Culture is complex and impossible to quantify but, in essence, it can be understood as: ‘How things are done around here’. It is the product of an organisation’s history, beliefs and values; its policies, rules, what is rewarded, tolerated and unacceptable; and the behaviour and actions of key influencers, particularly CEOs and leadership team members.
In organisations with a healthy culture, employees tend to increase their discretionary effort, productivity, creativity and innovation. An unhealthy culture, on the other hand, can hinder employees’ performance, focus their energies on internal issues and discourage them from pushing the boundaries.
Why culture matters now more than ever
Although a healthy company culture has always been an important factor in driving organisational performance, the current economic climate makes it a more pressing issue than ever before. It’s important to consider the following:
- In the face of market disruptions or changes to products, services or business models, culture acts as an organisation’s backbone and provides employees with a sense of stability.
- With Australia moving away from manufacturing and towards a services-based economy, organisations are increasingly becoming ‘people businesses’. Nothing attracts and retains the type of people you want quite like a healthy company culture.
- The explosion of digital technologies and other market disruptions mean that companies need to find new ways of meeting evolving customer demands. Companies with great cultures tend to encourage employees to think outside the box in order to create innovative solutions to these types of challenges.
- Younger generations in the workforce want meaning and engagement from their work, not just a pay check. A culture that meets their wishes and expectations is a critical factor in why they join and stay—or not—with an organisation.
How to improve culture in your organisation
Even in highly functional organisations there is always room for improving culture. The following concepts can help bring about positive changes in your company:
Honour the past, look to the future
CEOs will have most success when they build their company’s future culture on the shoulders of the values and beliefs that are entrenched in the organisation’s past. Even if your business’s way of doing things has and/or will change, offer examples of how the company’s past has reinforced its core purpose, and offer your vision of how it will be reflected in the future.
Re-evaluate the rules
Certain legacy policies, rules, structures and reward systems may no longer be working for your organisation. Take a hard look at the way things are currently being done, and replace any outdated approaches with those that are more in line with the direction you envision for the future.
Set the example
Culture is largely established at the top. The CEO sets the tone for the company’s culture more than anyone else, thus the most effective way to influence culture is through the actions and behaviours of the CEO, and those of other influential people within the company.
Find out which Australian companies are most respected for their culture. Click here to access the report.