Successful company cultures manifest seven distinct characteristics as well. These are company cultures that indicate growth and an upward dynamic, and they are typically characterized by a high level of teamwork and engagement. Here are the seven characteristics of successful company cultures.
1. A purpose-driven company culture
Successful company cultures are company cultures in which employees have a clear sense of purpose; employees understand their immediate and long term goals. This is important, because an organization with purpose shifts people and resources forward in order to achieve goals rather than simply managing them, and achieving goals is what it's all about, isn't it? So purpose is a key ingredient for a strong, sustainable, scalable organizational culture.
It's more than that, though. Purpose is an inspirational driver for engaging employees and communities. When a leader establishes a clear purpose for the organization, it will become the inspirational driver for engaging employees and so provide them with a concrete source for motivation. In other words, the organization's strategies, capabilities, and culture become the engine behind the organization's purpose.
What's more, the connection between purpose and performance is clear. There's mounting evidence that aligning an organization with a higher purpose drives business results. A 2014 study by Deloitte found that an organization that focuses on purpose is an organization that inspires higher levels of confidence among stakeholders and one that boosts growth. Similarly, a 2010 Burson-Marsteller/IMD Corporate Purpose Impact study found that a strong and well-communicated corporate purpose can contribute up to 17 percent improvement in financial performance. And that's just in the short term. The longer-term benefits of having employees aligned with a strong sense of purpose are incalculable.
2. Effective communication patterns
Effective communication patterns within successful organizations have three main characteristics: clarity, courtesy, and proactivity.
Clarity is a vital element in effective communication, because it's important for messages and information to be transferred in a transparent, clear, and concise manner. This is true regardless of where the messages com: managers to employees or within teams. It's the clarity of these messages that allows them to be heard and processed by the receiver -- and that makes clarity invaluable! Often, people don't communicate their messages clearly enough, because they are afraid of upsetting people. They may be afraid to say what they really want to say, or they dance around the actual message, hoping to get avoid saying what they actually want to say. In organizations where employees express themselves clearly and safely, teams work together better, and productivity is increased as a result.
Courtesy is another important aspect of communication, as it allows for messages to be transmitted within an atmosphere of safety and respect. It manifests respect for the other person and gets the message across within the safe limits of that respect. In this way, feedback, information, and messages can be transferred with minimal concern for getting hurt or hurting others.
Proactivity is a yet another crucial aspect of an effective communication pattern, because the only way to conduct a productive discussion is to conduct a proactive one. In real terms, this means that all parties in the discussion are forward looking rather than engaging with the past, which leads to blame and accusations. A forward-looking discussion is based on the notion that whatever happened has happened, and it can't be changed, so the discussion is more centered on what we can do from this point going forward in order to reach our goals or operate better as a team.
3. A culture of feedback
Feedback is great for so many reasons, and fostering a culture of feedback is crucial to the success of every organization. Why? Because feedback pushes higher levels of performance. Creating an open, feedback-oriented company culture requires people to be receptive to giving and receiving feedback and to understanding when and how to give it. Feedback can come from many different people and places. These people or places could be internal or external, and the feedback could be about any aspect of organizational life, including leadership and vision, management and internal practices, and operations. A culture of feedback means not only that feedback is given and received but that it is given and received safely, clearly, and productively, with sensitivity to diversity of cultures, personalities, and situations.
4. Embracing diversity
Cultural sensitivity is the awareness of practices and cultures that are different from your own. A culture that embraces diversity has an awareness of different cultures, of how these cultures should be properly approached, and how to communicate with them accordingly. Leaders and team members evaluate how certain cultural differences affect how people work, communicate, and interact without judging, making assumptions, discriminating, or stereotyping.
A company culture that embraces diversity is centered on tolerance and acceptance of others, which fosters teamwork and a general sense of collaboration.
Creating, enhancing, and celebrating teamwork is at the heart of every successful company culture. A culture of teamwork focuses on team accomplishments rather than on individual accomplishments, encourages collaboration, and allows for tasks to be completed in a faster, better, and more efficient manner. One of the most common misconceptions about teamwork is that the success of a team is based on the personalities of the team members. The truth is that while personalities that work well together certainly make teamwork easier, the real success or failure of teamwork is derived from structure. Teams need to know what the expectations are and what the roles and rules are. Those need to be reinforced and clarified to all team members, and once this structure is in place, teamwork becomes much easier.
6. Engagement and loyalty
Employee engagement is a hot topic at the moment, and raising employee engagement has become one of the highest priorities for organizations around the world. The problem is that while leaders have come to appreciate the importance of having a fully engaged employee, they often have a very limited understanding of what really drives employee engagement and of how to actually maintain or even increase it. In the 1990s, William Kahn, professor of organizational behavior at Boston University, introduced the term "engagement" based on his observation that people have a choice as to how much of themselves they're willing to invest in their jobs. Kahn discovered that employees were far more emotionally and physically engaged when they experienced the following:
- Psychological meaningfulness: a sense that their work was worthwhile and made a difference.
- Psychological safety: a feeling they were valued, accepted, respected, and able to perform their job in a positive work environment.
- Availability: routinely feeling secure and self-confident in terms of their ability to perform their job.
Nearly twenty-five years later, these three elements remain at the heart of most theories of employee engagement. The most interesting fact as far as engagement is concerned is that pay isn't even on the list! While fair compensation will always be a key component of job satisfaction, the research shows us that it's not necessarily a day-to-day motivator of engagement. The conclusion for organizations everywhere is this: Employee engagement can never be bought; it must be earned.
7. Growth and development
Successful company cultures always offer their employees opportunities for growth, both in terms of training and in terms of their ability to grow as individuals or as teams -- acquiring new skills and, as a result, new possibilities. It's the manager's job not only to obtain the best possible performance from employees but to obtain the best possible performance from them while at the same time helping them to grow. Opportunities for growth are an incredibly determining factor in employee engagement, and there are various types of growth opportunities that companies can offer employees.
Motivated people who work hard would typically expect to move forward and upward in terms of their position. If they do not see any possibility for position-based growth at any point, it may decrease their engagement, and in some cases it may cause them to leave.
Engaged and motivated employees would also seek the opportunity to enhance their skills and improve their knowledge. People desire to feel that they are progressing as professionals and that their workplace allows for that growth.
Financial growth is important to employees, as it can act as an indicator of their value and worth to the company -- and of course, they hope to increase this over time. Lack of financial growth is perceived by employees as lack of growth in terms of their own value for the company, which may lead to disengagement and even increased staff turnover.
Employees perform best when the environment is growth oriented, which is an essential characteristic of successful company cultures.