technology, culture doesn’t just have to be “along for the ride,” but it needs to share in the responsibility of driving.
Here is where business transformation and psychology mix. In psychology, we find the concept of superordinate goals. These are goals that require the cooperation of individuals or teams to achieve what the larger group needs. In business, we’re always needing to achieve unified strategies, but we’re often sidetracked by individual team goals. When we establish and communicate cultural traits, we are at the same time identifying a core mission and a vision to which everyone can relate. Simply said, you need to answer the question for each individual, “What’s in it for me?,” so that they can link their personal motivations to your cultural vision.
Culture puts us on the same page.
The Benefits of a Positive Culture
There may be a hundred separate benefits to a positive corporate culture, but let’s quickly look at positive culture from four angles:
Employees need to feel that the work they are doing is important. They need to understand the company’s unique value proposition and how they fit into the creativity and action that it takes to achieve that value proposition. For the most part, they want to be a part of an organization that seems to use leading technologies and applies best practices. They do not want to feel like they have to fix their own company before it can complete its mission effectively. The employee that perceives the culture to be strong and smart will be more engaged during times of organizational transformation.
Transformation requires innovation at every level. People have to be thinking innovatively about how they will use larger transformations as an opportunity to innovate within their own portion of the process. But disengaged employees are thinking less about innovation and more about protecting their paycheck. They may see streamlined processes as a forerunner to job cuts. Convince the culture that innovation provides growth and these same employees may see innovation as their ticket to the top. For startup companies and InsurTechs, innovation may be assumed to be important, but work ethic may be more crucial to establish with a positive message. Either way, innovation is a common result of clear cultural messaging.
Strong cultures, or “performance-enhancing” cultures are excellent predictors of business success. This is one of the business universals that doesn’t seem to change over time. Among public companies, those with “extremely healthy” cultures: are nearly 2.5 times more likely to report significant stock price increases over three years.
Do the best employees see the organization as a weigh station on their way to the top? Do they understand their roads to growth within the organization and do they appreciate their benefits, workspace, PTO policies, educational opportunities? Is leadership engendering respect and building loyalty? It is difficult for executives to undertake organizational transformation when the knowledge base is turning over too quickly. Culture can work toward attracting the best talent and culture can keep that talent on board for many years longer than the average. Compensation, positive culture and the ability to change are very closely related.
Culture as the Foundation of the Brand
An organization’s brand is a communicator of its uniqueness. Both marketing and brand service ultimately rest upon the effectiveness of the foundation that is established within the culture. This holds true for organizations of any size and any type. In an age of corporate and brand transparency, a brand is merely a translucent cover over the real levels of innovation and engagement on the inside. Every company has cultural holes—areas to improve upon. But a culture of proactive improvement and transformation will ultimately provide the best internal organization to match the desired brand perception.
Organizational transformation is easier when the culture is “transformation-ready.”
Because ultimately what leaders seek is not to be just a “good” organization, but an adaptable organization that can survive and thrive perpetually, culture communications need to link the benefits of positive culture to the ability to transform. These links are easy to see.
Employee perception: “We are a learning organization where employees are highly valued.”
Innovation: “We are an innovative organization where we need every associate to contribute to the process.”
Higher revenue: “We are a profit-seeking organization that utilizes our positive culture as a growth-driver.”
Talent management: “We foster great talent to achieve creative great development and service.”
Of course, this is only the beginning. Once goals are established for a transformational culture, how is it actually accomplished? There are a number of models for change. Executives have to identify the answers to new questions. “How does the organization use what it knows about its individuals to shepherd them through a pathway of transformation? How is cultural communication best applied to transformational efforts? These are all a part of constructing a detailed transformation plan. The vital takeaway is that any transformation plan must not leave culture assessment out of its change methodology.