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The Importance of Culture and Performance in the Workplace

We sat down with Chad Verity of Calgary-based software company Hölmetrics to gain his perspective on the importance of workplace culture and performance.

Nadirah: What defining moment encouraged you to focus on and emphasize workplace culture as a corporate strategy?

Chad: It all started with looking for a way to prevent people from burning out at work. I was thinking about how we could enable positive behaviours like taking breaks, taking time off when needed, and practicing good physical, emotional and psychological self-care. Looking at that problem, we realized two things. First, in order to encourage and reinforce positive behaviours, we’d need to have a strong culture to carry those efforts forward. Second, we realized that simply allowing our culture to fall into place without making a conscientious effort to shape it was not going to take us where we needed to go. That was a big revelation and started our journey towards intentionally building our workplace culture.

Nadirah: So, once you realized that culture was the overarching way to change and reinforce behaviours, how did you begin making the change towards a healthier culture?

Chad: Well, like many things, it starts at the top. Organizational leadership has a lot to deal with these days, like a constantly changing business environment which pulls focus towards things such as sales, marketing strategies, and operational efficiencies. While those things are important, I think equally important is that leaders make culture a priority, and that’s what we did. Instead of simply mandating that the company “change its culture,” I knew that it would be key to lead from the top and set an example.

Nadirah: What were some of the approaches you took to building your culture?

Chad: I strongly believe that while things like team-building events, ping-pong tables, or free ice cream can have a place in a healthy organizational culture, they aren’t the keys to establishing a great culture. The thing that really made a difference in our case was creating an environment of total transparency and accountability. These are two things that need to form part of the DNA of an organization, and once you achieve that, the difference is incredible. Reinforcing and promoting desirable qualities is also key, as it not only reminds everyone of your organization’s values but also allows everyone to recognize each other for embodying those qualities.

Organizational structures, strategies, and environments are changing at an unprecedented rate. These changes require leaders to adapt and set new courses in order to remain competitive in the 21st century. Today, leaders are expected to do more as organizational structures flatten and become streamlined for efficiency and effectiveness. In addition to guiding areas like operations, sales, or marketing, leaders in top organizations around the world now need to play a larger role in guiding, nurturing, and maintaining the culture of their workplace. It’s no longer enough to lead from the front or top of an organization; leaders are finding themselves leading from the middle, not with the power of their organizational authority, but with their ability to create a strong and effective culture within their organizations. 

The 21st century is the era of the culturally intelligent leader and the emergence of emotional, relational and organizational intelligence as key qualities in leadership and business. 

At Hölmetrics, it became clear that simply attempting to empower positive human behaviour was an uphill battle.  The desire for your teams to act and work in specific ways is a key challenge for many leaders. Thus, leaders must consider how they can work towards shaping their employees’ behaviours while fostering the adoption of values and behavioural practices their organization needs their teams to exemplify. 

 

"The 21st century belongs to culturally intelligent leaders who fearlessly and relentlessly operationalize corporate values without compromise."

 

We began by asking ourselves the tough questions: what motivates our own behaviour, what creates change within a company, and what is our role in shaping that change? The answer became startlingly clear: culture. For one, this meant that the problem we were trying to solve - preventing people from burning out at work - was not just an individual problem, but an organizational one. And two, we were doing very little to build team culture proactively. This forced us to ask the questions, “What the heck is culture? How can we build culture? And how can we track culture?” 

Culture, as it turns out, cannot be nurtured with initiatives, events or programs that you start and stop. Though team building exercises are occasionally fun, the effects are often only temporary. 

Culture is the heartbeat of an organization and spreads out like the cardiovascular system. Organizational culture is built upon the beliefs and values of an organization and comes to life as those values are practiced and employed consistently throughout an entire company. Culturally intelligent leaders understand that to build healthy organizations, corporate values must be clearly articulated throughout the whole organization. An organization’s corporate values are the DNA that determines the form and function of every action an organization takes, along with the attitudes and behaviours that accompany those actions.

The final key to fostering a healthy organizational culture is an accountability structure.  Leaders aware of the necessity of a fruitful company culture hold themselves accountable for normalizing and practicing their corporate values to such a degree that everyone takes notice. To do anything less would be to cut off the flow of ‘blood’ to an unknown number of parts of their organization, leaving it weak and vulnerable.

The 21st-century workplace belongs to those leaders who consistently practice, encourage and foster a positive company culture by embodying their organizational values, mission, and change. 

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