An article from our Cultural Intelligence newsletter…
There is little doubt that leaders nowadays are much more attuned to the need to understand and improve their workplace culture. More and more, leaders realise that their culture can be a single point of difference that can yield incredible results.
Kmart in Australia and New Zealand is a classic example of this. From having literally lost money for 10 consecutive years, the transformation of that organisation now sees it as Australia’s leading retailer with profits to the tune of half a billion dollars. Now that transformation cannot be attributed only to cultural transformation – but a commitment to a revitalised culture was one of a few strategic priorities that was driving the Kmart leadership team.
As with many concepts that gain more exposure, the notion of workplace culture is at risk of being deployed in ways that at best don’t help organisations and at worst can do more harm.
An example of this is an instance where we were asked NOT to use the term ‘culture’ in our work with leaders and staff, given that it had earned such a bad name from efforts to focus on it in the past. We are not kidding!
This harm can take more subtle forms however.
Culture is now so often equated with many things – employee engagement, wellness, and perks to name only a few.
This results in culture being viewed as generic ‘catch all’ which does the concept no good.
We’ve just come across yet another article on culture that explores the benefits of an improved culture (fair enough!). Yet it loses us when the author references the key indicators of a good culture which are listed as:
- happiness at work
- engagement at work
- concentration at work
- sense of teamwork and belonging
Now don’t get us wrong. These are important indicators. The risk for leaders is that these (or similar) indicators become the sole points of focus across an entire organisation. In our view, leaders must be more strategic in their thinking – as what works in one organisation almost certainly won’t work in the next organisation.
To get strategic with culture requires leaders to identify the kind of culture necessary for the organisation to be truly successful while making it a great place to work (side note: we have a tool that enables teams to address this very question – reach out to us to learn more). Once those ‘Key Cultural Attributes’ have been identified and agreed upon, they then become the culture priorities that must drive behaviours.
This kind of approach is a strategic one – one where leaders understand that their culture underpins performance at individual and enterprise-wise levels.
Steve Simpson is an international speaker, author and consultant who works with companies across the globe to help them understand and strategically improve their corporate culture www.steve-simpson.com. Professional Speakers Australia recently bestowed the Australian Educator of the Year Award to Steve