Understanding the link between culture and performance

Culture and performance are intertwined.

When looking for short-term gains in performance and productivity, you train your people. When you want to drive a company's profitability, you transform culture.

Culture is a concept everyone knows is vital to a company’s success. It is also one of the easiest to let drift and the hardest to steer in a new direction.

A successful culture can create a sense of belonging and ownership among employees, which leads to discretionary effort. A toxic culture results in churn, absenteeism, performance issues, and a struggle to meet targets.

Giving a language to your culture

A starting point for creating your culture is a shared language describing what you believe and how this manifests in your people’s behaviour and relationships.

While this sounds a lot like writing values, it is not an exercise that often leads to a desired culture. Don’t write vague concepts no one understands, and leave your HR team with the mammoth task of interpreting and translating them.

Instead, name the behaviours you value. If you want a culture of collaboration and excellence, say “be collaborative” and “be excellent”. Equally, if you want to pioneer the next innovation with your team’s strategic vision for the future of your sector, name it: “Be pioneering, strategic, and visionary.”

Align the behaviours you choose

If the behaviours you value are chosen only by your leadership, then less than 10% of the workforce will believe in their value.

Reaching across the organisation and asking every individual to name the culture using this language of behaviours, buy-in will be far more significant.

Understanding the desires of the leadership and employees can help you reach a commonly held belief in the company’s culture.

Empower people to live the culture

To be lived, this culture has to be front of mind and actionable by all. Understanding where every individual rates in relation to this culture empowers learning and development to support everyone in developing behaviours that are valued.

First, undertaking a 360-assessment of every employee empowers individuals with self-awareness to make a difference for themselves.

Aggregating the 360 assessments and seeing all employees as a body gives you a health check on your culture. You also clearly indicate the interventions needed to steer the company to one where everyone feels like they belong and can contribute.

Knowledge is power; action brings change

Naming, aligning, and evaluating your culture gives you a new level of power brought by knowledge of your company.

To transform the culture, every employee can make small changes and make a massive difference. In a company of 1000 people, if all 1000 people are pulling in the same direction, transformation is guaranteed – well, at least more likely than the leadership of 10 trying to drag the mass of a company in that direction alone.

This is a guest blog which contains the views of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of the IoD. 

About the author

Racheal Smith

Racheal Smith,

Head of Learning at Entelechy

Entelechy is a character-based insights and professional development provider. Entelechy believes value-driven behaviour is Character, and by shaping the Character of employees, you deliver the Character – or culture – of the company.

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