Corporate culture is the pervasive values, beliefs and attitudes that characterize a company and guide its practices. Corporate culture is reflected in the degree of emphasis placed on various defining elements such as hierarchy, process, innovation, collaboration, competition, community involvement and social engagement.
Prof. James L. Heskett wrote in his book The Culture Cycle, effective culture can account for 20-30 percent of the differential in corporate performance when compared with “culturally unremarkable” competitors.
As the top-ranked companies demonstrate, a long-term investment in their employees will increase productivity, improve recruitment and retention, and save costs – all positively impacting the bottom line. In challenging economic times, we are reminded that companies should not only be a great workplace because it is the right thing to do, but because it is good for business.
Components of a Corporate Culture
The benefits of a strong corporate culture are both intuitive and supported by social science. But what makes a culture? Each culture is unique and myriad factors go into creating one, but researchers have observed at least six common components of great cultures: Vision, Values, Practices, People, Narrative, and Place. Isolating those elements can be the first step to building a differentiated culture and a lasting organization.
There are other factors that influence culture. But these six components can provide a firm foundation for shaping a new organization’s culture. And identifying and understanding them more fully in an existing organization can be the first step to revitalizing or reshaping culture in a company looking for change.
Use Culture for a digital age
Culture is the most significant self-reported barrier to digital effectiveness according to 2016 McKinsey’s digital survey of global executives, which highlighted three digital-culture deficiencies: functional and departmental silos, a fear of taking risks, and difficulty forming and acting on a single view of the customer.
Each obstacle is a long-standing difficulty that has become more costly in the digital age. When risk aversion holds sway, underinvestment in strategic opportunities and sluggish responses to quick-changing customer needs and market dynamics can be the result. When a unified understanding of customers is lacking, companies struggle to mobilize employees around integrated touchpoints, journeys, and consistent experiences, while often failing to discern where to best place their bets as digital broadens customer choice and the actions companies can take in response. And when silos characterize the organization, responses to rapidly evolving customer needs are often too narrow, with key signals missed or acted upon too slowly, simply because they were seen by the wrong part of the company.
Can fixes to culture be made directly? Or does cultural change emerge as a matter of course as executives work to update strategy or improve processes? Lorsch and Tague argue for culture emerging indirectly; ‘Culture is not the culprit’, HBR, Apr 2016. So, executives who wait for organizational cultures to change organically will move too slowly as digital penetration grows, blurs the boundaries between sectors, and boosts competitive intensity. 2016 McKinsey’s digital survey of global executives, which shows that cultural obstacles correlate clearly with negative economic performance, supports this view.
Executives must be proactive in shaping and measuring culture, approaching it with the same rigor and discipline with which they tackle operational transformations. This includes changing structural and tactical elements in an organization that run counter to the culture change they are trying to achieve. The critical cultural intervention points identified by respondents to 2016 McKinsey’s digital survey – risk aversion, customer focus, and silos – are a valuable road map for leaders seeking to persevere in reshaping their organization’s culture.
Cultural changes within corporate institutions will always be slower and more complex than the technological changes that necessitate them. That makes it even more critical for executives to take a proactive stance on culture. Leaders won’t achieve the speed and agility they need unless they build organizational cultures that perform well across functions and business units, embrace risk, and focus obsessively on customers.
Precursor helps customer to understand well cultural challenges and list a set of supportive practices to jump-start change.