Does Your Company Need a Culture Consultant?

Company culture, once regarded as a “soft” secondary topic compared to the more concrete business areas, now dominates industry headlines and boardroom conversations. Consequently, an increasing number of CEOs recognize the significance of and want to prioritize their culture, though many misunderstand how to achieve this goal effectively.

The Real Definition of Company Culture

Some leaders try to strengthen their culture with employee-pleasing perks like ping-pong tables, pizza parties, and bringing pets to work, but this trend has proved ineffective. Workers like the fringe benefits, but these feel-good measures don’t create organizational culture or even alter it. Learn the difference between values and behaviors here: Many CEOs make an effort to strengthen their culture by carefully crafting and prominently displaying a set of company values to inspire employees. Others beef up benefits packages and reimagine workspaces to improve their culture. But even with all these enhancements in place, a company’s culture can be mediocre or even poor. An organization’s authentic culture is rooted in commonly held values and principles reflected in its staff’s everyday conduct. The culture is healthy if the overall behavior patterns align with the CEO’s vision and help the business and the people who work there to succeed.

Why You Might Need a Culture Consultant

If you’re considering hiring a culture consultant, it’s because you’ve acknowledged that your company’s culture needs improvement. Perhaps you’re seeing significant problems and are experiencing a dysfunctional workplace. But it’s much more likely that you can’t quite put a finger on what’s out of balance. You simply believe that your current culture, while satisfactory, could be better. It can be challenging to detect subtle disruptive behavioral patterns, but the signs of an insufficient culture usually show up in four key areas: When one or more of these symptoms are prevalent, companies start to deteriorate. These weak points can negatively impact normal operations and render a business incapable of weathering emergencies. If you can relate to any of these problems and understand that they directly connect to your company’s culture, you’re probably looking for solutions. The best recourse for most organizations is to engage outside expertise to improve their culture. People not directly affiliated with an organization offer fresh eyes and an objective perspective. They have no personal agenda, political stake, or role barriers and can make unbiased recommendations for culture improvement. For many leaders, the logical step to finding external assistance is looking for a culture consultant.

What Does a Culture Consultant Do?

The field of culture consulting emerged as business leaders began to recognize the importance of company culture and their need for help in this vital area. A consultant’s role is to assist companies in cultivating the kind of culture that will help them achieve their financial, strategic, and organizational goals. Consultants specializing in this work must be skilled at identifying a clear cultural direction and plan for their clients. To do this, most culture consultants will:
  • Analyze your current culture and pain points
  • Perform data analysis to assess how your culture could help your business run more effectively
  • Use formal assessments, interviews, and focus groups to solicit employee feedback about the current culture
  • Recommend changes that will improve the culture

Types of Culture Consultants

A culture consultancy can be comprised of one person, a small group, or a large team. The length of engagement and fees for service vary with the needs of their clients. Typically, consultants are prepared to propose a scope of work that runs approximately three months. Culture consultant pricing is based on geography, company size, and the length of the project.
If you’re interested in working one-on-one with a single advisor, you can hire an individual culture consultant to work internally. Such solo advisors may become temporary members of your team and use a boots-on-the-ground approach to get to know staff members on a personal level. As with consulting firms, culture consultants who work solo often counsel several clients at a time. A good practice for those hiring an independent consultant is to ask upfront about their other professional obligations. Another issue to consider is that individual consultants often have no backup, and things can move more slowly if their time is compromised during the project.
Small Team
Mid-sized culture consulting firms often specialize in a particular industry and bring their specific expertise to an organization. In addition, these firms share intellectual capital among team members who have worked for various similar organizations throughout their careers. They may be slightly more expensive than an individual consultant or lack the endless resources of a large corporate consulting firm. Still, their track record of results and targeted strategic partnerships can be valuable.
Culture Management Firm
On the other end of the spectrum are large corporate consulting firms that have strong brand recognition in a variety of industries. They have in-depth experience as consultants, a wealth of knowledge, skilled personnel, and an extensive network of resources. While impressive, there are a few caveats that business leaders should take into account before engaging a big firm. Their fees can be substantial, and their staff members may not have specific knowledge of different fields. In addition, large firms may employ consultants who haven’t personally implemented the changes that the firm recommends. Some firms will even discount their services to attract new business and train entry-level staff.

