The Benefits of Culture Aligning with Strategy

Occasionally I receive direct questions through the “Ask Derek” feature at the foot of my blog. While I reply to every question, the best or most insightful questions I answer directly through the blog.

Today I received this question from Christiana Nodjo: What are the benefits an organization will derive when its culture falls in line with its strategy?

While the benefits are numerous (and stay tuned in the coming months for a major announcement on just this topic), I’ll focus on just three:

1) The company’s most important values and strategic objectives are understood by everyone – in the way the CEO intended. Think about it. The CEO has in mind precisely what the company needs to achieve (objectives) and what behaviors/actions will be tolerated and encouraged (values) in getting those results. Too often, however, those objectives and values are lost in translation as the message is distorted as it gets communicated down through the ranks.

As I said in my post on Compensation Café today, “You can no more proclaim a culture into being than you can mandate changes to it, but you can encourage and recognize the behaviors of employees that contribute to the culture you want.”

Recognizing and sincerely appreciating the efforts of employees that demonstrate your company values in achievement of your strategic objectives is simply the most effective way of solidifying your company culture around your strategy.

2) Individually, employees choose to become more engaged with their work. Employee engagement has become the latest industry buzzword, but when in its purest form, the value of engagement cannot be disputed. Always keep in mind that engagement is not something you can foist onto an employee, it is only something you can foster. You can only create an environment in which employees choose to engage – choose to give greater discretionary effort (increased productivity) on precisely those areas you’ve deemed most important (increased performance).

The foremost driver of employee engagement is your company culture. As I said in a similarly titled post on the Enterprise Engagement Alliance blog, the truth of this statement lies in its simplicity. Employees don’t engage with widgets, deadlines or even people, necessarily. People engage with a sense of meaning, of purpose, of an understanding of fair play, of company values aligned with their personal values. The sum of all of this is your company culture.

3) Employees become united together behind these commonly understood goals. Even with shared values and great individual enthusiasm, a team that is not united in its efforts is dysfunctional. Once individuals unite as a team, functioning together to achieve departmental, divisional and company goals, they can reinforce both values and engagement. Mutual dependence develops trust, encourages learning, and fosters the sense of belonging to something greater than oneself.

Management – culture itself – must encourage teamwork by directly rewarding it and by demonstrating its importance. How do you do that? It can be as simple as a director instructing all employees, “Spot all the good behavior you can and recognize it – call it out, because I can’t be everywhere.” In a consistent culture, this is manifest in a thousand person-to-person moments.

How would you have answered this question? What would you have told Christiana?

2 comment(s):

At July 07, 2010 11:36 AM, Derek Irvine said...

(This comment came in through a direct email to Globoforce. I am reposting here.)

My question was inspired by Dererk’s recent article- answering Chirstina on (the benefits of Culture Aligning with Strategy).

My question is :

Is it possible for a recognition program based on values, to function properly , even though employees not massively aligned with these Values? How and for how long and what is the best ways in promoting company Values so all align with them in the way as per this fantastic “article” of Derek?

Kind regards

I am from the Middle East , where talking about this culture is something that need (enforcement) rather than ( convincing to align willingly)!


At July 07, 2010 11:38 AM, Derek Irvine said...

Feryal, this is a great follow-on question and I want to answer it in more detail in a full blog post tomorrow, Thursday. Please check in tomorrow for that.

Anyone else want to chime in?