In agreement and much collaboration with my wife, I raised 3 kids, each of them 4 years younger than their older sibling. We didn’t plan it out that way but I guess it took a few years for us to decide we wanted another one!
During their formative years, we walked each of our kids through their teenage years and all of the things that go with the age of adolescence – driving, dating, curfews, fashion, sports, friends and more. My wife and I experienced many culture gap moments during that time. You know that time period when you think your parents are out of touch, don’t have a clue and deserve what is known as teenage eye rolling. Yes, you know what I mean. Personally I found this very surprising as I was a youth worker for a number of years. My education and expertise was in the area of teenage behavior and adolescent development, so imagine my surprise when I encountered these culture gaps with my own kids! Of course, it all takes on a completely different perspective when you are going through life with your OWN kids versus someone else’s!
At any rate, the culture gap is an intriguing thing. Not only do you see it in families but you see it in companies and organizations. In my role now as a consultant after having spent 15 years in corporate America, I have seen these culture gaps numerous times. What is interesting about these gaps is that no one wants them! Every leader I have worked with was interested in having a healthy company culture – one which employees enjoy and leaders see a great impact from.
The “culture gaps” many companies experience come down to the fact that, even though the organization leaders want a healthy culture, they aren’t willing to make the investment that a strong culture requires. Ask anyone from an organization that thrives on a strong employee culture and you will learn that those environments were built by design and a lot of conscientious effort from everyone – primarily those in leadership positions.
When you look at the word “culture”, you find words like development, grounding, values, lifestyle, traditions, principles, beliefs, etc. Some bedrock aspects to this word “culture” that offers a perspective that supports the notion that a company culture is critical. As much or more critical than customer satisfaction and generating revenue. For without a strong culture, customer retention and revenue gains will be short lived as employee engagement wains, attrition rises and, yes, revenue declines.
There are numerous articles, studies and books written about the importance and value of building a strong culture. Several of them have even been featured on a previous articles/posts shared on the IPS LinkedIn page (Innovative People Solutions). My intent here is not to offer 6, 10 or 12 best practices or easy steps to develop a healthy company culture. Rather, I just want to raise the topic to generate thoughtful dialogue around the topic. A lot of stuff has been written but, similar to a previous article of mine, the urgent things in a company can often overshadow those that are more important.
As noted above, the risks of a culture left to chance or one which is only given lip service is real and significant (see topics like attrition, employee engagement, customer satisfaction, employer brand and company profits to name a few). Just as the risks are significant, the benefits are equally impressive. For example, a study conducted by Alex Edmans from The Wharton School discovered that corporations listed in Fortunes “100 Best Companies to Work for in America” had equity returns that were 3.5% per year higher than those of their peers. This supports the value of a strong and healthy company culture that values employees as much or more than their own customers. (Reference)
In a Harvard Business School article in 2008, James Heskett and W. Earl Sasser describe some of the core benefits a company experiences from making the investment in building a strong culture:
- They often become better places to work
- They become well known among prospective employees
- The level of ownership—referral rates and ideas for improving the business of existing employees—is often high
- The screening process is simplified, because employees tend to refer acquaintances who behave like them
- The pool of prospective employees grows
- The cost of selecting among many applicants is offset by cost savings as prospective employees sort themselves into and out of consideration for jobs
- This self-selection process reduces the number of mismatches among new hires
- Impact on customer satisfaction & engagement – “the best serving the best”
- Succession planning is easier – people want to stay, are engaged and invest themselves in the organization
In addition, experience and other experts testify that in companies with a healthy, vibrant culture expenses decline and profits increase.
At our firm, Innovative People Solutions, we have developed resources around helping companies develop their cultures. We love this topic because we see the impact many companies have experienced from making the investment this requires. It is not for the faint of heart but for those business leaders who want to see this take shape within the walls of their companies, the work is extremely rewarding.
That’s it for now! I’m running late for a meeting with a post-millennial (Gen Z). Hopefully the culture gap is minimal and he doesn’t roll his eyes at me!