3 ways to drive business performance through an employee-led culture

Aligning the workforce to a common vision of employy-led culture is what drives business performance

There are a number of basic but important steps organisations should follow in driving performance through workforce culture alignment, writes Aaron McEwan

Australian organisations believe that culture equals performance. In fact, leaders of large organisations are spending on average $2,823 per employee annually in a bid to get it right.

The traditional model of driving culture has led with a top-down approach from the C-suite, who use phrases such as innovation, customer centricity or collaboration to try and personalise it for their organisation.

However, setting the culture at the top and hoping it will trickle down is not the answer. Research by Gartner has found that a top-down approach doesn’t work, and that there is no single culture that enhances financial performance.

Instead, aligning the workforce to a common vision of culture is what drives business performance; an approach called workforce culture alignment.

Workforce culture alignment is challenging what organisations know and understand about their culture, which is ultimately a set of behavioural norms and unwritten rules that shape an organisation; combining values and beliefs to create an environment that allows employees to get their work done.

Workforce culture alignment can increase performance revenue goals by 9 per cent, increase reputation outcomes by 16 per cent and see a 22 per cent increase in employee performance.

In comparison, when alignment is low, progress toward the desired culture is slowed and both business and talent outcomes suffer as a result.

The biggest barrier to creating a culture that performs is the degree to which leaders can actually get employees living that culture in their everyday work.

“There is no single culture that enhances financial performance”

What leaders think employees want
Many leaders are under the assumption that culture can be developed through superficial gimmicks; think free lunches, ping-pong tables, beanbags and breakout rooms. While these elements add to the workplace environment and may help organisations to attract candidates, they don’t increase business performance.

For an organisation to live and breathe the culture that can drive performance, it requires employees to change the way they behave and carry out their work.

For example, a call centre employee cannot deliver the best experience or be ‘customer centric’ if they are faced with insufficient access to customer records or red tape; leaving them unable to do their job.

Today’s workers are unique in their ability to inform, influence, shape, drive and live organisational culture. It’s their input and passion for their work that will impact business results, and employees can only do this when they are armed with the tools, processes, permissions and environment that enables them to succeed.

To create a culture that performs and to maximise workforce culture alignment, organisations must measure the degrees to which the workforce has knowledge of current values, whether they have the mindset that the culture is the right type to pursue and whether they know what behavioural norms align with that culture and are empowered to act on them.

How can organisations develop an employee-led culture?
To develop meaningful culture management strategies, organisations must leverage the knowledge, mindset and behaviour of employees to:

  • Understand the culture through employee-led diagnostics. Organisations must make a point of asking employees to what degree they understand the culture, believe in it and feel empowered to act on it
  • Operationalise the culture through processes. Leaders must design processes that support culture, and help employees to understand how the culture and processes apply in their day-to-day work
  • Maximise leader impact. Allow leaders to truly create an environment that equips employees to apply the ‘how’ of culture in their day-to-day work and gives them the freedom to live it

Organisations that do this are the ones most likely to achieve a higher level of alignment between the workforce and the desired culture.

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