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Culture: The Driver of Growth and Success

Companies, particularly those driving towards growth and success, invest significant capital in product development, technology, implementation and integration. While these expenditures are easily justified and absolutely necessary, they are not the ultimate determining factor of business success. At the end of the day, they are tools; the real keys to success reside within your employees. Employees are a direct reflection of an organization’s vision, mission, values, culture and brand. The questions are: What is that reflection? Do your employees embrace and represent it?

Organizations with cohesive, impactful, and positive cultures begin that process of development by devoting time and attention to the candidate selection process to ensure that they select employees whose personalities and motivations match the role, and can represent the organization. Additionally, these organizations invest in leadership and management training, team optimization techniques, employee engagement, and positive conflict resolution that further build a successful culture. Then employees reflect that culture in the interactions they have with each other and with stakeholders and customers. These are the tools where investment delivers significant gains and positive revenue impact.

From JOIVY blueprint:

Corporate culture is a key determinant in a company’s success. According to a recent survey of more than 1,300 CEOs and CFOs:

  • 91% rate culture as “important” to their firm
  • 79% rate culture among the top five factors affecting the value of their firm
  • 62% say that culture has a big effect on productivity
  • 92% say that improving corporate culture would increase their firm’s value
  • Only 15% rate their company culture as being exactly where it should be
Graham, J. R., Harvey, C. R., Popadak, J., & Rajgopal, S. (2017). Corporate culture: Evidence from the field (No. w23255). National Bureau of Economic Research.

An organization will generally create a strategic plan by defining a vision and mission. The plan will usually also include goals, financial forecasts, action plans, and more. Some organizations espouse the one-page business plan. Regardless of exactly how an organization performs this strategic planning, it is important to keep it simple, but not too simple. Even though it takes quite a bit of thought, communication, and planning and there may be a lot of tools and materials involved, at the end of the exercise, there should be a focus on a mission and/or vision that every employee can communicate easily and represent to their clients, stakeholders, and community. While this strategic plan describes “what” the company wants to accomplish and become, the culture of an organization is “how” and “why” it goes about accomplishing the mission and working toward the vision.

We’ve all heard that an existing organization has a culture whether it was intentionally built or not. Culture generally comes from the leader or group of leaders in an organization. In smaller organizations, this culture generally reflects what the leader values. The culture may focus on achievement, innovation, customer-service, altruism, work/life balance or other. Each cultural focus generally represents a set of collective values.

Many organizations will list their values in their marketing materials, their annual report and may even display them in their stores, branches, and other locations. This is easy. The more challenging effort is to ensure that the employees:

  • Know and can communicate the values of the organization
  • Understand why the values are important to the organization, their clients, and other stakeholders
  • Embed the values in how they perform their daily tasks.

Now, to make this more challenging, employees are unique, with different traits, motivations, experience, skills, etc. Matching what is required from each of their positions with their unique qualities will help ensure good job fit which is a key to employee engagement.

Let’s say there is a non-profit hospital that describes its culture as altruistic and some of their values are justice, fairness, compassion and humility. They may hire nurses who show an abundance of compassion and humility. Does that mean that when they select a collections analyst, they look for an abundance of compassion? Not necessarily. If the collections analysts are too compassionate, they may forgive too much debt. What the organization can ensure is that the collections process is done in a compassionate way. The point is that a candidate’s traits, motivations, experience, skills are matched to what the job requires and only a certain amount of the selection is based on the culture. An employee can understand the organization’s culture and what is required of them to enforce that culture. But it doesn’t mean that the organization needs employees to be the same, but they can all support a specific culture. Diversity in important in many areas, including personality, motivations, experience and more.

At the beginning of this article, we suggested that investing in people and culture is imperative for the growth and success of an organization. While people make up a culture, there are many complexities to understand about people, how they behave, what motivates them, how they communicate, what engages them. In a series of blogs to come, we will explore the intricacies of these topics and more.

Narrative partners with our clients to improve business performance by focusing on their people and culture. Let’s have a conversation about defining, communicating, and/or strengthening your culture.