The Shift to Purposeful Culture for Business Growth


Culture has proven to be crucial for the business in recent times, but it isn’t all kudos, virtual happy hours and collaboration meetings. At the end of the day, culture has to help propel the business forward, or it simply won’t remain a top priority of executives concerned with the bottom line.

For this reason, culture has to be aimed toward business growth. But unfortunately, not all leaders in the C-suite understand how this will occur.

“The good news is, if I asked 100 CEOs ‘does culture matter to you?’ almost 100 would say yes,” Tony Jaros, CEO of CultureIQ said in a recent session at our HR Exchange Live” Employee Engagement and Experience event. “The bad news is that almost every question that comes after that has highly varied answers to it.”

WATCH: Shifting from Employee Engagement to Purposeful Culture

The question then becomes what is good culture or what does good culture mean to executives and who is responsible for fostering it? These questions illicit a vast array of answers, stemming from the fact that nearly 70% of organizations working on culture through traditional feedback mechanisms feel paralyzed when it comes time to take action on the data they receive.

In many cases, organizations don’t know how to measure the return on their efforts to improve culture or feel like they have been measuring the same things for years and aren’t sure on how much they impact the business. Part of that is a misunderstanding about what we mean when we say employee engagement and culture.

“Employee engagement is really an employee’s commitment and connection to an organization and that is typically found by measuring the employee’s overall happiness, their likelihood to stay and their general enthusiasm for the business,” Jaros said. “Organizations are most successful in that by building a purposeful culture. Culture is a system of shared behaviors that develop over time. It shapes how people work together and how the work gets done in an organization.”

Jaros went on to add that engagement is a subset of culture rather than a proxy for culture. He sees culture operating on a continuum so to speak. Along that continuum are three steps that need to be taken. The first is a strategy to help you define your why. This represents the attributes of culture that will create a framework and a language around it, giving the company an identity in its culture. This makes your culture easier to measure and set in a direction. 

The next step is measurement, the stage where the company can begin to see the gap between where it is and where it wants to be. As part of this, you can begin to flag areas of concern and strategize how to address them. The issue, however, is that many organizations spend very little time on step one, instead jumping straight to step 2.

“We see organizations spending very little time defining what good looks like and what the ideal end state would look like for them,” Jaros said. “They wind up spending a lot of time trying to figure out what questions to ask and then an inordinate amount of time when they get the data back trying to decipher where to go next. Because of that window to do something about what they’ve learned is pretty short and they really run out of time to make the difference they’re looking for. If you do the work up front, you’ll spend less time in measurement phases so that you can spend more time on step 3; actioning.”

That third step of taking action then facilitates assessing progress and actually seeing a cultural change.

Strategy for Culture

The strategy being vital won’t come as a surprise to seasoned HR professionals, but what it entails might differ from what they’re thinking. Essentially there are two types of categories the organization needs to ask itself questions around. The first is planned strategies, or things you can control, such as diversity and inclusion, agility, a healthy work environment, etc. All of these things represent things that you can change if you want to.

The second is what CultureIQ refers to as emergent requirements and these are things that cultures have to adapt to, whether that is new competitors, new regulations, increased employee attrition for unknown reasons, or things like COVID-19 and social issues such as racial unrest.

“Right now we are living in a world of emergent requirements,” Jaros said. “Those are all things that will require your culture to change over time to be able to handle. When you can answer questions around these things, you can begin to apply your reality to a cultural framework.”

The CultureIQ framework includes core elements of dignity and purpose, but also four elements they refer to as flex elements. These can change depending on you how answer two questions:

  • What are your planned strategies?
  • What emerging requirements are you facing?

The four dimensions include talent, curiosity, collaboration and execution.

“Which of the four dimensions you prioritize depends on your goals,” Jaros said. “In an organization that is looking to use innovation to drive growth, the dimensions of curiosity and collaboration are going to be the most important. That’s not to say talent and execution don’t play a part in that, but those two dimensions will be fundamental to that organization’s goals. So the way that your culture drives your growth is centered around those elements. You need to understand that and what you want before you start to look at culture data and measure.”

WATCH THE FULL SESSION: Shifting from Employee Engagement to Purposeful Culture

Photo Courtesy of Pexels

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