Making Culture a Competitive Advantage

There is one consistent and distinctive common factor among companies named as top workplaces. They make culture an everyday strategic priority. Their outperformance is closely linked to a commitment to create a workplace culture where employees are highly engaged. In fact, companies in the Top 10 percent of engagement surveys clock engagement levels of 85 percent and more.  

The truth is every company has a culture – whether latent, intentionally crafted or accidentally evolved. This determines how their people work together and relate among themselves and the organization as a whole.  When a conscious effort is invested in creating a cohesive environment, it engages and inspires employees to give their best in delivering value. This triggers an avalanche of passion and accountability that raises the quality of work. Additionally, this improves collaboration at work, leading to high optimism, morale, and business outcomes. This also leads to an increase in the number of people applying for job opportunities in the company. Ask any job consultants/placement agencies for proof.   

Without a doubt, happy employees do make for happier customers and even happier shareholders. The question – how can organizations make culture their winning advantage?

#1 – Be clear on what you want your culture to be

It starts with a strong goal and purpose that resonates with employees. They are the core values that spell unequivocally what the organization stands for. They guide every employee in their everyday actions to make business decisions at individual levels.

It inspires recruiters to hire the right people – to scout for potential employees who demonstrate excitement to live by their company values. Higher number of right fit employees enable collective contribution to continuous improvements in the nuances of workplace culture.

#2 – Make your culture visualize possibilities

Ultimately, an organization’s culture is the sum total of its people’s ability to create value. Apple is a great example of this. Their culture pushes their employees’ limits to envisage almost impossible outcomes fearlessly and work with passion to make the impossible possible.

Such cultures define totally differentiated beliefs and raise the excitement of their people and bind them to deliver on that promise. They inspire their people to innovate and push boundaries for higher collective achievements. Result? Products, services, customer experiences, and business outcomes rise to unimaginable heights.

#3 – Let your culture codify expected behaviors

This is what Netflix does so well. Their hugely popular culture deck not just sets out their values, but also their expectations of the behaviors that employees must demonstrate. Every value is amplified by examples of what personifies it. Such clarity empowers employees to make decisions that resonate with and accept their company’s culture and values.  

Look at it this way - every day, every minute, your employees have to make decisions that will impact your business. What can be better than giving them the compass to make them meaningfully so that they willingly contribute to your success?  

#4 – Spell your promise and commitment to your stakeholders

In today’s social media driven landscape, an organization’s handshake with its stakeholders is as close as a mere hundred or more characters. Make this handshake firm – ensure that the real-time information they can get is packed with a strong feel of what your organization stands for – be it your products and services, your leadership’s commitment, your employees’ happiness, and your responsibility to the community beyond the corporate.

Culture inspires trust in customers, and this impacts the brand, the competitive edge and bottom lines. It is critical that organizations realize that their cultures can no longer be a silent expression of the way they are but must be laid out for stakeholders to interact with. Only then can their inputs and insights be factored to keep it relevant, meaningful and honest.

#5 – Provide opportunities for employees to live the culture

Employees must be consistently and constantly being provided an environment to interact with their organization’s culture. Only then can they give their best. For example, how can leaders help them articulate their company’s vision clearly, briefly and with conviction? How can the culture pervade to become a collective effort of shared values? How can success be celebrated as a unifying motivator?

In short, employees lift the company’s performance when they feel connected to the culture. From internal messaging to empowering them with guidelines to live the organization values and share experiences, there are multiple ways to swell their pride of belonging. When this is realized, company culture goes beyond lip service to becomes the very fabric of the organization’s operations and its real competitive advantage.

There is no denying the truth that rules of business engagement have radically changed. Culture is now a definite and key differentiator that needs to be intentionally and proactively crafted. It is the critical human piece of the business jigsaw that ensures the best people do their best in the best environment.
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