17/07/2014

By Suzy Dean is CEO of EasySharePoint, a TechCity start-up that helps teams create, share and communicate better together.

As an integral component in business, organisational culture has a significant impact on the strategic direction a company takes. Culture influences management, business decisions and employee commitment and only a business culture that is aligned with your goals will help you achieve superior performance in the long run. A business’ culture shapes how staff conduct themselves, which organisations you do business with and which you don’t and how long you work together.

Companies with an adaptive culture, aligned to their business goals routinely outperform their competitors with some studies suggesting that this difference is as much as 200%. To achieve results like this, you must explore what your company culture is and how you can shape it.

Through my role at EasySharePoint I have seen how the way of doing business can change from market to market, or even office to office in larger organisations. I find it fascinating observing how different one organisation’s culture can be from another within the same sector. However, what’s most curious is the impact that this has on productivity, staff engagement and the bottom line.

Over time, as the flow of people changes and the business grows or goes in a different direction, the culture changes and so does the impact that it has on the wider company. In some organisations a cultural shift can result in staff feeling reinvigorated and more motivated than usual to hit targets, however on occasion, this can also provide a source of dispute and tension.

Although it would be nice to transform an organisation’s culture overnight, this simply isn’t possible. Before you can change the company culture, you must plan how you would like this culture to develop and look in the future. Once this is ascertained, business leaders can begin guiding the company in the direction they desire. However this can be easier said than done; management teams must build support across the whole business by assessing the bigger picture.

All too often business leaders try to impose a new culture on staff from the top down, but by and large these attempts generally fail. The truth is you can’t force a culture on employees; it is something that must be nurtured. The values you want your organisation to have must be developed collectively, rather than demanding that staff follow your approach, which can leave employees feeling disenfranchised and sceptical of your business intentions.

I’ve found that organisations that engage with their staff achieve the best results when deciding on a change in direction. Working with staff to canvass their opinion on how they’d like to see the business change for the better can often be extremely successful. Another good route for doing this is through organising Q&A sessions with the management or inviting honest discussion and feedback on internal blogs, forums and social networks.

If you open the floor to discussion around the purpose and direction of your business, it demonstrates to staff that their opinion is valued and that they are an important link in the proverbial business chain. By embracing an open discussion, you will take important steps in creating a system of values that everyone in your organisation can relate to.

Ultimately, your workforce is the lifeblood of your organisation and it is the people that make and shape the business culture. Thinking that you can force a culture on them without their support simply does not make sense.

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