Author: Candace Coleman, Content Manager. January 21, 2021
Corporate culture has been a buzzword in boardrooms for decades, but the term is still frequently misunderstood.
Some business leaders view it as a morale-boosting HR concept that has nothing to do with how a company performs. It’s a nice idea they might get around to one day, but right now they have bigger fish to fry. Other CEOs create a “culture” by writing a set of values to reflect what they want people to think about their company. Then they post them on their website and continue to go about business as usual.
These leaders mean well, but they’re missing the point—and they’re missing out.
A high-performing corporate culture does far more for a company than inspire employees or enhance public perception. When done correctly, it’s the engine that drives every facet of an operation and it has the power to catapult a business to the top of the field.
At CultureWise, we’ve helped hundreds of companies create and activate dynamic cultures. Time after time, we’ve watched how a strong culture transforms the performance of organizations by improving every level of operation.
There are multiple ways culture tangibly improves a business. Here are seven benefits.
1. A Common Language
We’ve all worked in groups where each person has a different perception of the “reality” in the room. No matter how hard they try, goals aren’t actualized because everyone’s on a different wavelength. Not having a common language to describe, discuss, and address the multiple situations that a team faces every day is a recipe for dysfunction.
A strategically designed culture will provide your team with a universal vocabulary. This common language defines the kind of behaviors and attitudes that will drive your company’s success. This shared language helps people to:
- Align expectations
- Minimize misunderstandings and confusion
- Operate with consistency
“It is crucial that as a leader, you give your people the tool of a common language to talk about daily actions and expectations. A shared language provides a foundation of common ground for every conversation. Instead of using words or phrases loaded with meaning pulled from one’s upbringing or prior work experience, employees use language that you’ve chosen intentionally and teach consistently, ensuring that everyone has the same understanding.”
A common language helps your organization erase various interpretations about how to undertake important practices and even routine tasks. Everyone is on the same page.
2. Elimination of Silos
“Silos” is a term that surfaced a few decades ago as business leaders hashed out problems they were experiencing in their organizations. Instead of impenetrable structures protecting contents like grain or missiles, workplace silos harbor information.
Silo mentality on the job can be manifested in several ways:
- by departments that operate independently and don’t see the need to share information.
- by individuals who hoard information for their benefit.
- by workers so consumed with daily responsibilities that they fail to see the big picture.
Whether it’s habitual, intentional, or oblivious behavior, a restricted flow of information triggers inefficiencies that affect your company’s workflow. According to management expert and author Pat Lencioni, “silos—and the turf wars they enable—devastate organizations by wasting resources, killing productivity and jeopardizing results.”
But companies that incorporate a strong culture give their staff tools to tear down existing silos and eliminate the need to build new ones. The culture demonstrates how collaboration not only strengthens the whole organization, it propels everyone to a higher level of success. The environment changes from one where people stockpile information to one where it’s generously shared. And operating as an aligned force is how you win the game.
3. Easier Conflict Resolution
People don’t always get along and if you’re a business leader, you’ve put in your share of referee duty. When a rift surfaces at work, it can negatively impact your organization unless it’s nipped in the bud. Even if you’ve developed an effective mediation process, activating it can siphon away lots of energy and time.
But what if there was a more effective way to address conflicts? Even better, what if your company was structured in a way that limits the likelihood of conflicts happening in the first place?
A clearly defined culture provides a kind of operations manual or rulebook that outlines behaviors that you want to see in your staff. A strong culture stresses open, respectful communication and teamwork. And helps people understand the pitfalls of pointing fingers when things go wrong.
When these behaviors are taught, practiced, and internalized, people are less likely to clash. They’re also better equipped to handle conflicts when they do arise. A great culture offers a systematic approach to working toward shared goals. And it helps coworkers understand that every role counts in achieving those goals.
Culture inspires people to bring out the best in their teammates. And it gives folks who are at odds the tools to come to terms and move on. Having a strong culture means having less drama.
4. Consistent Leadership
One of a leader’s most important responsibilities is to teach their staff. Not because the people they’ve hired are without skills, but because everyone comes with a different set of ideas about how to do things.
There are many areas where cohesive performance is crucial to a company’s success. It’s up to leaders to coach team members about the way things are done at a specific workplace and the necessary perspective to do them well.
In businesses without a foundational culture, each manager, supervisor, or project head might be teaching things in a different way. This kind of scattershot training is more confusing than effective. Employees may be hearing one thing from a division manager and a completely different approach from their immediate boss. Or they may find it hard to deal with another department because its team functions under different guidelines.
