Culture and Your Business

According to the Meriam-Webster dictionary, Corporate culture is “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization”. Another definition by Terry Deal and Allan Kennedy is “how we do things around here.” This implies that whether or not you are intentional about building the right culture…one is still being established as individuals and teams make decisions. If an organization is not careful it could end up with an unintentional toxic culture simply because it did not take the time to shape the right culture.

We have all heard of Peter Drucker’s quote on “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” most business people intuitively believe this to be true, but how many actually truly internalize it and incorporate this belief into every aspect of their business?

So is culture really that important? Unequivocally, absolutely yes! Culture impacts all aspects of a business, I will share some examples below

Competitive advantage:

  • No other company can replicate the culture of another organisation, this is a differentiator and if the company has the right culture, a competitive advantage.  When it comes to culture, one size does not fit all either, the culture an organisation needs may also be largely driven by the industry, phase of growth, geographic location, local cultures etc. There is however a process a company can follow to ensure they have culture that works best for it. I will share this later in this article

Talent attraction and retention:

  • As a HR professional one question that 90% of candidates ask me during interviews is “what is your culture’, “describe your work environment”, “what are your values” more so at senior levels, this is an indicator that the right talent will make a decision of whether or not to join an organisation based on its culture
  • Your current employees are also your brand ambassadors and they speak to potential candidates and what they communicate in terms of your culture becomes your reputation in the industry which can make or break a business when it comes to the race for the right talent.

Decision making:

  • When you have the right culture it guides you on decision making, eg. If you would like to go into a new business focus, does it align with the company values? Does it align with the overall vision of the company? When it comes to the performance management process does it align with our values? Do the what and the how carry the same weight as outlined in your company values?
  • You may have the right culture on paper but if it is not an integral part of the way the organisation makes decisions around what to pursue, what to reward or punish then you actually do not have the right culture.

Because culture permeates every aspect of a business, it’s important for leaders to be intentional about creating the right culture, failure to which, you will still have a culture that has not been intentionally guided to support the business.

Here are some steps an organisation can follow to determine if it has the right culture and to take the requirement steps for change management if it doesn’t. I highly recommend using a culture and change management sourced company to support during this process. This makes a difference as it allows people to feel comfortable working with an “objective” 3rd party

Step 1: Do a culture diagnosis, this essentially means taking the time to understand the type of culture you have. Some organisations have a culture in writing that does not translate to “how they do things around here” or in other cases there is a disconnect between what leaders say is the culture and what the rank and file believe to the culture. This process includes reviewing all people related processes, interviewing key stakeholders such as the leadership, customers and other employees.

Step 2: Once you have a clear indication of the type of culture you have vis a vie the type of culture you would like the change management process begins. Key here is creating buy-in with the various stakeholders. This is done by sharing the results from the diagnosis process and collectively creating what the new culture should be. This process includes workshops and training.

Step 3: The final step is developing a blueprint of what the desired culture is and how to transition from the current culture to the desired culture. Key here is alignment at leadership level on the blueprint, change strategy and how progress will be measured.

The above steps may seem simple enough but when it comes to building, buying and creating sustainable change patience and time are your friend, I would allocate 6-9 months to get through the entire process.

I will leave you with some statistics on why culture matters. According to Gallup research, companies with the right culture have 22% higher profitability, 21% higher productivity, reduced turnover, absenteeism and few safety incidents.

The right culture is unequivocally and absolutely critical to business success. Therefore business leaders need to be intentional about the type of culture they have in their organisations

About Carolyne Mwaura

Carolyne has over 16 years of experience as an HR professional, originally working in the USA for ten years before returning home to Kenya. Prior to joining Sokowatch, Carolyne was the Group Head of HR for Sub Saharan Africa at Ringier One Africa Media, overseeing hundreds of team members across eight African countries. Prior to that, she was the East Africa Talent Manager at ALN/Anjarwalla; Khanna. Carolyne is a certified Counselor by the Institute of Human Resource Management (IHRM) and a Certified Coach by the Strathmore Business school. She holds a Higher Diploma in Human Resource Management from IHRM, a Law degree from Western State College of Law (California, USA), and a Psychology degree from California State University Long Beach (California, USA). LinkedIn