Yes, You Can Fix Culture

Blog Post by Robert Jimenez

Company culture is what your employees do when no one’s looking. It’s the fabric that weaves together how your company operates, and influences how a firm projects itself both internally and to the outside world. Most important, a productive, positive culture yield business results. Companies with happy employees outperform the competition by 20 percent, earn up to 1.7 percent more than their peer firms, and are 2.1 percent above industry benchmarks, according to the Growth Everywhere blog. In addition, happy workers are also more likely to solve difficult problems faster.

For all its importance, a recent Harvard Business Review article declared that culture can’t be “fixed.” Instead, the authors say that culture is something that comes after processes and technologies are in place to fix identified issues within an organization. In the article, former CEOs behind major transformations outlined how they left culture to evolve naturally.

Would you invest (sometimes millions) in systems, people, and resources to improve processes and technology, only to let the implementation and adoption “evolve naturally?” That’s like navigating a ship hundreds of miles across the ocean, only to cut the engines a mile from shore in the hopes that the tide takes you to the right port.

Changing culture is hard, because of its abstract nature. Employee beliefs, actions, and rewards drive culture, which are made up of many emotional and rational factors. Changing culture is hard, but it’s not impossible. No amount of senior management edicts or PR spin will enable a true culture shift without getting the entire organization on board to usher in change and maintain momentum. Employees must believe in the culture, and must want to be part of it. So while it can’t be forced, it can be fixed.

Culture change is successful when it’s proactively managed with a customer-focused lens. After all, we’re all consumers who want to be treated like individuals and have our problems solved. A corporate culture should enable that, regardless of industry or product. Because we can all relate as consumers, a customer-centric culture is something employees can get behind and will be motivated to adopt.

Culture can’t just fix itself. We consider the culture change journey an ongoing endeavor that involves the enterprise, small teams, and individuals. We understand the need to show progress quickly and build momentum to fuel long-term adoption and a strong foundation. Our approach is based on seven change focus areas:

  1. Establish imminent need
  2. Gather the right team
  3. Set vision and values
  4. Communicate and engage
  5. Empower everyone
  6. Recognize and energize
  7. Institutionalize success

Companies that put customers at the center of their business don’t just let culture evolve naturally. They actively create an environment that empowers employees to make decisions based on what’s best for customers, and in turn the business.

Want to learn more? Join me next week at Forrester’s CXNYC forum as we discuss the role culture plays in distinguishing top performers from the rest. I’ll be speaking on Tuesday at 2:10 p.m. in the session called, “Yes, You Can Fix Culture.” I hope to see you there to continue the conversation.

Robert Jimenez

EVP, Customer Strategy Services

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