How to Find a Culture Consultant

If you’ve decided to hire a culture consultant, look for a practice that understands your desired outcomes and learn how they plan to achieve them. Ultimately, the consultant should not merely conduct a team-building experience to help boost workforce morale. Much more importantly, a consultant should help you generate a high-performing culture that drives success for your company and allows your employees to maximize their potential. They should assist you in implementing a culture initiative that permeates everything—from customer service to employee retention to sales, and ultimately, to revenue. Corporate culture consulting is a relatively new field. Most practitioners started in a related area, like HR consulting, change management consulting, leadership training, or business management consulting. And some businesses that specialize in these areas may have departments that focus on culture consulting. Professional networks like LinkedIn are good places to hunt for the right culture consultant or consulting firm. Many CEOs get valuable leads by posting a message asking for recommendations. Other avenues include: When you’re interviewing consultants:
  • Request examples of successful engagements
  • Ask how long they’ve been in practice and gather references
  • Negotiate the scope of work
  • Seek clarity about the exact solution, including an implementation timeline
  • Discuss expected outcomes

Downsides of Hiring a Culture Consultant

While many consultants have helped organizations improve their culture, there are some potential drawbacks to engaging this kind of service.
  • Consultants typically focus on the staff’s perspective of the current culture and their opinions about what should change. Employees’ sentiments don’t always align with the CEO’s goals or consider what the company needs to do to survive in the marketplace.
  • A thorough consultation can be very expensive, especially if it has an open-ended timeframe. If running on a modest budget, an organization should confirm that hiring a consultant will improve productivity and profit.
  • Consultants don’t offer a tangible solution. They provide advice and guidance but usually leave the mechanics of culture change to the organization.
  • Consultants bring a tremendous amount of experience to this short-term partnership. But after they depart, companies can flounder in their efforts to continue developing and sustaining the culture.

Culture Consultant Alternatives

Business leaders can explore several other options if hiring a culture consultant doesn’t seem like the right fit for their organization. The least expensive alternative is to take on the project internally. A simpler and more effective method is to invest in a culture operating system, like CultureWise.

Developing Your Culture Initiative In-House

While researching consultants, you probably came across examples of companies that successfully implemented their own culture initiative. You may be wondering if your company can manage this, and there could be some compelling reasons for you to make this an internal project. The top three reasons why leaders don’t hire external help to create their culture improvement programs are:
  1. Cost
  2. Existing in-house expertise
  3. Ample time to execute
Leaders planning to take on this kind of project in-house must carefully assess their resources.
Deciding to spend money on a culture consultant is a big step, and cost is the primary reason people hold back. If worrying about the cost of professional help for your organization’s culture will keep you up at night, you may want to avoid that stress by doing the project independently.
In-house Expertise
Every company has people with a variety of talents. Yours might include people you think have the appropriate skill sets to develop and implement a great culture initiative for your business. If it does, you may be able to pull the project off without hiring a consultant.
The staff you’ve selected to implement your culture initiative will need the time and capacity to prioritize it. Your company may be structured so that people can be flexible with their responsibilities. An internal operation might be the right solution for you if your team has sufficient time and energy to make this program successful.

DIY Bottom Line

If any of the things listed above describe your company, then tackling this project on your own may be the perfect path for you. But to do it well, and for your culture to have the impact you admire in other companies, you need to do it right. To empower your culture to transform your company, you need to create a systematic process to integrate it throughout your organization. The first step is to determine whether you have the internal staff with the capability to conceptualize, develop, and implement your culture initiative.

