Human Capital Management Blog

Strategies for HCM Professionals

Corporate culture perception: Managers vs employees

broken linkWishing something were a particular way certainly does not make it so. And a recent study indicated that this seems to be the case with corporate culture. The research, which was performed by VitalSmart Cofounders Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield, found a discrepancy between what corporate executives say they want their company culture to look like and what employees believe managers actually value. Executives say they want innovation, teamwork, candor and initiative. But, from the employees’ standpoint, it seems more like they prefer to see more obedience, deference to authority, competition with peers and predictability.

It’s possible this gap boils down, at least in part, to misinterpretations. For example, perhaps what managers view as taking initiative workers feel translates to demonstrating competitiveness amongst peers. The findings of this study highlight the obvious negative perception workers have about company culture – marking a severe disconnect from the generally optimistic view managers seem to have. The research revealed:

  • Business leaders were nearly 70 percent more likely than workers to say the norm of the company culture is to speak honestly and openly about any questions or concerns.
  • Employees were 54 percent more likely than leaders to say the norm is to avoid conflict, seek approval and adhere to the hierarchic order of power.
  • Workers were almost 20 percent less likely than managers to agree that their company culture norm is to set goals and develop plans to achieve them.
  • Employees who felt that their management teams valued peer competition, authority deference, obedience and predictability were 32 percent less likely to be engaged, committed and loyal to the company, and 26 percent less likely to rate their organization as being successful in innovation and execution.

The importance of a strong company culture can not be understated. As Venture Burn recently reported, over 80 percent of organizations today agree that, without it, businesses will be plagued with mediocrity.

Leading the way to better corporate culture
Considering only 9 percent of survey participants expressed a favorable opinion of their company’s culture, it’s safe to say that the majority of today’s corporations have room for improvement. Even among management, just 15 percent harbor a positive perception of the matter, indicating they, too, understand the reality isn’t meeting expectations. Fortunately, there are some strategies employers can use to improve their culture and and ensure they are on the same page as their team.

1.Clearly understand and communicate business objectives. The goals of changing corporate culture should be widely understood and shouldn’t just be in place as a way to make the workplace more fun or trendy. There is real value that can improve the bottom line of an organization but, for it to have any real impact, it needs to be clearly communicated.

2. Prioritize most important behavior changes. You can’t change the entire culture of a corporation overnight. But you can start somewhere – and that should be with the ones that will have the biggest influence over the performance of employees.

3. Listen with intent. The study found that the higher up in the corporate hierarchy the professional is, the more positive their perception seems to be of the culture. As Grenny pointed out, to ensure they are on the same page, managers must listen deeply to team members and facilitate an environment where workers feel comfortable voicing their honest opinions and concerns. 

4. Be proactive. Once you have opened the doors of communication and established what improvements can be made, make sure you are taking the necessary measures to actually put processes in place. Employees will trust you more if they see you follow through in doing what you say you will.

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