Culture eats strategy for breakfast. – Peter Drucker
In true Germanic fashion (okay, he’s Austrian-born), you can’t really get more direct than Drucker’s brief but punchy statement. Beth Thiebault, Deloitte’s chief inclusion officer, explains: “You can have the best strategy, but if the underlying culture isn’t supportive, it doesn’t matter how good the strategy is. You have to have the [kind of] culture that’s going to enable that strategy to become real in the marketplace.”
Easier said than done, you may be thinking. But for some, the answer is simple. Deb Stambaugh, SAP’s vice president of human resources, points out, “Netflix has people read a 126-page document about their culture before people even come in for an interview.”
And why not? Today’s workers want to make sure they’re a good fit for potential employers – and vice versa. What better way than thoroughly familiarizing oneself with a company’s culture?
The problem, however, is that at times, there’s not even a culture to speak of. Or not one that’s appealing, anyway. The question, then, is what is standing in the way?
We have met the enemy and he is us. – Pogo
Sure, some folks might know Walt Kelly’s comic strip creation as nothing more than filler in the funnies section, but this memorable line – originally delivered as an eco-conscious Earth Day message in 1971 – can be applied to so many aspects of our lives and businesses. Nothing stands in the way of improving or revamping company culture as much as a company itself – and its leaders.
“Every culture begins with you,” says Bill Jenson, author of the newly released Future Strong: How to Work Unleashed, Lead Boldly, and Live Life Your Way. “You are the culture, and if you want it to be better, if you want to change it, it starts with you being the amazing person you are.”
It may sound a little hippy-dippy, but Jenson’s onto something. “We become employees and somehow we change. It’s like we’re more worried about covering our asses and how we’re perceived [instead of] being authentic. We’re more fearful.” And that naturally trips us up, regardless of where we are on the ladder.
For companies that run on Millennials, it’s important to note that they’re a generation that’s especially aware of this, and they are on the lookout for workplaces that let them be who they are – as well as who they want to become. Are you creating an environment that, as Stambaugh puts it, gives them the “opportunity, empowerment, and incentive to actually want to participate in the betterment of the program and themselves as individuals, as well as the strategy and objectives that the organization is trying to go after?” People across generations are “getting smarter about matching themselves to cultures and workplaces that actually fit them,” so if you want to secure top talent, you’ve got to give them something in return.
Be the change you want to see in the world. – Mahatma Gandhi
Gandhi’s timeless words continue to resonate with young people today, and business leaders would be smart to take heed as well. A recent study on The Future of Work revealed that 91% of employees believe that a company with a strong sense of purpose also exhibits parallel stronger financial performance. “Understanding what your purpose is, even if it’s not the core of your company, can make a huge impact in aligning your organization and your employees to really want to put that 110% in and drive that engagement and profitability,” says Stambaugh.
Beyond purpose, it’s a desire for flexibility that fuels 92% of Millennials; flexibility that allows them to shape their own careers, opportunities, and experiences. It’s up to companies, then, to “look at how they can enable their people to fulfill their passions,” says Thiebault. According to the previously mentioned study, only 29% of the overall population feels that they can achieve their dreams where they currently work, and Jensen points out that when you take away people working in Silicon Valley startups and on entrepreneurial pursuits, that number drops to 10%.
It’s up to business leaders and higher-ups to make sure that percentage goes up instead of down, and to do so, it really boils down to constructing a positive company culture. After all, productivity is what’s at stake – and ultimately, so is your success.
To hear more insights from Thiebault, Jensen, and Stambaugh, tune in to Transforming Your Business – Great Workplaces: Trust, Engagement, Simplification, and Millennials, brought to you by Coffee Break with Game-Changers.