An investment in a healthy work culture brings financial and intrinsic dividends for everyone in the company.
Previously, we highlighted the importance of strategy and how to overcome the strategy-execution gap. This time, we will explore the vital role culture plays in the workplace and how it’s essential for your organization’s strategic success.
Culture Carries Strategy
You can have a great strategy and an excellent execution plan, but if your organization’s culture doesn't support its implementation, everything can fall apart.
In a 2021 global culture study of 3,200 leaders and employees, 72% of respondents reported that culture helped change initiatives to succeed. If you want to create strategic adjustments in the workplace, you need a supporting environment that facilitates growth and professional evolution.
A dysfunctional culture is like a cracked foundation. Anything built on it will be wobbly, unstable, and at risk for collapse — causing problems for all involved. Some issues that may arise include:
Lack of focus
Employees shying away from accountability
Higher levels of interpersonal drama
Lower employee morale
On the other hand, healthy company culture drives results and creates happier employees. According to a Forbes article by Alfredo Atanacio, strong culture improves your business by:
Improving employee engagement
Bringing in top talent
Enhancing brand reputation
Boosting customer satisfaction
Fortunately, there is evidence that sheds light on the necessary elements of a healthy work culture and introduces ways to prevent bad habits from seeping into your organization.
Defining a Great Culture
What constitutes good company culture? Like the cornerstone and footings of a building’s foundation, the following aspects demonstrate your culture’s capability to uphold and maintain your business strategy. A great culture:
Connects employee and company values with strategic objectives. Gallup reports only “23% of U.S. employees strongly agree that they can apply their organization's values to their work every day, and only 27% strongly agree that they believe in their organization's values.” With such low numbers making up the norm, it’s no surprise that infusing beliefs into daily operations gives businesses a competitive advantage. This connection helps employees stay on the same page and believe in their company’s mission, while strategic transparency promotes work efficiency and meaningfulness.
Creates a purpose-driven workspace. When employees feel a sense of purpose in their work, they are more satisfied, motivated, and committed to the organization’s success. According to the 2015 U.S. Purpose Index study, 64% of purpose-oriented individuals felt more fulfilled in their work, 50% were more likely to assume leadership roles, and 47% were more likely to be promoted by their employers compared with individuals who weren’t purpose-oriented.
Encourages agile decision-making and adaptability that supports strategy implementation. Work culture is not a dictatorship. As we discussed in this article on strategy execution, employees need access to proper decision rights so they can succeed in their roles. This approach promotes quick thinking to avoid obstacles and encourages trust, innovation, and accountability.
Fosters teamwork. Strong company culture promotes open communication and incorporates individual strengths to reach shared goals. We discussed the important link between communication and strategic execution in our article about overcoming the strategy-execution gap.
Keeps all employees connected. Remote work can make it harder to build culture, but physical location can be overcome with the wealth of technological solutions now available. Remote workers contribute to a company’s success just as much as in-person workers and should be provided with opportunities to connect with their fellow employees.
Sets clear expectations. A safe workspace encourages people to take responsibility for their individual actions by providing clear expectations.
Creating the Foundation
How do you establish this solid foundation in your organization? If you have a “cracked” foundation, how do you fix it? Below is a diagram based on CultureWise CEO David Friedman’s input on creating a healthy work culture.
Focus on these areas to nurture a culture that benefits everyone:
1. Recruiting: Bring in top talent who will positively impact your work culture. Look for people who go beyond the basic requirements of the position, work well with others, fit your company’s values, and demonstrate a growth mindset
2. Training: Educate both new and current employees on the culture you’re trying to integrate. How can everyone work together to build a positive work culture if they don’t know what is expected of them?
3. Leadership: “Leadership is less about being the smartest person in the room, and more about creating the environment that will enable the purpose and the strategy to come to life,” says Hubert Joly, former chairman and CEO of Best Buy, in a Harvard Business Review article. Leaders throughout your business should be encouraged to uphold workplace culture by reinforcing standards and beliefs through decision-making. Leading by example shows that no one is exempt.
4. Communication: When people get busy, they can become forgetful. Reiterate culture expectations to everyone on an ongoing basis.
5. Performance Management: Accountability plays a crucial role in maintaining a strong culture. If some individuals refuse to participate in a healthy work environment, it may be time to move on from them. On the other hand, reward employees who put in the effort and help drive the culture you’re aiming for.
When building a structure, a solid foundation is imperative. Establishing a successful business is no different. By fostering a positive, healthy company culture, you provide a strong and reliable base for strategy implementation and innovation.