A system-driven culture gives leaders a clear blueprint of how to teach, coach, and mentor their teams. Everyone uses the same standards and methods to help individuals and teams achieve goals and work together seamlessly.
Consistent training delivers a better-equipped and unified workforce that leaders can more easily take to the next level of performance. And the workforce is fortified and inspired by an organized, united management team.
5. Improved Recruitment and Retention
It’s harder than ever to both attract and retain top-level talent. Highly qualified job applicants have a shopping list of priorities that help them narrow the search for satisfying positions. One of the biggest differentiators for job seekers is a company’s culture. CultureWise founder and CEO David Friedman explains it this way:
“Every research study about what elements attract the best people affirms that culture is at or near the top of the list, even more than money. And this is even more the case for the younger generation that’s now entering the workforce. They want to feel connected, to feel a sense of purpose in their work, to feel that they work in a place that aligns with their values. Culture is your strongest weapon in the battle for talent in the new economy.”
If your organization has a reputation for its outstanding culture, you’ll have a significant edge in recruitment and retention. Instead of hunting for the best people to build your team, they’ll knock on your door because your winning culture has created a buzz in the market. Recruiters are more likely to recommend you, too. And referrals from happy employees in the current organization are a big factor in drawing new candidates. If a top recruit takes a job with a company largely because the culture appeals to them, they’re also more likely to stay on board after they’re hired.
A strong corporate culture creates a specific environment. This helps companies hire the best people because applicants will understand right away if they’re a good fit and will feel at home there. The opposite is also true. Business leaders with a culture-driven operation will find it easy to winnow out applicants who won’t thrive on their team.
6. More Engagement / Less Turnover
Employee engagement can be defined as the level of enjoyment, commitment, and enthusiasm people have for their jobs. Why should employers be concerned with the level of engagement displayed by their people? Because a happy, energetic, and vested team is a much more productive team. Unhappy or even just apathetic workers do little to contribute to a company’s success, and they’re also much more inclined to jump ship.
Gallop started tracking US employee engagement in 2000, and its initial findings were a wake-up call for business leaders. In their first poll with this metric, they found that 26% of workers were actively engaged at work, while 18% were actively disengaged. By 2019, the percentage of engaged workers had risen to 35% and the number for the deeply disenfranchised group dwindled to 13%.
The increased percentage of active engagement happened mostly in the past 10 years. Interestingly, it was about 10 years ago that a lot more business leaders started to see the value of having a corporate culture and began to invest in it.
In fact, Gallop identifies “high development culture” as the key element propelling the upward trend. In their 2020 article, “4 Factors Driving Record-High Employee Engagement in U.S.”, they list core ways that culture can powerfully impact a business.
A strong cultural framework will unite your workforce and give team members many ways to plug into the organization. They’ll feel like they’re making a meaningful contribution. Because they’re happier on the job and impressed with what their company does, they’re less likely to leave. They’ll want to stay with a winning program and won’t be inclined to look for greener pastures.
7. Heightened Performance
David Friedman has met thousands of business leaders across the country through his speaking engagements about corporate culture. Many tell him they’re proud of their hard-working teams, but their operations seem stuck at a certain level. When they ask for advice, he tells them that the key to lasting change isn’t trying harder. It’s creating habits.
As he points out in a recent blog, The Transformative Power of Extraordinary Consistency:
“My experience is that most people really do want to do great work and achieve at the highest levels. But without an appropriate structure in place, most won’t have the motivation and/or discipline to do what’s necessary on a consistent enough basis. We start with lots of determination but eventually, we sink back to doing what we always do.”
The “structure” Friedman refers to is a strong, operationalized culture that addresses every aspect of an organization. In a culture-driven environment, specific behaviors that drive success are identified and clearly defined. Then they are taught, discussed, and consciously applied every single day.
Teams form powerful habits through the continuous practice of these strategic behaviors. And when these habits become ingrained, things start to change. Quality is elevated, productivity increases, and goals are attained because people aren’t just working hard—they’re working better with consistency. That’s what will propel them to the next level.
I’m In! Where Can I Find More Information?
If you’re looking for that competitive edge and think your company needs to improve in any of the seven areas we’ve listed, implementing a strong culture is the key. Friedman’s books Fundamentally Different and Culture by Design are among the many excellent resources on the market that can help you learn more about building an organizational culture.
Find out more by subscribing to our Culture Matters blog to regularly receive insightful material about culture. For first-hand accounts, listen to leaders from a variety of business sectors talk about how their companies have been transformed by installing a high-performing culture.
When you’re ready to get started, visit us at CultureWise. We’ve created a proven system that provides the structure for articulating and practicing the behaviors that significantly drive success for businesses of any size.