Creating a High-Performing Culture

As a business owner people often talk to me about the really big things that they think make the running of a business smooth. Things like strategy and vision, functionality and capacity; but I am realising it is often the little things that really make a business work. Or more importantly, make the people in your business want to work.

So, what are these little things? The perk of having a Nespresso machine, having a ‘nice’ space in which to work, the office dog; these are answers I am given when I ask why people want / like to work here.  Individually they might not be considered important but combined they make up the magic ingredient – culture.

The problem is, I don’t just want a nice culture, I want a high-performing culture.  I want to be part of a business where achievement and success is applauded, sought after and aspired to.  Deloitte’s 2016 Global Human Capital Trends report found 86% of respondents viewed corporate culture as important or very important to business success.  We know it’s important, but how do we create it?

It is at this point that I realise I am a specialist recruiter of HR professionals, not an HR professional myself.  An article[1] published online by Forbes written by Erika Anderson outlined work that she had undertaken with clients identifying the components of culture as patterns of accepted behaviour and the beliefs and values that reinforce them.  The question I need to answer then is ‘what patterns of behaviour lead to high performance and how do we promote them?’

In my world, high performance means ‘going the extra mile’, responding quickly with solutions, having the mindset to exceed expectations, always doing the right thing (even if that means walking away from the money), bringing new and innovative ideas to the table, applying wider reading to our operations etc. These behavioural traits are not unique to our business or industry, instead they define high engagement, ambition and aspiration to succeed.

Promoting them however, is a different matter.  A good friend (and very experienced HR Director) told me that most culture change initiatives are common sense and about the application of the ‘human’ touch to the workplace.  As a leader, we know you can’t impose a culture upon people, but you can encourage values that establish what thoughts and beliefs are important and cherished in the business. Paulo Coehlo (2012) said ‘The world is changed by your example, not your opinion’.

Culture can’t be ‘told’ or ‘dictated’ but we can lead the way through our own actions and behaviours. If we are successful, others will want to follow.

[1]  – 9th May 2017