Why Companies Should Invest in Organizational Culture [INFOGRAPHIC]

If you want proof the numbers are in – working on building a great workplace culture pays off.


In this study by Burson Marsteller as shown on GreatWorkplace.com, a few key areas stand above all others as paying off:

  • Investing in educating employees about the company values, mission, and customer retention efforts
  • Investing in building company culture
  • Mentoring, training, and career development programs
  • Being recognized for workplace initiatives

The key is companies must understand HOW to leverage their specific corporate culture to drive better performance, productivity, and profit. If you aren’t connecting the culture to the business goals and vision, it’s difficult to sustain meaningful effort on company culture. There are 4 stages to create the most tailored and highest value effort when attending to culture:

STAGE ONE: Assess Your Reality – Great workplace cultures are grounded in trust, credibility of management, and the ability to collaborate and foster teamwork. Take an honest look at how your employees view these. (Senior leaders typically have the least accurate view of the existing culture).

  • Does everyone know the company vision and values? Do they mean anything – ie, are people passionate about them?
  • Are people at all levels clear what makes your organization unique and how to best serve your customers?
  • Does change make sense, and does the organization value learning from mistakes?
  • Are decisions made quickly by people who have a clear line of sight to the customer?
  • Are employees’ capabilities constantly being developed?
  • Do people work well in teams and collaborate across the business?

There may be other “hot buttons” that are most important in your business; however most of the organizations we have seen have gained a lot of value improving these focus areas.

STAGE TWO: Build Awareness – Senior leaders must name and visibly support Culture as a strategic focus area, or it will never gain traction. You have to dedicate resources and time to work on it. Employees love to work for companies who build tribal pride and a unifying identity. In “building awareness” leaders name the key behaviors they most want to develop in the culture: Focused? Passionate? Innovative? Driven? Fun? Customer Focused? Whatever the 3-4 behaviors are, they should support your strategy and everyone should know what they are. Be realistic! You should build on strengths that exist in the culture now (ask employees if you’re not sure). Culture differs from Company Values, although they are closely related. Culture is “how we work together that helps or hinders your business goals and strategies.” Values are “the code of conduct for how we behave and make decisions.”

We like to engage people at all levels in this conversation – both to help shape the culture definition and create greater awareness company-wide of our unifying cultural identity. “We want to build a great workplace culture that is Focused, Passionate, and Fun. What can we DO specifically to improve it?” Go back to the “hot spots” that were identified in your assessment.

STAGE THREE: Forge Alignment – Great workplace cultures are those that create clear, aligned movement towards winning in their “space” (market). The teamwork is all pulling in the same direction. This is easier said than done. It is all about coordinated and frequent communication. Leaders should do monthly updates on the Culture, sharing stories about how a certain group, department, or employee demonstrated the culture. This gains a lot more energy and excitement from people than just a boring “update on the numbers.” You can make Culture a standing agenda item on your staff meetings, and talk about what people see as “working well” versus “needs attention.” We also advocate recruiting and training official “culture champions” or “change champions” with a clearly defined role in modeling new ways of working. This helps speed the process of alignment.

STAGE FOUR: Develop Adaptability – Almost every organization today needs to teach people skill sets in ongoing and constant change. The speed of change is more dynamic than ever, and it is creating a lot of confusion and information overload for people. We focus on developing three specific areas in companies (in our Culture Builder Toolkit): Decision making, role clarity, and customer focus. These are crucial to develop as ongoing areas of attention and conversations in every business, and they help create a culture that can respond more quickly to shifting external forces.

For a more in-depth plan on how to engage these 4 elements in your organization you can sign up here.

The key to ROI of working on company culture is GET GOING. It’s almost impossible to do culture wrong if you engage people in the conversation. Here are 10 tips to help you lead tough conversations.

INFOGRAPHIC: Why Companies Should Invest in Company Culture via Burson-Marsteller, (c) 2013

Comments ( 3 )

  • Pingback:Why Companies Should Invest In Organizational Culture | Corporate CFO

  • Mark Rome, zEthics

    Lisa, thanks for sharing your research.

    Can the same be said for the federal government; i.e., “building a great workplace culture pays off.”

    Within most federal agencies, human capital is woefully underutilized. In the aggregate, mismanagement leaves billions of dollars on the table in expenses that could have been saved.

    In the 2012 U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Financial Report, agency leadership recognized 35 material weaknesses and stated, “many of our systems are old and handle or exchange information in ways that do not readily support strong financial management.” These material weaknesses cost taxpayers billions of dollar annually.

    Only about half (54%) of DoD employees responding to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey indicated that they were part of a results-oriented performance culture.

    In the Securities and Exchange Commission’s 2012 Financial Report, the Commission reported spending $552.3 million to foster and enforce compliance with federal securities laws while meeting or exceeding only 41% of its performance targets.

    About 70% of U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission employees responded to the Federal Employee Viewpoint survey. Only about one in three (36%) of SEC employees responding to the survey indicated that they were satisfied with the policies and practices of their senior leaders.

    In 2005, the Department of Energy (DOE) estimated the cost of constructing a Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) in Oak Ridge, Tenn. at $600 million, with completion by 2018. Poor management and a design flaw have contributed to astronomical cost overruns and a new estimate that the facility will cost more than $11 billion, and won’t be fully operational until 2038.

    In 2012, only about one in three (35%) of DOE employees responding to the Federal Employee Viewpoint survey indicated that leaders generate high levels of motivation and commitment in the workforce. Similarly, about one in three (30%) of DOE employees indicated that steps are taken to deal with a poor performer who cannot or will not improve.

    Should the federal government implement tools to better understand HOW to leverage their specific culture to drive better performance?

    • Lisa Jackson

      I think it would be fair to say that if the federal government could find the leadership to understand culture, and specifically how to leverage culture as a driver of stronger performance, it’s employees – and indeed the entire country – would be grateful, on many levels. Thanks for sharing these detailed and powerful insights.

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