A company’s culture is elusive, hard to define, and even harder to control.
While we all agree that culture is important, most of us find it difficult to manage it and even harder to change it. This is because culture is the personality of an organization. Just as it is impossible to change a person’s personality, it is almost impossible to change an organization’s culture.
Over the past few decades, organizational culture, specifically high-performance culture, has been the subject of many research studies and a buzzword used throughout organizations worldwide.
A Columbia University study found that high-performance culture increases employee engagement, productivity, and retention, and McKinsey & Co. found that organizations with higher-performing cultures create a 3x return to shareholders.
Even with all the research and attention from leadership teams, high-performance culture remains an aspiration rather than a reality for many of us.
Table of Contents
- What is a High-Performance Culture?
- Five Characteristics of a High-Performance Culture
- How to Create a High-Performance Culture
- Best Tools for a High-Performance Culture
What is a High-Performance Culture?
It is difficult to find a definition of high-performance culture that is consistent. Some experts describe it as a set of shared beliefs and values established by leaders and communicated and reinforced through various methods, ultimately shaping employee perceptions, behaviors, and understanding. Others simply describe it as an optimal workplace that makes employees more effective.
We have combined a few definitions to come up with our own:
Cultures that are high-performing are based on universally accepted behaviors and norms that are nurtured by leaders and facilitated by optimal tools and processes. As a result, employees are able to work more effectively to achieve business goals.
In other words, it’s not just about promoting good behavior or empowering employees; it’s a balance of both.
Five Characteristics of a High-Performance Culture
High-performance cultures share several characteristics, including :
1. Strong Leaders
The culture of a company is set by its leaders. In a startup, for example, the culture will often reflect the personalities of the founders and early employees. Founding teams should be careful to expose the traits they want people to emulate-and control the ones they don’t. The key performance indicators (KPIs) that leaders work hard to meet will inspire employees in more established organizations to follow their lead.
2. Empowered and Engaged Employees
When it comes to employee empowerment, companies with a high-performance culture put their money where their mouth is. They ensure employees have the tools, knowledge, and skills to make good decisions. Studies have shown that feeling empowered to act when a problem or opportunity arises is a critical element of employee engagement.
3. Continuous Development
Identifying ways to support employee growth and learning is extremely important to support a high-performance culture. It is particularly true for “star” performers or employees’ leadership track since leadership development ensures high-performance culture’s sustainability.
Just because you have achieved your ideal of a high-performance culture doesn’t mean it will last. Workplaces with high performance face constant change as they adapt to new technologies, competition, and customer behavior.
A high-performance organization possesses the agility and a change mindset. High-performance cultures plan for change and aren’t afraid to adjust strategy, work practices, processes, or job descriptions in order to achieve results.
How to Create a High-Performance Culture
Gartner says firms can achieve high-performance cultures when they continuously balance investment in people, process, physical environment, and technology in order to improve the ability of workers to learn, discover, innovate, collaborate, and lead, as well as to achieve efficiency and financial benefit.
Investing in people entails several things. Investing in top talent and paying them well is the first step. Additionally, it means investing in employee learning and development and making sure everyone has access to the skills they need to succeed.
You can make investing in high-performance processes as easy or as difficult as you want. High-performance processes can be built internally, leaders can be trained, processes can be communicated to employees, and they can be monitored regularly. Additionally, you can hire consultants to help you build those processes efficiently.
Investing in the physical environment does not necessarily mean adding ping-pong and foosball tables to the office. Instead, it means that Physical environments should promote the productivity requirements of a diverse workforce.
For some, this will mean flexible working hours, pet-friendly offices, or onsite childcare. And yes, for others, it will mean foosball tables!
A high-performance culture is based on technology. In the end, you don’t want to invest in top talent and build processes if your high-performing workforce is going to do repetitive tasks that could easily be automated with the right technology. The next section examines some tools that should be prioritized to support a high-performance culture.
Best Tools for a High-Performance Culture
Artificial intelligence (AI) does not necessarily require robots to foster a high-performance culture. AI enables organizations to automate repetitive tasks, so employees can focus on more valuable activities. Additionally, it keeps organizations agile. McKinsey explains that an organization that can remain agile and adapt to technology changes will benefit from enhanced customer responsiveness, enhanced capabilities, and better performance in terms of cost-efficiency, revenues, and return on capital. The organization might also experience a higher sense of purpose and improved organizational health.
According to research, managers who engage in ineffective performance management produce extraordinary business results compared with those who do not. According to one study, there were 50 percent fewer staff turnovers, 30 percent higher customer satisfaction ratings, 40 percent higher employee commitment ratings, and double the profits!
The best way to improve performance is to establish and communicate goals effectively and enable two-way feedback through enterprise discussion, whether your company uses a specialized performance management tool like Culture Amp or built-in features in an HR tool like Workday.
Using enterprise discussion management solutions helps us engage our workforce and encourage information-sharing in a high-performance work environment.
You can ask an open-ended question with tools like ThoughtExchange so your team can share their thoughts and rate other ideas anonymously. With the built-in, anti-bias technology, ideas are rated on merit, not on who shared them. The use of a discussion management tool like ThoughtExchange promotes employee engagement, which is a hallmark of a high-performance culture.
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Are You Ready to Build Your High-Performance Culture?
It is impossible to deny the value of a high-performance culture. Focusing on the key aspects described in this article will help you start the conversation with your teams about making some small changes to move in the right direction.
Start those conversations on Thought Exchange and see how your teams feel? By engaging them from the beginning, you can gain strong advocates for cultural change.
Find out how Thought Exchange can help you create a high-performance culture in your organization.