A successful partnership?

Magazine: Bigger, better, stronger – December 2023

Growth can become a challenge if it becomes out of sync with the corporate culture. Conversely, a strong culture is the catalyst for growth.

Companies that are expanding need employees who can be flexible. When the pace is being set by innovative solutions and business ideas that are constantly changing, processes, structures and cultures are often put to the test – and people are forced to keep up. It takes stamina to keep evolving, to be flexible at short notice and not to lose sight of long-term strategic goals, yet these qualities are crucial in order for businesses to grow. But how does a business manage to retain flexible talent with staying power?

The corporate culture makes all the difference

Mindful treatment of employees plays a key role in companies that are experiencing growth. Growth means change, and change can create uncertainty. During a period of transformation, having a strong culture provides stability. It is an unspoken rule that the corporate culture shapes people’s behaviour, decisions and interactions. It is essential for an organisation to consciously define its culture, implement it and also to live it.

A culture does not come about by accident

A strong culture must be actively created and be part of the corporate strategy. Leaders in particular need to exemplify the corporate culture and employees need to understand it. Clear and regular communication of the company’s values as well as continuous training can help in terms of anchoring the culture, maintaining it and adapting it when necessary. It is only when employees know and experience this culture that they can build a profound understanding of it and work together towards the same goals.

Management integrity matters

At this year’s edition of Best Workplaces™ Switzerland, the winners stood out from the Swiss average due to their high level of management integrity. While having pride in your employer is still the most important factor when it comes to job satisfaction, this year’s evaluation concluded that management integrity has greatly increased in importance. Ethical conduct and management integrity were among the top five drivers of a trust-based workplace culture. According to Harvard Business Manager, this is also confirmed by Harvard professor Raffaella Sadun and her team. Their research shows that today’s best managers are characterised first and foremost by their so-called people skills, also known as soft skills. A team of authors made up of scientists, coaches and consultants for executives found much evidence of this in an article for Harvard Business Manager. Their conclusion: “More than ever, we need leaders who know how to foster employee creativity and commitment. If you want to be successful at the highest level in a company, you need a broad repertoire of people skills to help you indirectly lead large numbers of employees.”

A breeding ground for new ideas

Leadership behaviour therefore plays a major role in conveying the corporate culture, because leaders are not just role models – they are also culture bearers. Their behaviour, their decisions and their way of communicating has a big influence on how the culture is perceived and lived. If a company manages not only to strengthen the people skills of its managers, but also to use the corporate culture as a breeding ground for new ideas, this can promote innovation, strengthen employee commitment and ultimately contribute to growth. If the culture is based on values such as trust and responsibility and if people are motivated and inspired, it creates a climate of doing and learning. This feeling of being empowered is often perceived by employees as appreciation, which in turn translates into commitment, productivity and loyalty to the company – which are all key prerequisites for growth.

Don’t rest on your laurels

Even if all the criteria appear to be met, it is important to remain alert. How satisfied are the staff? The mood they are in makes a huge difference, and says a lot about the corporate culture. Carrying out a regular survey can help identify the need for action at an early stage. If the mood starts to decline, companies should have a rethink: do the company’s values still match its personality? And are values actually lived up to? If the surveys reveal a need for action, it is important that appropriate measures are introduced. Nothing is more demotivating than when a person is asked for their opinion but their suggestions are not taken seriously.  

Organisations don’t transform themselves. They need people to do that.

Every transformation has a big impact on the corporate culture. To ensure that change doesn’t undermine the culture, it should be carried out consciously and carefully – especially if it relates to growth. It is important for employees to be involved in the processes of change, since this helps them understand the processes better and enables them to identify with the transformation more closely. When staff are empowered to help shape a change process, the transformation is fashioned from within by the people who also live the culture.

A harmonious relationship

Growth and culture are inextricably linked. Companies that want to grow must also carefully nurture and develop their culture. A strong, positive corporate culture is able not only to support growth, but also to serve as a stabilising factor during times of change. It’s a balancing act, which ideally results in a level of harmony that leads the company to success. 

Leadership behaviour plays a major role in conveying the corporate culture, because leaders are not just role models – they are also culture bearers.