Many companies and their leaders understandably discuss their company culture. What their culture is, how it is achieved, will evolve and how everyone should embrace ‘the way things are done around here’. Organisational culture can be difficult to define or ‘pin down’ however it can be pivotal when it comes to your organisation’s success or failure.
Bland straplines or broad brush statements that lack substance is not appropriate when it comes to defining your organisations culture. Culture is far more complex. It is therefore important for organisations to be very clear about what their culture is and how everyone collectively contributes to it. This is always an effective starting point, you then have a sound foundation to build on.
There is a lot of research in organisational culture and how leaders have a critical influence. In August 2017, Robert Half conducted a study on how Chief Financial Officers (CFO’s) influenced organisational culture. Some of the key findings are;
- 51% of CFO’s surveyed said they were ‘somewhat involved’ or ‘very involved’ in shaping the organisational culture
The 51% who said they were involved in this process, said they were in the following ways;
- 72% contribute to induction and training programmes
- 76% said they regularly spoke to employees about culture
- 78% said they collaborated with other executives to define the desired culture
- 79% said they contributed to the development of the culture
- 83% said they used company values and principles to guide their actions
This research is quite revealing and raises important points. Many believe that when it comes to culture, it needs to have ‘buy in’ from the top which will in turn filter down and cascade throughout the organisation. Ultimately, if you are part of the organisation’s workforce you will be much more likely to live the organisations values if you see the leadership team doing so.
As a leader, you are always setting an example, whether you want to or not. So, in this sense it could be argued that leaders are always setting their company culture (though whether it is done by virtue of the position they are in or deliberately is another discussion)
What can a leader do to influence company culture and improve mission impact:
- Be clear about what you want the culture to be and how it ties in with the organisation’s mission. Having a well thought out and appealing culture is one thing however, as with any organisation it needs to translate to delivery of results.
- Set clearly defined SMART objectives.
- Have a clear and transparent feedback system.
- Have a clear development plan for employees and recruit to for the company culture.
- Senior management maintaining meaningful and regular contact with the workforce.
In an article in Entrepreneur magazine, companies such as Twitter, Southwest Airlines, Google and Facebook were listed in an article on ’10 examples of companies with a fantastic culture’. All of these companies go out of their way to define (and re define when necessary) and deliver an outstanding company culture and if you look at for example, Facebook’s turnover of $26.4billion in 2016 and Google whose annual revenue came to $89.5 billion in 2016, it’s fair to say these companies are doing very well. There is also a sporting example, Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson achieved unprecedented success over his 26 years in charge. He was renowned for his will to win and for always wanting to achieve more, he had clear rules and standards and created a winning culture throughout the club. This resulted in the club winning many domestic and European honours and as a result, growing as a business, as with success comes increased sponsorship, prize money and income from an increased and worldwide fan base.
So, in conclusion, having the right culture, with stakeholder buy in, implemented fairly and consistently and where staff feel valued and feel they have a platform to grow, is very important and can be the foundations for great achievements.