Figuring Out Your Organization's Culture Conundrum: The How-To
It's the intersection of your people and the work that they do that provides the key to sustainable success, striking the perfect balance between productivity and profitability.
Here’s a question for you: what’s the single biggest thing you need in place today for your business to be a success? A solid vision and strategy? Absolutely, that’s up there, along with ensuring a compelling USP in a crowded market, as well as a strong tactical sales strategy. But there is one factor that outweighs everything else, and is critical to the health of any organization; its culture.
If you were to Google “company culture” right now, your feed would be flooded in seconds- such is its importance to the business world today. Companies know that in order for them to thrive, they need to embed an element of culture into their recruitment and retention strategies to attract the kind of talent they want. It’s no longer enough to rely on reputation alone; the millennial and upcoming Gen Z candidates have changed the narrative too much. They want culture to be the headline act, the main reason for them to actively seek employment at the company in question.
There will always be some importance placed on incentivizing employees today; the “added extras” that will keep your team engaged, on track, and of course, happy in their employment. But building a culture from within? Well, that is an altogether different story, and in some ways, harder than building the actual company. For me, it goes beyond employee happiness, because that can still turn out a passive, albeit content, workforce; instead, you should look to instill a culture of contribution in every new and existing hire you appoint.
When we refer to organizational culture, there’s still a tendency to focus on “fringe benefits,” such as an office full of bean bags and pool tables, in lieu of policies that will see your staff go the distance alongside your business. Sure, these things may be nice to have, but they don’t compare to the impact that encouraging meaningful contributions can have instead. Remember, we have employed these people to do a job, not run on auto-pilot, which means engaging them daily with what the company vision is, how we will get there, and what’s required as a result.
Giving your employees ownership of something is in itself a very powerful motivator, and will resonate whatever their position, creating a sense of validation and importance accordingly. While the flexible working model has already been well documented as the next frontier for organizations to adopt, I think the future lies in the continued removal of office silos and championing a frictionless space instead, where everyone can come together and understand the business motivations, objectives, and focus.
We only need to look at how the UAE has developed such a robust and enviable economic model over the past 50 years to see what is possible for us as businesses if we set our mind to it. Pivoting away from oil dependence hasn’t happened overnight, yet the vision to become a hub for innovation, making investments in new and fledgling technology, and building an infrastructure to support this is a feat most can only dream of. Over the years, the UAE has nurtured both public and private companies, carefully unpicking the red tape of the past and unlocking opportunities as a result, which in turn has helped contribute to the country’s economic growth. It’s a win-win; an ecosystem founded on mutual respect, and this is the model we should all look to emulate with our own company culture.
Of course, cultural change doesn’t just happen by accident; this is something that needs to be embedded from day one, and constantly tweaked as the business scales and objectives change. I’ve seen so many cliched approaches in how to go about this over the years, from producing bland mission statements to providing an array of “perks,” but the truth of the matter is this: leaders can’t dictate the culture; they can only lay the groundwork for a killer culture to take root.
It’s the intersection of your people and the work that they do that provides the key to sustainable success, striking the perfect balance between productivity and profitability. This is perhaps why so many people put stock in employee happiness as the best kind of barometer to measure culture. My view is that while this is important, especially as it impacts every trackable business metric, it isn’t the only factor to consider.
I touched on it earlier that happiness can only go so far, whereas I think instilling a sense of empowerment can have a much more profound and long-lasting effect. After all, we’re creating a culture of intrapreneurs who need guidance and mentorship in order to reach both their personal, and by extension, professional potential. For us as business leaders, it’s a no-brainer to develop an environment that promotes this kind of thinking, not least to stand out from the other companies fishing in the same talent pool.
For me, company culture is not about ticking boxes or mimicking others in the hope that something will stick. Rockstar teams are formed by your example, but make no mistake, they are the ones that will set the tone for your organization dayto- day. My advice is to ensure they are always on the same page as you.