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Don’t Box In Workplace Culture

Make it a strategy

Oftentimes, leaders fail to respond to the periphery until it is in plain sight. For the past several decades, it would be hard to consider “culture” being a sidelined conversation. YET, the attention to changing the toxicity of the work culture has only come into its own in the last several years.

For those in leadership roles, the challenge lies not just in acknowledging the significance of a healthy workplace culture but in actively strategizing for its improvement.

I have spent a career guiding leaders to retain top talent by creating cohesive workspaces where people have a sense of belonging, are valued, and share in mutual commitments. Unfortunately, some organizations have found themselves “boxed in.” They want to retain top talent, but have relied too heavily on the “buy it and they will come” philosophy.

“Culture is always built on how you treat people, not the treats you give them.”

Having a little fun playing off the quote associated with Peter Drucker, my advice to leaders in 2023 and beyond is to move culture out of the box’s corner and into the forefront of strategy.

“Make culture a strategy and it will eat something else for lunch.”

A compelling assertion that underlines the transformative power of making workplace culture a strategic priority. This shift is not just a reactive measure; it’s a proactive stance that ensures an organization not only survives but thrives amidst rapid change and intense competition.

In a Bloomberg 2022 article, researchers reviewed 1.4 million Glassdoor reviews in over 38 industries. Their conclusion, culture is 12.4 times more likely to cause a person to leave than compensation. Money is not the biggest factor, although without having a fair and properly aligned compensation strategy in place, salary will have more prominence in a person’s decision to leave a company.

Glassdoor surveyed more than 5,000 adults in the US, UK, France and Germany. A key result written in the final report: 56% of workers ranked culture more important than salary.

Corporate culture, often described as the shared values, beliefs, and behaviors that shape how work is done within an organization, is a critical element that influences the overall success and sustainability of a business.  Here are four ways leaders can ensure that workplace culture is a strategy and not just a string of tactics aimed to make employees happy or satisfied.

  1. Money needs to be allocated in the budget for the development and sustainability of culture. This ensures that the initiative is not just rhetoric but backed by tangible resources. This goes beyond mere lip service; it demands a financial commitment that reflects the organization’s dedication to cultural enhancement. Consider establishing a dedicated culture fund that can be utilized for initiatives such as employee engagement programs, diversity and inclusion efforts, and ongoing training.
  2. Advocate voice of the employee must be represented at the senior leadership table. This ensures that decisions align with the actual experiences and needs of those contributing to the organization. Actively involve employees in strategic discussions, encourage open feedback mechanisms, and establish channels for anonymous suggestions. Consider implementing regular town hall meetings where leadership addresses employee concerns and incorporates valuable input into decision-making processes.
  3. Key objective or goal for culture must be at a level of importance to rival goals around financial, growth, business processes, consumer service, etc. Integrate culture seamlessly into the fabric of the organization by aligning it with key performance indicators (KPIs). For instance, tie cultural initiatives to metrics such as employee satisfaction scores, retention rates, and innovation indices. This not only underscores the strategic significance of culture but also enables leaders to track and measure its impact over time.
  4. Education and development is focused on culture & leadership, strategy, and change. This creates a workforce that is not only skilled but is also aligned with the cultural values of the organization. Consider implementing continuous learning programs that address not only technical skills but also the interpersonal skills required for effective cultural collaboration. Provide leadership training specifically tailored to nurturing a workplace culture of inclusivity, transparency, and adaptability.

“Make culture a strategy and it will eat something else for lunch.”

This powerful phrase underscores the vital role of organizational culture amidst rapid change and intense competition. To not just survive but thrive, leaders must adopt an out-of-the-box mindset to make culture as important as growth. In doing so, they should initiate a comprehensive list of tactics to infuse their organizational culture with a strategic framework centered around cohesion: belonging, value, and mutual commitment. By doing so, leaders can pinpoint areas for cultural refinement and fortify the bedrock of their organization.

By implementing the outlined strategies, leaders can create a ripple effect that transcends the immediate workplace. By consciously shaping and nurturing a positive culture, organizations can create a workplace that attracts top talent, fosters innovation, and contributes to long-term success and sustainability. It’s an investment that pays off in terms of employee satisfaction, customer loyalty, and overall organizational performance.

In essence, the journey towards unboxing workplace culture is not a one-time initiative but an ongoing commitment to evolution. It requires a leadership mindset that views culture not as an ancillary consideration but as the cornerstone of sustainable success.

What the data tells us is when it comes to retaining talent, don’t put yourself in a corner or a box thinking people only leave for money. You would be basing your belief on bad information. More on this in the blog post titled Are You Teachable? 

Building a heathy and cohesive culture is not about the money. It is about the people.

For more insight on this topic, please refer to these blog posts:

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