Your culture could be driving in the wrong direction
According to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, “When culture and strategy are aligned, organizations achieve goals, amplify successes, and have greater impact”. This simple sentence, drives home the importance of having a strong, positive corporate culture within your organization. The Gates Foundation has put a substantial effort into creating a high-impact culture, recognizing this strong link between culture and goal achievement.
While many leaders realize the importance of a strong corporate culture, many still do not, and therefore do not put the time and effort into understanding and building the right culture. Culture can be defined as the prevailing ideas, values, attitudes, and beliefs that guide the way employees think, feel, and act. Aligning these concepts between the organization and the employees, as well as with the corporate strategy, can mean the difference between success and failure. Employee engagement and culture have been cited in a recent study as the number one human capital challenge companies face globally. Employers that do not take into account the possible conflict between individual and corporate culture, run the risk of disengaged employees and the negative consequences that entails — decreased productivity and high turnover.
Those leaders that do not understand the strong link between culture, productivity, and profits, often look outward to create impact and profits with efforts such as new advertising and rebranding campaigns, overlooking the importance of their internal constituents, their employees. These misguided efforts frequently result in a misalignment of corporate and individual culture, subsequently resulting in employee dissatisfaction, disengagement and turnover. These same leaders do not see the value in hiring for cultural fit and continue the practice of hiring for skill and knowledge alone, again resulting in disengaged employees and high turnover. A recent Gallup survey showed that only 32% of employees were engaged in their jobs, showing the overwhelming majority were disengaged.
Left to itself, a corporate culture will develop on its own. The result, however, will undoubtedly not be conducive to a well-run and positive organization. Culture, like a growing child, must be nurtured and crafted as it evolves. If we do nothing for our newborn child, imagine what she will be like when she turns 10 (if she even survives). Wild, and unkempt, she will be misbehaved and uncontrollable, at the least. A corporate culture will evolve in a similar fashion, like the parent of the wild 10-year-old, the leader will try to figure out why the company is not doing well or even why it is going bankrupt, looking at all the outside reasons while failing to look internally at the culture.
So how do leaders build a culture? Recently, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation set out to build what they refer to as a “high-impact culture”. Through research, internal assessment, and focused leadership, they made a concerted effort to change their internal culture and evolve the organization. Viewing culture as something that can be created, shaped and changed, they began their journey with a culture survey. After discovering the current state, they created a model in which they defined the cultural agenda and implemented solutions that would reinforce the desired culture. Led by top executives, this initiative was all inclusive and seen as a never-ending journey across the entire organization. The Gates Foundation continuously monitors their culture, paying special attention to the alignment of the culture with the impact they want to have in the world.
The Gates Foundation case shows that through a concerted leadership effort, consistent communication, employee engagement, passion and the commitment of the entire organization, positive, impactful cultures can be built. The efforts of the organization, leadership, and workforce, will be rewarded with higher profits, corporate sustainability, and greater employee engagement.