Your company’s culture: strategic asset and competitive advantage
Your company culture is what employees say and do every day, how they work together (or don’t), what leaders reinforce (or don’t), and all the habits, practices, processes, and customs of the workplace.
Company culture also includes the workplace “vibe,” expectations, what is encouraged or discouraged, barriers (intended or not), reporting lines, technologies, and office politics.
We see companies disrupt markets, despite a weaker balance sheet, less-tenured staff, and smaller market share. Why? It is their cultural practices that give them strategic advantage and unlock the capabilities of their workforce.
Culture can make or break a company. It’s the pivotal difference between a thriving, productive, motivating workplace, and a less productive or even toxic workplace that’s missing its potential.
A high-performance culture is all about skillful leadership, clear direction, creating opportunity for all employees, engaging and motivating them, and maintaining high standards of safety, diversity, equity, and inclusion. Your employees are acutely aware of all this, all the time. Your culture is your reputation (see Glass Door). And the word about your culture gets around, within your walls and beyond, as other companies watch your performance. It’s a strategic asset, therefore, can be a competitive advantage.
How’s your company’s culture?
The challenges of recent years have been momentous, and change is overrunning us: Shifting business models. Health and safety imperatives. Varied work locations and environments. The demand for more effective cross-functional work. The need for better employee retention and leader succession. ESG (environmental, social and governance) issues. Supply chain nightmares. Due diligence for acquisition and investment. Changes in legal requirements…just to name a few.
A company’s culture must respond to all these changes with purposeful agility. It must constantly adapt to fit the times, like everything else. (Compare the 1960s culture of Mad Men to the business culture today.)
How well has your team adapted during the last 16 months? Has your culture flexed with the times or have weaknesses emerged impacting your business performance, employee engagement and motivation, and/or your overall company morale? Often, we find that different people have different perceptions of what the company culture actually is right now, sometimes leading to flawed culture change or improvement projects that achieve the opposite of what they set out to do.
Do you need a culture consultant?
Creating, maintaining, and growing a high-performance culture is daunting at any time, but even more so in our tumultuous work environments over the last almost 1.5 years. Engaging a culture consultant to help you transform or re-form your culture to gain a competitive edge coming out of the pandemic can provide a dramatic return on investment for these reasons:
Objectivity. Culture consultants can see what you may not be able to. They are clear-eyed observers who have no personal agenda, political stake, role barriers, blindfolders of history, fear of change, or difficult relationships with leaders. A culture consultant’s focus is to evaluate objectively the status quo and make candid, unbiased recommendations for improving your culture.
Experience. Much as a doctor employs deep experience to quickly assess a patient’s symptoms, a culture consultant has the broad perspective and expertise to assess how well your company culture is working and see its flaws. Culture experts have advised diverse companies, seen it all, and know the good, bad, and ugly, giving you unique insights and perspectives on changes for the better.
Alignment. A high-performance culture requires alignment at all levels of your organization, across all functions to deliver mission-critical strategies and tactics. Creating such alignment means gearing all people- and performance-related elements toward a common goal. It’s not always an easy task and a culture consultant can help even the best organizations easily see what is right in front of them a remove blind spots to improvement opportunities. It’s that fresh look and open-mindedness that can accelerate alignment.
Best practices. The culture consultant has seen many best practices and can bring them to your organization. They view your cultural dynamics through a different, broader lens and help design strategies that will work quickly and effectively in your culture.
Science speaks. Applying a science-based approach to assess your culture—how human behaviors, systems, processes, and practices align with company values—can provide a powerful framework for accelerating performance.
Return on investment. A high-performance culture ensures that your people, systems, and process enhance performance, not inhibit it. A culture that fails to maximize the entire enterprise value chain will produce rework, waste, delay, unsafe conditions, poor customer service, employee turnover, process complacency, and overall stagnation, costs no organization wants to experience.
Culture is too important to leave to chance
Time and time again, we see that cultural practices and alignment give companies a strategic advantage and bring out the best in the workforce. A culture consultant can help a company preserve what they do well as they go through ongoing transformations, while creating an opportunity for progress and growth.
The ultimate goal is an exceptional culture that achieves the best possible employee engagement and competitive, sustainable performance outcomes.