Culture is more than a buzzword in today’s marketplace

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“Culture” is having a moment.

As the Indianapolis Colts prepare for their season, General Manager Chris Ballard and his team are all-in with their “winning culture,” a buzzword almost every coach drops into a press conference, even with recent team developments. Off the field, workplaces are increasingly concerned about the talent gap, and the culture buzz has escalated to a fever pitch.

The first reason has to do with the state of talent. Five percent unemployment is considered full employment in the United States. The national unemployment rate is 3.8%, with Indiana at 3.6%. There are more jobs than people to fill them.

And going forward, it gets worse: We’ll see 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every single day for the next decade. Advisa’s chairman, Bob Wilson, says, “Talent is in a long-term seller’s market. Winning the talent battle will be fundamental to your winning competitive wars. You need to find and KEEP talent. Culture is key to your ability to do just that.”

Fighting the Four Forces of Disengagement

The second reason for the culture buzz has to do with the four forces of disengagement among teams. They are:

  • Job fit: misalignment between someone’s natural tendencies and key job responsibilities.
  • Leadership impact: misalignment between manager and staff.
  • Culture: when employees feel like what the culture expects of them isn’t who they really are.
  • Team dynamics: when an employee feels like he/she is unlike the team.

Recent research shows us the culture gap is gaining momentum as one of the biggest workplace-productivity killers.

But this word can feel slippery to some leaders— “culture” still conjures up “fun.” Beer fridges are fun, dogs are fun, and ice cream socials are fun. Fun is good! But if your people aren’t getting the most out of their work or their managers, these fun things become noise. Understanding the science of culture and how it works to attract or repel your people is integral to its improvement.

Culture is made up of the traits, behaviors, and actions that are encouraged and rewarded. It refers to the complicated interpersonal and organizational dynamics that might not show up in job descriptions, but that absolutely set the conditions for success, according to The Predictive Index.

In the field of talent optimization, our job is to diagnose culture and align it with your business strategy—because the culture should be composed of the attitudes and behaviors needed to achieve YOUR business results. According to McKinsey, 91% of companies that have effective performance management systems link employees to business priorities.

You now have an idea of what could be the culprit.

Creating Magnetic Cultures

At Advisa, we say organizational cultures have magnetic qualities. They either attract people, repel them, or are neutral.

As leaders, we’re responsible for creating positively magnetic cultures that attract the right team members to us and that repel the folks not aligned with the attitudes and behaviors we’re committed to carrying out.

Those attitudes and behaviors are rooted in your company values and leadership competencies. Clarity here allows your leaders to be the “carriers” of the culture. Each day, strong leaders pick up values-driven behaviors and carry them throughout their interactions—driving social and behavioral norms that allow for more autonomous decision making.

The talent optimization framework sets forth four key types of culture:

  • cultivating (people development)
  • stabilizing (reliability, efficiency, and scalability)
  • producing (driving for winning results)
  • exploring (creation and innovation)

Some organizations have a mix. Regardless of where your culture sits, that culture has a positive, negative, or neutral impact on the people within it (not the least of which are those looking to change jobs).

Your Culture, Your Brand

What’s more, the world can see it. Some experts argue your culture is your brand, and your brand is your culture. While bad bosses might lurk below the waterline (not yet visible) for inquiring candidates, your office lifestyle is exposed—attracting those in alignment and repelling those who are not.

The best brands understand how to leverage their culture for prospective employees and customers alike – pulling their belief system into their unique selling proposition at every turn and forcing candidates and buyers to opt-in or opt-out with intention. Many organizations, though, remain in the neutral zone.

Creating a positively magnetic culture takes time. Start by crystalizing the behaviors that support the core values, use people science to identify the individuals whose natural needs aren’t in alignment with the business needs, ensure your leaders have the tools they need to coach the gaps and measure your culture’s progress.

Whether you’re wielding a locker room or a boardroom, consider the ways your culture is magnetic. Is it positive, negative, or neutral?

This article originally appeared in the Indianapolis Business Journal on June 28, 2019.

Read More

Are you interested in learning how ADVISA built a magnetic culture? Bob Wilson, ADVISA Founder, recently wrote a post about the transformation. Read it here!