How can companies use culture to drive business advantage?

As competition for talent intensifies, companies need to reconnect with their values and what really matters to their business. A new report suggests that re-evaluating culture could be the first step

Company culture has long been recognised as core driver for business success. Culture can help reshape places of work, drive a competitive edge and help retain and attract fresh talent. A new report by 4xi Consulting outlines what culture is, and how companies can leverage a positive company culture to build a more successful business.

The ‘Making Culture Your Winning Strategy’ report identifies company culture as a set of shared values, goals, attitudes and practices that characterise an organisation. Some version of company culture will always form and can be positive or negative. Even the best business strategies can fall victim to the potent power of a negative company culture. In an age of increased flux, competition and innovation, organisations cannot afford to ignore culture any longer.

‘Key personas that drive corporate culture range from visionaries to resistors…’

Culture transcends the physical workplace. A company’s office walls may exhibit and reflect its culture, but they are never its source. Culture exists in and moves through the people that make up the company. The report identifies key personas that drive corporate culture: Visionaries, Early-Adopters, Trailers and Resistors.

Companies must acknowledge and respond to each persona to create and maintain a positive culture. ‘Visionaries’ invent, create and drive culture; ‘Early Adopters’ are willing to explore new possibilities; ‘Trailers’ follow the crowd; and ‘Resistors’ actively oppose new strategies and cultures. The decision on whether to buy in to company culture can be the success or failure of any strategy.

Fear is a driving factor

Fear of change is a natural human response. However, the report identifies the nuances between each persona when they are faced with change. While Visionaries thrive in the fear zone, Resistors struggle to adapt and fear quickly becomes an inhibitor of progress – they fear that change will threaten their way of working. Resistors can be stubborn and often outnumber the few visionaries and early adopters.

‘An important test of culture is how employees behave when no one is looking…’

Companies need to gain the trust and convince the non-adopters before they wear out the efforts of those intending to drive transformation and change. Companies cannot simply ignore the Resistors if they are to be successful at shaping their culture. An important test of culture is how employees behave when no one is looking – it is here where Resistors may revert to old ways of working or actively block progress in the fear of their own survival and protectionism.

Curating culture

Culture has become a ‘critical pillar of every strategic plan’ according to Georgina Miranda, Culture and Strategy Officer at 4xi Global Consulting. For the past two years, employee connections with their company have been limited to Zoom. This has tested the values and connection points that contribute to organisational culture.

As organisations begin to consider ‘what returning to work looks like’ – it is also important for leaders to consider ‘what we want it to feel like?’ We live in times where people are consciously choosing to leave in droves those roles that no longer suit them. Culture can be an excellent competitive advantage to attract and retain talent. Leaders play a critical role in being intentional about the culture they want to curate – great cultures are rarely built on happenstance; They are clear what a ‘great’ culture means to them, they invest in it and amplify it.

What needs healing?

However, developing a strong organisational culture takes time, investment and buy-in. The best place to start is to analyse the current culture, or lack of culture, and consider what needs healing, attention or development. Often a total redesign won’t be needed. Instead, companies must support and encourage positive and innovative thinking, and the rest should follow. Simply wanting to create a better culture is, in-itself, a culture.

Re-evaluating company culture creates an opportunity to align around a common value system, purpose, and organisational approach to doing business. The priority is to listen to employees and ask questions to know where to begin and invest. When culture has been adopted and valued, you feel it at every level of the organisation. Actions often speak louder than words, as you see behaviours aligned with overall cultural norms and values at every interaction.

‘When culture has been adopted and valued, you feel it at every level of the organisation.’

The report concludes by emphasising that building culture is a delicate process which is full of nuances. It is a long-term continuous journey and commitment to develop and maintain a positive company culture.

Read the full ‘Making Culture Your Winning Strategy’ report here.

4xi Global Consulting provides support to employers, operators, innovators and accelerators in the world of work. 4xi is a Global Ambassador for WORKTECH Academy. The ‘Making Culture Your Winning Strategy’ report authors are Simon Elliot, Georgina Miranda and Tony Johnson.
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