There’s been quite a bit of noise in the public arena lately about the importance of culture to the overall performance and bottom-line activity of a business. The Australian Institute of Company Directors last week ate up almost the entire back page of the Financial Review raising very valid issues about the role of Company Directors in both setting the example and governing the development of positive culture, including challenging anything less than acceptable within the practices of the business. They pointed the finger particularly at the Finance and Banking industry, which has felt the impact of the thick end of the public scrutiny stick in the last few months.
But, let those amongst us who are completely innocent of not intentionally investing in the development of a positive and engaging culture throw the first stone!
In our experience, cultural development is often something that sees more sunlight when things are going well and there’s plenty of energy and cash to invest in the intentional design of the preferred or desire business culture. However, while ANY time is a good time to focus on exactly what you want your business culture to look and feel like, a poor culture will often go hand in hand with poor business performance.
So, how do you decide when to invest and what shape and form cultural development might best take?
Here’s a quick ready reference of “red flags” that will let you know your culture needs oxygen…….and plenty of it;
- Staff turnover is higher than industry average or higher than your businesses average for the previous three years
- Sick day statistics are up by anything greater than a 3% variance on previous years
- Your HR resources (or your management time) are generally going into the resolution of disagreements or grievances more than into leadership and positive business development
- There is a lack of innovation and creativity within pockets of the business or the business as a whole
- Various streams of work within the business are operating in silos and missing the “opportunity scoping” that comes from integrated and whole-of-business development
- People are working longer hours and yet failing to meet timeframes or delivery on KPI’s
- Change management processes often result in “fall out” in the form of poor communication or increased conflict within the newly formed teams
- There is a tone of “us and them” within aspects of the business, such as management and staff, production and sales or Executive and Board
- Systems and processes within the business have not been reviewed or updated in the last 5 years
- Process errors and waste statistics are up by a variance of greater than 3%
- Workplace injuries have risen despite education and a strong focus on OH&S
The list could go on for ages, and these flags are just the RED ones; there’s also a full range of amber and green flags too. A saying comes to mind here…….’if you miss the sign of being hit by the feather, you may get hit by the brick!’
Having said that, in our experience the greater issue here is the lack of positive staff engagement that builds innovation, risk taking, shared learning, invention, enthusiasm, strength of purpose, meaning, achievement, business and team flow and perhaps most importantly, individual and team satisfaction and fulfilment. These are the real costs of a poor or unintentionally developed business culture.
As people, all any of us really want is to love and be loved and be known, loved and GOT for who we truly are. This is no less true in the context of our work life than in our personal life. An intentionally designed business culture is fundamentally a question of knowing what feeds the hearts and minds of your people and what truly aligns with their highest values.
We count ourselves as very fortunate to frequently experience the great joy and success that business owners and staff alike can discover when there is a strong investment of time, energy and focus on an intentional architecture to underpin the development of positive and engaging business culture.
If your business culture is fashioned by intentional design, effective communication, recognition and celebration of individual uniqueness, emotional engagement and transparency, a shared sense of flow that breeds innovation and risk taking, personal and team accountability, all of which sits on a bed of strong and embodied values, you may just get to throw that first stone after all.
That’s if you can drag yourself away from celebrating with the amazing people who work with you, enjoying the rise and rise of your bottom line, or watching the growth of the impact you get to make in the world because you are living the difference you were born to make!