Using an Operating System Like CultureWise

For business leaders looking for an alternative to hiring a culture consultant and lack the resources to develop a culture initiative internally, an operating system for culture can be the ideal solution. CultureWise provides small to medium-sized businesses with everything they need to transform their culture. The CultureWise approach and role differ significantly from that of a consultant. For example:
  • CultureWise is designed to help CEOs create the culture they envision for their company instead of polling employees to register their complaints and recommend changes.
  • CultureWise helps leaders identify and define the behaviors that will drive their company’s success and provides a logical, eight-step framework to develop the culture their business needs to succeed.
  • CultureWise delivers a vast library of teaching content via an innovative smartphone app that regularly reinforces optimal behaviors.
  • CultureWise helps leaders operationalize the culture they want to see throughout their workforce by using multiple proven techniques and strategies.
  • Once implemented, CultureWise is designed to be a permanent part of a company. Unlike a consultant who provides direction and then departs, CultureWise continues to offer daily support and coaching to sustain the ongoing quality of an organization’s culture.

CultureWise Bottom Line

The CultureWise system is an affordable, highly effective means to develop company culture. Built on decades of knowledge and experience, it offers professional expertise that leaders can leverage using minimum internal resources. The program is user-friendly, and even the standard edition offers unlimited phone support. The more intensive custom edition of CultureWise is fully facilitated and led by an implementation specialist who guides organizations through the process. Pricing details for both editions are laid out upfront, and there are no hidden fees.

Assessing the Impact of a Culture Initiative

Whether you opt to hire a culture consultant or select an alternative solution, you’ll want to assess the impact of your culture initiative and realize a return on your investment of money and time. The culture project should achieve multiple goals, including creating a satisfying work environment for your staff and improving operations across the board. There are six primary areas where you should expect positive results after implementing a culture initiative, and all of them affect revenue.
  1. Retention and engagement
  2. Winning more business
  3. Attracting top talent
  4. Conflict reduction
  5. Improved performance
  6. Sustainable growth and continuity

Retention & Engagement

Companies with high turnover face continuous recruitment and training costs. An unstable workforce also leads to slower production, lack of continuity, errors, and slumping morale—all of which drain profit. So after you spend time and money hiring good people and bringing them up to speed, it’s critical to keep them in the fold. The best way to reinforce retention and build employee engagement is to make work more rewarding by helping people thrive in their jobs.  Check out this video to understand how a culture initiative improves retention and engagement:     Vibrant company culture creates a workplace environment where people can reach their full potential and excel. Because they’re equipped to succeed, employees feel purposeful and proud of what they do. A successful culture initiative should provide employees with: 
  • An understanding of how their roles impact company goals
  • Clarity about expectations and a positive system of
  • Supportive, motivational management and training
  • A method to receive and deliver meaningful acknowledgment for achievements
  • The tools and training to better collaborate, communicate, and share information
  • A respectful atmosphere in which diverse perspectives are encouraged and appreciated
Research shows that these qualities are of great value to employees. For example, a 2020 Gallop study lists company culture as one of the main factors influencing workforce retention. And happy, fulfilled employees not only stay on board; they become brand ambassadors.

Winning More Business

Business leaders go to great lengths to perfect their products, services, or delivery options to gain a competitive advantage. But these are things that marketplace opponents can easily copy. However, exceptional company culture is the sole differentiator competitors can’t duplicate. A successful culture initiative helps leaders define and coach the behaviors that drive success. When team members consistently practice those behaviors, the organization will outshine rivals in many ways. Employees operating within a strong culture will be unmatched in their ability to: •          Honor commitments •          Provide exceptional service •          Follow through and deliver results •          Be resourceful •          Demonstrate integrity •          Produce with quality •          Focus on accuracy and precision Behaviors like these resonate with customers as they consider doing business with companies that offer similar products and services. Thus, a distinctive culture often tips the balance in their purchase decision.

