Home' The Source : Third Quarter 2011 Contents companies with strong adaptive cultures
based on shared values outperformed other
companies significantly. Growth of such
companies was four-fold that of companies
that didn't have similar foundations.
It can be di cult to measure culture and
values, but now with more sophisticated
indicators, we are able to understand just
how significant a company's culture is to per-
formance. There is good research that says
financially strong companies exhibit measur-
able aspects of a strong corporate culture.
The Denison model illustrates four cor-
porate culture traits that are closely related
1. Mission: the long-term direction and
purpose of the business.
2. Involvement: the ability to drive em-
ployee engagement and commitment.
3. Consistency: the values, agreement and
coordination that holds businesses
4. Adaptability: the ability to read and
scan the business horizon and react to
So how do we build these
strong, healthy cultures? Here
are ideas that work in the real world
Develop a cohesive and
Internal cohesion on---and constant com-
munication of---a company's goals means a
great deal to employees. In my work with
HCA, I found the pull of its mission has great
power with its employees. It inspires passion
for the work to be done: "Above all else, we
are committed to the care and improvement
of human life."
Promote continuous learning.
An important culture-builder is to keep
employees engaged in learning. Centrally
located in CJ Advertising's o ce building is
a library with employees' favorite business
books. CJ Advertising promotes internal
book clubs, and associates are rewarded
monetarily for reading the latest business
best seller. Employees post what they learn
on the company's intranet, and they experi-
ment actively with new knowledge.
On the flip side are those companies that
don't promote a culture of renewal. Without
such a sense of freedom and autonomy to
learn and try things, employees stay below
the radar, hunker down and don't innovate.
In a recent consulting assignment with a
restaurant corporation, I overheard one
manager tell another, "I'm just going to see
if I can outlast this guy. I'll just do my job and
stay out of his way." There was obviously no
innovation or sense of togetherness on the
management team. One of the key indicators
of a culture in need of repair is that people
are just "putting in the time."
Recognize employees who excel.
Employees want appreciation for good
work---and it doesn't necessarily have to
be monetary. In fact, research tells us that
simple hand-written notes are more power-
ful culture-enhancers than almost anything.
Recognition promotes a culture of high
performance. Leaders who fail to focus on
results and performance management sys-
tems often are punished by high turnover
in key employee roles.
Give credit where it's due, and don't
There's no faster way to lower your em-
ployee's morale than when you take credit
for their hard work---or when you simply ig-
nore it when they reach certain milestones,
stay late to work on important projects or
come up with new ideas. Yes, it's important
to encourage teamwork, but occasionally
singling out someone for above and beyond
service goes a long way in motivating an
entire team. And on the flip side, don't single
out one employee, particularly in public,
when he or she makes a error. The team
should shoulder the responsibility in that
case, and work toward a solution together.
Keep communication open.
Clear feedback builds loyalty---and lack
of it destroys culture. One organization has
an uno cial "grapevine" team that has full
access to senior leaders. When the team
hears rumors that need clarification, or if
employees are concerned with certain is-
sues, the grapevine team is a clearinghouse
for getting out the truth.
Be open about financials.
People want to be part of something that
is successful---and how they can contribute
when things are tough. If a company is open
about its finances, the rewards and benefits
of working for the organization, trust is the
A word of caution: When your company
faces financial stress, resist the temptation
to do away with everything that seems to be
employee "perks." When we have the choice
between doing what is right for employees
or what is right for the next quarter, we often
pick the bottom line and violate the culture
we have worked so hard to build. •
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