When managed correctly, the culture of an organisation is a relatively unsurpassable source of competitive advantage. Although hard to measure and/or see in a tangible manner initially, once a culture of engagement and performance is created, the results far outweigh the costs associated with establishing such an organisational trait, consistently catapulting the organisation with a high performance culture above their competition.
The manner by which the organisation operates, decision making processes, and generally just how work is completed within an organisation, over time, develops what is known as the organisational culture. This culture then drives the behaviour of employees and performance of the firm as a whole.
The results of a shift from unaligned goals and lack-lustre culture to aligned processes encouraging high performance is astounding. Over 10 years ago, ANZ bank devised a plan to “eschew traditional growth strategies” and recast the culture of the bank to increase efficiency and earnings. In the initial two years following the implementation of the culture plan, employee feelings of ANZ operating under its values lifted from 20% to 80%, productivity in meetings soared to 91% up from 61%, and revenue per employee increased to 89%. The bank surpassed its competitors in returns to shareholders and customer satisfaction, and results have been sustained during these past 10 years, with an average growth rate of 15%; well above the industry average.
So how do smaller companies implement strategies to garner results like these?
It comes down to three steps:
- Establish a common and agreed-upon understanding of the company culture, and the metrics associated with it. The success of a high performance culture comes down to the ability of management to align the vision, values and strategy of the organisation, with employee behaviours. Execute your cultural goals and continuously reassess and renew as required. Continuously improve at a rate that is faster than your competitors to ensure sustained competitive advantage.
- Focus on the larger tasks first.It has been found that it is only possible to change no more than 5 aspects of an organisation’s culture in a 12-18 month period. Concentrating on the most important cultural goals ensures all employees are focused and converging on the same end goal. A cultural shift is a marathon, not a sprint. Act accordingly. After the initial 18 months, if the first five elements of the culture shift have been achieved, the organisation can move onto the next five.
- Integrate the culture shift efforts into business operation goals the organisation is already pursuing in order to implement the culture on a deeper level to ensure the cultural goals are continued to be worked towards long after the initial introduction of the program. A great example of this is introducing peer coaching from high performers in each division in order to develop talent from within, while subliminally encouraging the high performance culture through modelling and leading by example.
When implemented correctly, a culture change program is not only incredibly rewarding for those involved on a personal level, but also financially rewarding in bottom line profits, as well as providing a fulfilling environment for employees.