Many CEOs and business leaders can become fixated on concrete measures of business performance. Cash flow, share value and number of employees can all hint at the success of an organisation and are incredibly easy to access.
At the same time though, there are many intangible elements to an organisation’s success that can positively influence performance. One of the most central is corporate culture, which is incredibly hard to quantify but also plays a critical role in employee engagement and productivity.
How does culture support other business functions?
While culture is intangible, it clearly correlates with other aspects of a successful business. In fact, a study produced by three American and European universities in 2013 provided an insight into how culture can affect other branches of an organisation.
Drawing on research from the Great Place to Work Institute, the study found a direct correlation between the perceived integrity of a business and its productivity, industrial relations and profitability.
While the research certainly points to the benefits of integrity, for a business it’s also worth noting that many enterprises are focussing on this issue. “Integrity and respect” are values that many businesses are aiming for, with 75 per cent of top firms claiming that this is a facet of their culture. The only quality that is more popular is “innovation”, cited by 80 per cent of the surveyed companies.
The challenge now for business leaders is to practice what they preach and understand how these high-level qualities can be incorporated into an organisation’s culture.
Are you doing enough about your corporate culture?
Business leaders need to be investing time and effort into understanding, but also shaping, the culture of the organisation they are leading. While culture is built by every worker within an business, there is also a lot that a leader can do as well.
Research published in the Harvard Business Review argues there are seven cultural attributes that successful companies embody. These are:
- Strong accountability over workflows.
- Highly collaborative.
- Adaptable and agile in the face of change.Innovation driven.
- Orientated towards successful outcomes.
The research stressed that it is incredibly rare for organisations to embody all seven, but they provide a starting point for those thinking about how they can improve their culture. Identifying which of these qualities a company is currently excelling in, along with the areas where there is room for improvement, can be a useful starting position.
Likewise, business leaders will need to refine their corporate culture to be industry- and company-specific. Determining how these broader concepts can apply in a specific situation can be tricky, but is essential for organisations that want to build a strong internal culture.