Everything You Need to Know About Hacking Corporate Culture

When it comes to the acquisition and retention of top employees, companies are going far beyond the salary. They are beginning to look inward, developing programs focussed on cultivating a positive and empowering environment. Initiatives to build and improve corporate culture are now at the top of the priority list, and big firms are getting creative. I caught up with Shane Green, Author of Culture Hacker, TV Personality, and organizational culture expert to discuss why this aspect of corporate life is a growing topic of discussion, and should be considered of the utmost importance.

What makes corporate culture so important?

SG: Corporate Culture is the collective mindset and attitude of your employees, team, or group. This mindset is driven by an employee’s experience at work, how they feel about their job and who they do it for. This mindset is critical. It determines how much effort an employee puts into their work each day, how long they will stay with you, and whether they will take care of your customers the right way. Customer satisfaction, retention and performance all impact the bottom line of a company, therefore, company culture is the most important consideration in business today.

Is there research that supports your claim?

SG: The research is compelling;

  • 60% of consumers have not completed an intended purchase because of poor customer service and employee attitude (Business Insider, 2016)
  • A record 47% of the workforce say now is a good time to find a quality job, and more than half of employees (51%) are actively looking for new jobs or watching for openings (Gallup, 2017)
  • A strong positive culture can enhance employee engagement by 30%, resulting in up to a 19% increase in operating income, and a 28% increase in earnings growth (PDR Work+Place, 2016)
  • I would suggest that while we are still obsessing about the customer experience economy, the companies that are focusing on their employees’ experiences, and the well-being of their people, are the ones best set up for success now as well as in the future. We are shifting into the employee experience economy due to the impact that employee attitude has on all things business.

When did you first realize the impact that corporate culture has on the overall success of a company?

SG: My awareness of culture and this collective mindset was first formed during my time with the Ritz Carlton Hotel Company. There we often quoted the Hospitality Axiom, “An employee with a good attitude will always provide great service, while an employee with a bad attitude will always provide you poor service.”

This focus on attitude has remained over the years as we have worked with organizations to improve the service and sales skills of their staff. While our work was initially training focused, I knew that you cannot make someone give great service, or be great at sales, unless they want it for themselves. So, while we have continued to develop learning and communications tools to help with the habits of employees, managers, and executives, we have also consulted with companies on other mechanisms that influence how someone feels about coming to work and makes them want to do their best.

How do you develop, test & implement corporate culture building methods?

SG: The question is not does your company have a culture, the question is do you have the culture that allows you to deliver on your brands promise to your planet, community, owners, employees and customers? Brand is a consequence of culture because your brand or the emotional connection consumers have with you is ultimately formulated by their interactions with your people and how your company interacts with the community and planet.

It is an exciting time in terms of culture. Many organizations are working towards improving their employee experience so, we have a dedicated research person who is collecting date, articles, and business cases that talk about what various companies are undertaking. We also host the Culture Hacker podcast, where executives, authors and thought experts share their ideas and best practices with us and our audience. In this way, we are always looking at the technology, best practices and ways to improve culture.

When we begin working with new clients we often talk about new best practices from our work and what we have learned. When we develop a strategy, we customize our ideas, plans and communications to what we believe will best work for that business and their people.

What is the biggest killer of corporate culture is these days?

SG: The biggest killer of corporate culture is still the prevailing thought amongst owners, executives and senior managers that the experience of their employees is not important. They believe their employees should just be glad they have a job. When this attitude sits at the top of the organization the employee experience will suffer and your culture is not where it should be. Remember, culture does begin at the top.

Even in organizations where the senior managers believe that culture is important and where they know that their people are not as happy as they could be, they still place more emphasis on developing a marketing, customer, or financial strategy because that is where they are comfortable. The reality is your people strategy will impact all those other strategies in a meaningful way. Making culture the focus of your business is the most important shift in business today but, unfortunately many companies are not making this transformation.

One of the reasons culture is still struggling to be the conversation in the C Suite is the view of human resources (HR) in general. In many companies, HR is just not seen as being valuable and impactful to the overall success of the company’s bottom line. This has been in part because human resources has become too focused on administrative and legislative tasks, in part because of the direction they have been given. Also, there are just some human resource managers and executives who have little interest, ability, or expertise in developing their human capital, therefore they have not made culture a priority in their company.

The good news is there is a significant change already underway in human resources, whereby we now have business cases and research that is very clear; happy employees equal happy customers, longer tenure, and better performance. As indicated, this benefits the bottom line. We also have some leaders in human resources who are truly leading the business charge. They are setting the example for this group of professionals in that they no longer need to look for permission to get the organization focused around culture.

Learn more about building an effective and empowering corporate culture in Shane Green’s book Culture Hacker, as well as how the corporate culture impacts customer satisfaction, employee retention, and productivity.

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