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The Connection Between Senior Leadership and Corporate Culture

December 3, 2019

Corporate culture

To employees, senior management is the embodiment of corporate culture. An analysis of data that my company compiled about Glassdoor unearthed an extremely high correlation between the ratings for senior leadership/management and company culture. The company leaders we’ve shared this information with tend to fall into two camps: believers and nonbelievers.

The believers are already convinced that the correlation exists, and they’re happy to have some data to support that assumption. But the nonbelievers aren’t quite sold on the idea. Often, they take this association very personally, and they try to justify how their companies, industries, or the cultures they’ve inherited make their cases unique.

Even still, the evidence of a connection between leaders and culture remains. And as record low unemployment continues, getting and keeping top talent is a priority for many companies. You can’t bury your head in the sand. To be competitive, you must closely examine your overall culture and, by extension, the perception of senior leadership.

Building corporate culture from the top down

Every organization has its own operating rhythm. If you compare your company to a manufacturing floor, do you see conveyor belts humming along quietly, producing products in perfect harmony? Or do you see broken machines belching black smoke as they jerk and sputter?

This operating rhythm is your company’s culture. Just as each part of a manufacturing floor performs a task that contributes to a common goal, every person in your company needs to know his or her role and how it connects to overarching objectives.

When employees have a feeling of purpose, alignment, and community, they’re more likely to be engaged at work. Per Gallup, engaged employees also stay longer and are more productive, innovative, and dependable. All of this contributes to a more positive company culture, which makes it easier to recruit new talent and continue the upward cycle.

But there are several ways to spoil corporate culture. When your employees aren’t clear on how they support the greater good, feelings of purpose, alignment, and community begin to erode. As a senior leader, you guide all of this. You determine goals, roles, and how those are communicated.

Here are three ways to lead your company to a winning culture:

Be deliberate. The first step to creating culture is to design it. Identify and document what’s important to your organization, clearly communicate this with others, and get everyone on the same page about your culture. Next, incorporate culture in your hiring process and hire only those who are the right fit. Lastly, lead by example! Even the most independent employees look to leadership for guidance.

Don’t hide. Communication is a key part of leadership; make sure you’re heard. Send frequent companywide updates, hold informal town halls, make site visits, and post recurring intranet communications. Work with your internal communications team to print wins on digital signage, goals on posters, and values on T-shirts.

Seek feedback. Listening is a huge part of good leadership. A company culture that accepts feedback is stronger than one that doesn’t. Employee and customer surveys, one-on-one meetings, intranet polls, and Glassdoor reviews are all valuable sources of feedback.

You can’t afford to have employees leave because of a negative corporate culture. According to a study from Work Institute, it will cost you 33% of a worker’s yearly salary to hire a replacement. So take control. It’s clear that employees see leadership and culture as synonymous. Lead well, and your employees and company will thrive.

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About The Author

Dhiraj Sharma is a serial entrepreneur and technology enthusiast who’s passionate about promoting purpose and meaning in the workplace. He is the founder and CEO of Simpplr, a provider of modern employee intranet software that helps companies engage their workforce by transforming employee communication, leading to improvements in employee engagement, productivity, and turnover.

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