Culture change begins at the top of an organisation; it is the CEO who should drive it and embody the values and principles of the desired culture.
Leaders have the responsibility to look at their company and choose to lead the evolution forward to a more responsive and innovative workforce.
The first step toward change is to answer the question: what is your company culture today and what does it need to become?
The second question calls for some objective self-analysis. Do I and the company’s leadership team exemplify the desired values?
To effect change takes leadership, vision and lots of courage. The change begins with the leader himself/herself
A company culture should reflect the values and behaviour of the workforce, and has a significant impact on the overall success of a business. The desire to create an innovative environment, better suited to producing solutions, can therefore require some fundamental changes to company culture.
These are some of the values found in world-class organisations:
- Engaged Workforce
- High level of integrity
- Trust relationships
- Effective leadership
- Effective systems and processes
- Performance-based compensation and reward programmes
- Effective 360-degree communications
- Commitment to learning and skill development
- Emphasis on recruiting and retaining world-class employees
- High standard of accountability
Two leaders in this area, Thomas G. Cummings and Christopher G. Worley, put forward five key points that solidly define companies that are prepared for constant change and evolution:
- Structures that emphasise teamwork, information sharing and empowerment
- Information systems that facilitate rapid acquisition and sharing of complex information to manage knowledge for competitive advantage.
- Human resources that reinforce new skills and knowledge.
- Organisational culture that encourages innovation.
- Leaders that model openness and freedom to try new things while communicating a compelling vision.
How company culture can work
Wegmans Food Markets, located in the USA, has 83 stores with annual revenues of USD 7 billion (2013). It also has a clearly defined culture, which is completely supported by its senior leadership.
They choose not to focus on rapid expansion, opening just a few stores each year. Instead, they focus on having well-trained staff. Millions of dollars are spent on training and new stores aren’t opened until all staff members are fully trained and ready to work. The result: the new stores are set up properly and employees live up to a high standard.
An interesting consequence to this strategy is high employee engagement; Wegmans has appeared in Fortune’s annual ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ list since its inception in 1998, and has ranked among the top 10 for eight consecutive years.
Culture matters because it affects a company’s ability to succeed. The employees at Wegmans enjoy their work, but it is the leadership that transform this vision of excellence into reality, supported by a large investment in training and development.