Culture Matters More Than You May Think

Recently there has been a growing body of work that has looked at organizational culture as the catalyst for innovation and success. Look at companies like Apple, Starbucks, Nordstrom, Disney, L.L. Bean and Zappos and you start to see that culture matters. Take Nordstrom and their unwavering commitment to customer service. It is their bread and butter. It is so ingrained into their DNA, that they will never deviate from keeping it front and center.

Each of these companies has a very distinct culture. They target an area of their operation, make it their core strength and they do not deviate from it. Employees are hired, trained and measured on it and leadership reinforces it daily.

We are starting to learn more about the importance of culture in an organization. It is no longer just a “soft” science. So why is it that companies cannot seem to get it right? Most companies struggle mightily trying to create a vibrant culture. Many good attempts have fallen flat. Millions of dollars have been spent on consultants and programs to make corporate culture easier to stomach. It is all with good intentions but he majority of these change initiatives fail. Why?

From my perspective it is because of three fundamental reasons:

1. Lack of buy-in and commitment from the executive suite

2. Companies are too focused on short-term gains (true change takes time)

3. Employee fit

I would like to focus on #3 for now. You can learn a good deal about an organization by looking at their hiring practices and how aligned they are to the core strategy and the corporate culture. By now, most companies know how to spot and hire for talent. Talent is only a piece of the overall puzzle. Fit is even more important. And few organizations really understand how to recruit for fit.

Managers tend to look at candidates in a vacuum. They see talent and experience and they think they are golden. But very few measure for fit. They don’t take the time to probe and ask the questions that will truly tell them if this person is a fit or not. As a result, they hire people that are good performers, but they are not necessarily committed to the organizational culture. Eventually this lack of commitment becomes evident. And it all catches up. The employee eventually moves on, and we are right back to the beginning.

This time be smart, and recognize that culture matters. Do it right the first time, and thank yourself later.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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