Culture as a Competitive Advantage: Part I

August 2021 – By: Lindsey O’Kelley, with Contributions from Doug Schlegel

Corporate culture is an almost inescapable topic of discussion and study, fueled largely by the many recent changes impacting work, the workplace, and the workforce today.  Rightly so, as it is one of the most important factors that influences a business’ performance and results. This is particularly true during times of change. During this series, we discuss how companies looking to impact performance and differentiate themselves in a competitive market can review their culture, strategy, structure, leadership, and communication – the building blocks of a healthy organization – to ensure that they are well-aligned and can deliver stakeholder results.

It is not always obvious when culture issues are the driving force behind lagging results. Rather, the problem may show up symptomatically in “just the way things are” issues such as two functions routinely butting heads, “we” versus “they” rhetoric and behavior, recognition and rewards systems not being clearly understood across the organization, or leaders being perceived to not model the stated values. These or similar issues are typically found in organizations where the stated culture is mis-aligned with business objectives.

Aligning your Company’s culture with its Mission/ Vision, Values and Strategy is a lot like a three-legged stool. When the legs are in place, the stool works. This alignment provides your people with invaluable clarity, which we know translates to a more engaged workforce. It is proven that engaged employees deliver greater results – financial, safety, and productivity. On the other hand, when the stool’s legs are not correctly aligned, the ‘walk does not match the talk’ and issues become apparent in employee commitment, performance, and business results.

The remaining parts of this series will explore ways that soliciting candid employee feedback, aligning employee feedback to short- and long-term strategies, and making a meaningful cultural shift can address cultural awareness gaps and increase your business’s ability to achieve its goals.  We believe this will show the business value of an effective culture put to work to achieve your goals. In Part II, we discuss ways to assess your current company culture and the importance of knowing what it’s really like for employees to work there.

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