How to have it all: High-performance and values-driven cultures

1 December 2020|organizational resilience, organizations, Resilience, Success

A company’s culture has a tremendous influence on the company’s performance and success. It can either support you to skyrocket or if not given enough weightage, your company can take a nosedive. 

Strong, positive cultures often deliver a competitive advantage that puts businesses at the fore of their sectors and helps them attract and retain the best talent available. Misaligned cultures often result in the opposite – poor performance, high staff turnover, and poor quality products or services. A few leaders believe that they need to choose between high-performance or values-driven cultures. Here’s a fact – You can have it all. Both are simply sides of the same coin.

Sacrificing high-performance culture for growth

The meteoric growth of Uber and its resounding crash (as it fell from grace) is one of the best-known business stories in recent times.

Bold, disruptive, and unstoppable from the outset, Uber attracted passengers and revenue from the public transport sector.

Scandal doggedly followed Uber from the early days, ultimately culminating in the replacement of Travis Kalanick in 2017. Fundamental cultural problems were at the root of the issues. 

Analysis of internal business workings and exposé by former employees revealed the lack of communication, cooperation, the non-existing boundaries “to win at all cost”, and misogynistic corporate culture. While some may argue that Uber is still alive and expanding, the value of the business today is estimated to be a whopping 40% less than what it could have been had cultural problems not caused its downfall.

High-performance culture drives value and a larger market share

Conversely, one of the largest antipodean banks today – ANZ – decided to pursue cultural changes to drive their growth 10 years ago.

How did they achieve this?

Executives at ANZ aimed to increase employees’ sense of ‘living their values’, openness, and honesty ratings and imbibe a culture of ‘can-do’. Rather than modifying multiple cultural targets at once, the bank chose to focus on a limited number of cultural aspects, measured every 12 – 18 months.

The change towards a cultural focus for growth involved integrating an approach that started with senior management and fed down to all levels of staff, including front-line tellers. Along with senior leaders ‘walking their talk’, a system of peer coaching and mentoring was established to drive performance along with market share. The results speak for themselves; ANZ is now the largest bank in New Zealand and the third-largest in Australia.

The characteristics of high-performance and value-driven cultures

Regardless of the industry, or nature of the business, high-performance cultures share three features:-

  1. Alignment of vision, strategy, and employee behaviors
  2. Frictionless movement in the agreed direction for the organization
  3. A commitment to continually improve processes, policies, relationships, and the product or service

Each of these three characteristics neatly fit with the requirements for a values-driven culture in workplaces. Values-driven cultures enable employees to align their personal values with those of an organization. Managers role-model the desired behaviors and employees feel valued.

Measuring for high-performance and values-driven culture

There are ten measurable qualities that promote a high-performance, values-driven culture. Through measuring these metrics, companies are able to see what is working versus what needs work and can build strategies to strengthen areas of weakness.

  1. Collaboration – Systems and processes that support transparency and cross-team collaboration need to be established. You can monitor the time individuals are spending in deep work as well as the time spent in team meetings aimed at resolving roadblocks.
  2. Innovation – Metrics for measuring innovation include the number of patents filed, the number of ideas submitted by employees per quarter, and the percent of sales from newly introduced products or services.
  3. Agility – McKinsey’s latest research shows agility is closely linked to a business’ bottom line. Metrics associated with employee engagement, customer satisfaction, operational and financial performance will indicate a business’ level of agility.
  4. Communication – Employee awareness and feedback surveys are the fastest and simplest way to measure effective communication. You can create your own feedback surveys or utilize templates that are widely available online.
  5. Support – Leaders need to actively create opportunities to support their teams and encourage the same within teams. Some of the most successful companies start by asking a simple question during conflicts or decision-making, “Is this in the company’s best interests, or is it solely to benefit your position within the company?”
  6. Workplace wellness – Activity levels, absenteeism, and self-assessment of stress levels are all good indicators of workplace wellness. High-performing companies are also more resilient as compared to their competitors. This is partly owing to the emphasis they place on measuring stress and burnout within their teams and taking proactive measures to mitigate the impacts of stress.
  7. Environmental factors – Both internal and external environmental factors play a critical role in creating a conducive culture. Organizational structure, inter-personal relationships, infrastructure, value proposition – are some of the internal environmental factors which are within your control and provide the foundation for a value-driven culture. 
  8. Autonomy and Accountability are both excellent indicators of high-performing and values-driven cultures. Measure an individual’s progress towards clearly defined goals along with how often team manager’s meet with their direct reports and the nature of these meetings (e.g.: Is this meeting being called for status update only or are these directive meetings)
  9. Performance focus – Are employee goals clearly defined and linked to specific actions and outcomes? How often are rewards and recognition given to teams for their work? What are some of the factors being considered in performance reviews?
  10. Alignment of company mission and values – Employee engagement levels, recruitment and retention levels, and customer satisfaction are all indicators of mission and values alignment. High levels of all three show excellent alignment, lower levels indicate work is required.

Culture is the foundation upon which a high-performing company is created. The stronger and deeper the foundation, the more resilient and successful is the company. A compromise in culture can undermine all the progress you could have made. As a leader or an entrepreneur, you need to have a sharp focus on driving the desired culture. High-performance doesn’t have to come at the cost of culture. Both are sides of the same coin.

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