16 August 2018
Culture Champion: How Leaders Create Engaging Cultures
- a Dale Carnegie featured article
Creating and maintaining a positive, unifying culture in the face of a fast-moving business environment isn’t easy, but getting it right offers significant returns.
Managing a corporate culture is difficult for many reasons, beginning with the challenge of accurately assessing one. Research shows that employees from different areas of the same organisation often having very different perceptions of the company culture. Even when leaders are able to achieve a comprehensive, objective view of their company’s culture, it’s far from simple to effect change when needed. Corporate culture runs deep; the fact that it’s embedded in nearly everything an organisation thinks and does it is what makes it so powerful - and so hard to transform.
In addition, success itself breeds resistance to change. Companies involved in mergers or acquisitions must deal with the integration of multiple corporate cultures, and for organisations operating internationally, societal cultures - the customs, ideas and behaviour of diverse peoples and nations - add further complexity.
In a recent survey across four countries, including Germany, Dale Carnegie & Associates set out to examine the perceptions of senior leaders on the strength of their own company cultures, their attitudes about its importance and impact, and actions they are taking to improve it. In doing so, we found a subset of particularly successful companies whose attitudes and actions differed from the rest. We defined this subset beginning with the leaders’ own assessment of the strength of their company culture; 21% of our respondents described their corporate culture as excellent. We then added more objective measures designed to select only those organizations that truly stand out from their competitors as being successful.
In addition to senior leaders indicating they have an “excellent” corporate culture, to be included in this best-in-class subset which we’ll call culture champions (CC), the organizations must also be exceeding its financial goals compared to expectations, and have lower turnover and higher employee engagement scores relative to others in its industry.
Success begins with leaders who believe in the importance of corporate culture, and are convinced of its impact on their organizations’ bottom line. Almost all the leaders in our study from successful companies (92%) believe that culture has a high impact on financial performance or is critical to reaching financial goals. By comparison, just 58% of all other leaders in our study believe that company culture has an important impact on financial outcomes.
A positive, healthy culture drives financial performance by establishing an environment where employees are motivated and inspired to do their best work, that is, where employees are engaged. In our study, just 2% of leaders from successful organizations said culture had only moderate, slight or no impact on employee engagement (EE) compared with 28% of all other organizations.
Attitudes toward the impact of corporate culture among senior leaders (%)
Critical Areas of Focus for Creating a High-Performing Culture (%)
Senior leaders from CC companies also accept that creating and maintaining the desired corporate culture is very much an ongoing process. While by definition, these leaders claim to have an “excellent” culture, more than one-third of them (35%) also said they currently have room for improvement.
When it comes to specifics, about 84% of executives from leading organizations are currently taking measures to enhance their culture, compared with just 66% of leaders from all other organizations. Effective culture champions look for ways to continuously reinforce the elements that are helping the organization succeed, and to change those that are no longer productive as the competitive environment shifts.
Among measures aimed specifically at engaging their employees, providing developmental training, improving workplace conditions, offering more competitive pay and benefits, creating paths to career advancement and offering flexible work hours topped the list of those senior leaders who have been most successful.
Effective culture champions also recognise that whatever they choose to do to strengthen their culture, they can’t do it alone. While senior leaders are responsible for establishing and communicating the desired culture, leaders throughout the organization reinforce it.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If creating a high-performing and engaging corporate culture were easy, the business world would have tired long ago of its obsession with the topic. Instead, it is becoming increasingly clear that the spotlight on corporate culture should be further intensified.
Senior leaders must evaluate the strength of their culture in relation to the environment in which they compete, and when they suspect that a part of their culture is becoming maladapted to overcoming the challenges they face, act to improve it. Given the impact it has on everything from strategy to employee engagement and financial performance, corporate culture can’t be left unattended by those who hope to win.
For more information please visit www.dalecarnegie.com