How to Align Culture and Strategy

how to align culture and strategy

There’s a shift underway that puts workplace culture first

Creating a great culture hasn’t traditionally been on the top of the business priority list.

But heightened awareness of a more mindful, people-first leadership style, sees those businesses that prioritise culture winning the war for talent.

When the big dogs of business – like Gordon Cairns (Chairman of David Jones and Origin Energy), Neil Thompson (CEO of Virgin Velocity) and Arianna Huffington (founder of The Huffington Post) – openly share that mindful and people-centred leadership is their secret to success, people sit up and pay attention.

These leaders understand how important it is for their employees to find meaning and connection in their work and the people they work with. These leaders, along with many others, get the importance of building ‘community’ in the workplace and providing a place for employees to belong.

In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Dr Brene Brown describes ‘belonging’ as:

“..the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”

In Australia’s Early Childhood Education framework, “Belonging”, “Being” and “Becoming” form the core pillars supporting how we prepare and teach our future generation.

“Belonging acknowledges children’s interdependence with others and the basis of relationships in defining identities. In early childhood, and throughout life, relationships are crucial to a sense of belonging.”

So, if from our earliest age, we’re encouraged to ‘belong’, why has the concept fizzled out in the workplace in favour of ‘conform’.

It’s because the impact of culture hasn’t been linked to the business outcomes. Uniting the two is so important and here’s how you do it.

1. Give your people a clear purpose

The purpose of an organisation needs to be clearly defined and communicated from day 1 of the hiring process. Recruitment isn’t just about assessing skillset. Use it to assess if a potential employee wants to contribute to your success. Hire people who not only understand your purpose, but are also driven to help you live it and succeed daily.

2. Be transparent about what you value

Whether conscious of them or not, every company has values. Values are what shape the decisions you make every day – from the way you treat your customers to the way you run your meetings. Identify these values and make a point to communicate them to every employee regularly. Businesses with high employee engagement make a point of recognising and rewarding employees who demonstrate and live out their values.

Want high employee engagement? Recognise and reward employees who demonstrate your values.

3. Be clear on what success looks like

Your strategy should have clearly articulated measures of success. Whether that’s achievement of a project, meeting a metric or goal. Unless people know the core metrics that define success for your business, they will never know when they are winning.

4. Combine both in a recognition program

Recognising an employee for their contribution is the simplest and cheapest way to give their work meaning and motivate them to do more. And acts and words of gratitude don’t just increase individual motivation and performance; they also create meaningful connections between co-workers, which enables them to work together more effectively which increases collaboration and innovation.

The purpose, values and moments of connection are the fabric that make your company culture and build a sense of community. You’ll get the best results when your people feel a sense of connection between what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, and the people they do it with. Building community is not about making everybody friends; it’s about creating working relationships based on a common purpose (which will guide individual goals) and values (which drive individual behaviour).

You can create awards around your strategic goals, for example if you have a goal around customer centricity. Create this as an award that people can nominate and recognise each other for. This creates a sense of momentum and achievement along the way to reaching a milestone.

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