Attracting Top Talent

A company with a dynamic culture is a magnet for talented recruits who will be assets to the team. Yet only 31 percent of HR leaders say their culture makes them sufficiently competitive. For the other 69 percent, filling key positions is a constant struggle. That’s because smart job seekers aren’t attracted to a company that defines its culture with values posted on its website or creative perks for staff. Instead, they are looking for a work atmosphere where they can flourish and have a meaningful career. Only a strategically designed culture initiative can deliver this option. A strong culture provides a platform for personal as well as organizational success—an appealing equation for top job candidates. Consequently, a dynamic culture initiative helps companies secure the team they need to be industry leaders. See how Rita’s Italian ice attracts top talent using CultureWise:  

Conflict Resolution

Whenever people work together, occasional discord is inevitable. What sets one organization apart from another is how staff members respond to conflict when it happens. Disagreements and resentments at work often bubble up over a battle of egos or finger-pointing when something goes wrong. And people frequently clash when someone misconstrues a comment or assumes negative intent behind a coworker’s actions. Whether they’re petty or substantial, disputes can be an enormous drain on a workforce. People typically retreat into a defensive, self-preservation mode when they occur, and their focus shifts away from what’s best for the company. Unfortunately, contentious attitudes are often contagious, and a workplace filled with friction can be costly. Conventional conflict resolution often requires a lengthy process, and it may not be effective. Meanwhile, precious resources are being wasted. A productive culture initiative provides management and staff with the tools to constructively view, discuss, and diffuse conflicts before they escalate. Then coworkers can redirect their energy toward overall goals and healthier relationships. A culture structured to foster positive and productive behaviors is an invaluable asset. It provides emotional ROI that helps everyone stay on track to push the company ahead.

Improved Performance

No matter how skilled and driven a company’s employees are, they’re wasting potential if they aren’t joining forces to hit organizational goals. As noted earlier, culture increases employee engagement. It’s not hard to connect the dots between vested workers and outstanding individual output. But strong company culture heightens performance in another critical way—it gives talented people the means to excel as a team. Listen to how MHS lift improved their performance to become a national-recognized company in their industry: A sports organization doesn’t clinch a championship because its leaders signed a group of superstars. Instead, they win the ultimate prize because their high-achieving players work as a unit to notch win after win. That doesn’t mean individual efforts aren’t cheered, but teamwork is what makes those stand-out performances count. The same premise holds with a workforce. A strong culture initiative helps employees understand and embrace the concept that skilled collaboration has a far greater impact than isolated solo efforts. Moreover, it has the power to galvanize employees into a championship team that consistently outperforms the competition. Coworkers who equate company success with personal success derive greater job satisfaction and lift the entire organization.

Sustainable Growth & Continuity

One of the biggest challenges for business leaders is maintaining a solid culture during periods of growth. Expansion can happen via acquisitions, mergers, or simply adding personnel who may work in different branches or remotely from home. Typically, a small company’s culture is a reflection of the organization’s founder, who hand-picked the original team. As a result, the boss’s work ethic and the way they interact with employees, customers, and vendors form the blueprint for staff to emulate. But a leader’s influence is diluted as a company grows and staff members no longer interface with them regularly. Left untended, the culture will eventually reflect the loudest voice, positive or negative, in any given group. Moreover, if there are multiple factions, those loud voices can foster opposing micro-cultures that square off against each other. But with the proper support, company leaders can codify the culture they formed to preserve and extend it throughout an expanding workforce. A well-structured initiative will include a system to create an enduring culture even when workers no longer have the opportunity to shadow their boss.

Taking the Next Step to Improve Your Company’s Culture

Company culture, or the ongoing actions and attitudes of staff, impacts every aspect of a business. Ignoring the influence culture has on a company is like a farmer turning a blind eye to the weather. A program designed to build and support a strong organizational culture is one of a business leader’s most meaningful investments. If you’ve decided that your company would benefit from a culture initiative, the next step is to determine the best option for your organization. Weighing the information presented in this article, you can search for a culture consultant that is the right fit for your company or take on the project in-house. Better yet, contact us here at CultureWise to learn how our innovative operating system for culture has helped companies across North America become more successful.
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