Suddenly Corporate Culture Matters

by Jay Deragon on 09/10/2012

Culture, what you believe, what you value, how you live and work matters.  Culture matters now more than ever.

Lately it seems that everyone is reporting the importance of culture. Mainstream media such as Forbes, Fortune, Wall Street Journal and a host of others are reporting on the importance of defining an organizations culture.

We are seeing stories about the cultures of companies like Google, Zappos, Whole Foods and a 100 others listed each year in Fortune as the Best Place to Work  as examples for others to follow.  With the continued rise of media coverage of this thing called culture one wonders why more companies fail at developing and leading their organizations culture.

Gary Hamel writes in “What Matters Now”: Managers know that a lot of employees are flatlining at work but simply don’t care, either because a callous corporate culture has drained them of empathy, or because they view engagement as financially unimportant. It’s nice to have, but not an imperative.

Good or Bad, Culture Drives Performance

Workplace Culture Matters to Employees, Deloitte Survey Says | A recent 2012 report from Deloitte, “Culture in the Workplace,” reveals some encouraging findings about workplace culture:

  • 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is important to business success
  • 83% of executives and 84% of employees rank having engaged and motivated employees as the top factor that substantially contributes to a company’s success.
  • There is a correlation between employees who say their organization has a clearly articulated and lived culture and those that say they are “happy at work” and feel “valued by [their] company.

While this is heartening news, there is a disconnect between executives and employees about how that workplace culture is expressed and executed:

  • Executives have an inflated sense of their workplace culture, when compared to employees, according to significant differentials in their responses to questions about how culture is expressed in their organizations.
  • Only 19% of executives and 15% of employees believe strongly that their culture is widely upheld within their own organizations

OK, It Matters Now What?

Once management recognizes the importance culture plays into performance then, and only then, will their minds be open to learning how to manage this thing called culture.

The chart to the left shows the increase in search over the last two years relative to “corporate culture terms”.   Increases in “search” demonstrate a demand for knowing something about that which is being searched.

 Changing an organization’s culture is one of the most difficult leadership challenges of the 21st Century. You can find all the knowledge you need to understand “culture” but to change the culture requires a change in beliefs

The irony is that the need for changing beliefs isn’t with the many rather the few. The few are management and leadership. The many are all the other people.


Alan Frost October 17, 2012 at 7:30 pm

It is good to see that the importance of culture is being regognised more generally. Within knowledge management we have always regarded it as one of the most crucial aspects and one of the trickiest to manage. It is a delicate balance of guidance, incentives, and cautiously challenging the parts of the existing culture that one wants to remove.

Jesse Waldman September 11, 2012 at 8:33 am

As the leader goes, so goes the company…

“The irony is that the need for changing beliefs isn’t with the many rather the few. ”

How true.

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