How to Influence Corporate Culture to Improve Performance

How to Influence Corporate Culture to Improve Performance


My view on the link between Corporate Culture and Performance

Darlene Quirk is one of our youngest consultants and she is writing a set of articles that profile her view on the areas that we work in every day. With a fresh perspective and an eye for opportunity, Darlene’s articles will provide valuable reading for young professionals looking to make sense of their environment and connect theory to practice.

Within every organisation there is a set of behaviours that form a shared culture, a culture which more often than not can determine the success of a company.

I have experience first-hand how a healthy corporate culture not only retains valued employees and reduces human resource costs, but it also secures a positive reputation among employees and customers. I have witnessed how this can have a flow-on effect to other teams within a department, thus creating an all-round improvement in the organisation’s morale and enthusiasm.

Culture is also a big driver of success and this is becoming more commonly recognised today. At first glance, some may consider success is due to a company’s corporate strategy, operational discipline or business models. While these elements are certainly important, culture is now being recognised alongside these traditional elements as a key driver of performance.

As difficult as it is to define corporate culture, it is even more complicated to change it. This is because culture in a workplace can be heavily influenced by the original beliefs of the founder or early leadership. This influence can persist for an extended period of time beyond changes in the organisations leadership or structure. Therefore, making changes to corporate culture is ultimately asking a workplace to change its attitude, behaviour, beliefs and traditions – traits and characteristics which may have been in place for many years.

Without a doubt, there are work environments where toxic culture can drive adverse and pessimistic behaviours within teams, which in turn deters high performing staff and prohibits business from reaching its maximum potential. Through my experience, I have witnessed how unhealthy work culture can manifest from merely one or two unhappy employees to impact an entire group. Fortunately, I was in a position where I could nip this in the bud quickly by having some open and honest conversations with the employees and getting to the root cause of their behaviour. However, in most circumstances, it’s not that simple. So, how can you make a difference in this space without bringing attention to the fact that there could potentially be a problem? Below are my tips on how to influence culture in the workplace:

  • Lead by example; and demonstrate the attitude, behaviour and beliefs that the company wants to portray. Because leading in a way that agrees with what you say, translates your intention into reality.
  • Recognise employee accomplishments, valuable contributions and say thank you. We all want to be recognised when we do well, this is human nature; and employees expect to be acknowledged when they excel in the workplace. A small gesture, such as a thank you, goes a long way when it is sincere.
  • Take a proactive approach to avoid overworking top performing employees. We’ve all been there; in an environment when we are overloaded with work, yet expectations remain the same. It’s difficult to maintain a positive work environment in such circumstances and it’s easier to rely on the employees you know you can always count on to get the job down. However, tread carefully, as this is where toxic culture can sometimes fester. Encourage staff to work together and share the workload where you can.
  • Cultivate coworker relationships. Strengthening workplace relationships encourages employee engagement; however this can take time and effort, but the reward will be an increase in team morale, employee engagement and increased attendance.
  • Practice and encourage flexibility. This is not a new concept, and there are boundaries; however flexibility in the workplace recognises staff as more than just a resource, and can assist in improving quality of life thus increasing productivity.
  • Provide constructive feedback and have real conversations with employees. I used to make a habit of collecting my printing from the other side of the office. Not only was this an opportunity for me to step away from my desk, but it also provided me with a chance to strike up conversations with staff I passed by – to merely see how they are going. This usually starts off around home life or the weekend, and then flows onto how they are managing with work. It doesn’t take long before such conversations develop into feedback sessions, informal at that, however enough to provide encouragement to an employee, boost morale and show that you care. Such engagements need not take up much of your time. As it only takes a few minutes to touch base, and have a candid conversation.

Influencing culture in a workplace is not an easy feat, however with a combined effort from management and leadership staff, results will ultimately follow. The key is persistence. No matter how busy your workplace gets, take the time to maintain focus on your culture. Make a conscious effort for culture to be a priority and lead by example, because without a healthy culture, there isn’t a healthy brand.

Darlene Quirk