Company Culture Isn’t an Afterthought

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By Heather Eldred and Amber Lee, CO-CEOs Transcend Strategic Consulting

I’m a numbers person. Throughout my career, I’ve been responsible for driving bottom-line growth. So, if you read the words “company culture,” and you dismiss it as a waste of time, I understand you.

For too long, the development and maintenance of company culture has operated in the vacuum of human resources and has not been formally tied to organizational goals. And while an annual company party or a workshop for managers on personality types might possibly be part of what you do to maintain that culture, those efforts are not enough to care for the number one driver of your organization’s success—your culture.

It’s because I’m a numbers person that I’m dedicated to helping organizations develop healthy cultures. Cultivating a healthy company culture is critical to success. I don’t mean this in an ambiguous feel-good way. I mean that specific shifts in culture have been irrefutably proven to have positive or negative impacts on organizational success. I mean that you can measure those factors, make necessary changes, and see your work move you toward your goals. Successful companies of the future will not only recognize that company culture is important, they will make it part of their annual strategic planning process, measure it, cultivate it, and measure it again.

If you consider the evolution of businesses, there was a shift about 30 years ago to focus on bottom-line growth above everything else. Eventually came the recognition that customer satisfaction was critical to sustained bottom line growth, because if customers aren’t happy, they won’t come back and they’ll tell their friends not to come back. With ever-increasing competition, corporate brands invested heavily on external messaging. “This is who we are. This is what we have to offer. This is why you need us.” Unfortunately, many of those beautiful and extremely expensive-to-develop brands weren’t authentic, and their customers and potential customers could see right through them.

In today’s market, you are not who you say you are, because one customer’s voice can completely derail hundreds of thousands of dollars in marketing. In today’s market, you are what you do. And that’s what makes the development of company culture a critical piece of corporate strategy. You can deliver a beautiful message but if you don’t back it up with by living that message, that gap between what you say and what you do will quickly be revealed by your customers. Being authentic starts from the inside.

Whether or not you’ve done the work to develop a culture, you already have one and it’s defining your brand. It can be felt by your customers and investors, and most powerfully, by your employees. It could be driving you toward your goals right now, or it could be holding you back.

What are the signs of a great culture?

  • Great cultures have happy, engaged, inspired employees.
  • Great cultures have defined their mission and vision in a clear and concise way and every employee understands their role in meeting those goals.
  • Great cultures have empowered employees. They don’t micromanage.
  • Great cultures promote an environment where mistakes are an opportunity for growth.
  • Great cultures attract better employees and keep them.
  • Great cultures have less turnover, higher sales, higher productivity, less mistakes.

Culture work is not easy. It can be painful to reveal the places where we are falling short, but it’s empowering to recognize those opportunities and make achievable goals to turn those areas around. It’s tempting to just focus on external messaging without doing the hard work to truly define your values and your mission and get everyone moving in the same direction. But this isn’t a “nice to have” – it is a must have and the sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll start moving in the direction you want to go.