Forum 2018 Session to Examine Impact of Culture on Company Strategy
Scenario: ABC Print Co spends months performing market research, identifying potential areas of growth in alignment with its customers’ ever-evolving demands. It outlines a long-term strategy to achieve these goals, requiring the participation of everyone ABC employs. But after a year, the only thing that has changed is the company directory, as a number of operators and members of management have left.
There were plenty of opportunities for ABC Print Co’s long-term strategy to fail, but because of a misaligned company culture, it never even got off the ground. Forum 2018’s “Culture Eats Strategy: Strategic and Cultural Alignment” will spell out what company culture is, how it impacts an organization and why it can deliver on or derail success, with stories and examples from flexographers.
FLEXO Magazine: Generally speaking, how do you define company culture?
Tara Halpin: Steinhauser defines company culture very simply as the way employees behave and interact with each other and our customers. The results of these behaviors and interactions directly affect employee morale, engagement and ultimately have a positive impact on the success of the company.
FLEXO: What kind of impact can a culture—a good one or a bad one—have on a company?
Halpin: Company culture has a direct impact on its success. A strong company culture is purposeful, inclusive and transparent, resulting in employees feeling valued and engaged. Engaged employees mean strong customer relationships, which directly impact the bottom line.
If a company does not recognize culture as a critical part of its business, employees will become disengaged because of mistrust and paranoia, resulting in subpar work quality and productivity.
FLEXO: How is a company’s culture formed? Is it a sum of its parts—employees, management, industry—or is one area more responsible for shaping and forming it?
Halpin: Culture starts with the owners or founders of the business, and it is their responsibility to share it openly and deliberately with their management team and throughout the organization. It must be incorporated into everyday life at the company, not something talked about only at a kick-off meeting and at end-of-year reviews. It must be constant, purposeful and top of mind in a company’s strategy and measured throughout the year. The whole team needs to be involved for culture to abound in the company. A culture plan is just as important, if not more important, than a strategic plan.
FLEXO: Are executives aware enough of the idea of culture and the impact it can have on a company?
Halpin: There is plenty of research that shows the benefits of a great company culture, so I believe executives are aware of its importance. What makes the difference are the ones who fully acknowledge what kind of culture they have and what kind of culture they want, and take the bull by the horns to integrate purpose into their culture. Being aware is half the battle; one must be committed to incorporating a desired culture into daily life at a company.
The benefits are immense and range from sales growth to increased profit to employee retention. Every CEO in the world would love those results year after year. It just takes dedication and commitment.
FLEXO: By the time a company’s leadership realizes its culture needs to change, is it already too late? What are some early warning signs to which management should pay attention?
Halpin: It is never too late to improve company culture. Leaders will gain much respect from their team if they acknowledge their culture is less than ideal, but put in place a plan to make the change.
The obvious signs are employees leaving the company, decreased productivity, higher quality rejections and an overall poor demeanor of the team. Other critical signs are customer complaints, interpersonal conflicts that go unresolved and the inability to attract new talent.
Employees will respond positively in almost every instance when leadership makes the effort to improve the workplace experience. Planning and follow-through are critical to the success of a cultural improvement effort.
FLEXO: Are there any unique aspects to a company’s culture when it is family owned and operated?
Halpin: Family-run businesses, like Steinhauser, are rooted in relationships. Every employee is an extended member of the family. Therefore, in everything we do we lead with relationships—with each other, with our employees, with our customers. Every interaction with both employees and customers has a direct impact on our professional and personal reputations. Building a strong, comprehensive company culture is critical in ensuring these relationships remain strong.
Steinhauser employees are part of the community where we live and do business. It is important our culture fosters the idea of community—both at work and at home. As an extension of our brand, it is important our employees live and breathe the tenants of our company culture.
Employees are like family; in some cases several generations of the same family have worked with us. There is an extra level of complexity when many family members are involved with the management of a company. It’s like Thanksgiving dinner all year. It is important we are fully aligned in our approach to company culture before it’s ever rolled out to employees.