Vistage, a peer mentoring organization for CEOs, business owners, and executives of small- to mid-size businesses, released its Q3 2019 Vistage CEO Confidence Index this fall. Though the point of the index is to measure overall economic optimism, we do get a glimpse into how business leaders feel about the importance of strong company culture in their organizations from the survey -- and whether or not they are measuring up.
According to the Vistage survey, nearly two-thirds, 63%, of business leaders say they "strongly agree" that culture is critical to their company's performance and success. We’d certainly agree, as we’ve covered the topic in great detail over the years. A great culture is important for employee recruiting and retention, both of which will impact your bottom line.
Yet, when asked if they are completely satisfied with the strength of their organizational culture, only 11% of business leaders responded yes.
From the Q3 2019 Vistage CEO Confidence Index
What’s causing the discrepancy? Quite likely, it’s a time issue. CEOs and business leaders have a packed schedule as it is, and the things that don’t feel urgent tend to get pushed to the back burner.
Also stymying culture shift is the perception that it will be an expensive endeavor -- with outside consultants, lengthy employee satisfaction surveys, and so on. But, contrary to conventional wisdom, you don't need to look to outside experts or spend tons of money. The first step is actually to look within.
The three questions below, derived from one of Vistage’s latest reports, are ones you should ask yourself as you set out to shift and strengthen company culture:
Question 1: Is our company attracting people or driving them away?
If turnover is high and is retention low, look immediately to your culture as the potential source of the underlying problem. On the other hand, if your employees continually refer their friends to join the company, you can more confidently bet that they are happy and that the culture is good.
Question 2: Am I leading by example?
Change starts at the top, so make sure your behavior reinforces your company's mission and vision. If you don't “walk the walk”, your employees won't, either.
If you are leading by example, great, but don’t rest and consider your job done. Great cultures require continuous ongoing support. Regularly communicate the culture you want throughout the organization.
Question 3: Are employees truly motivated, or are they just going through the motions?
Culture greatly affects employee engagement, which in turn can impact productivity. When people are engaged -- meaning they feel valued and enthusiastic about their jobs -- their performance tends to be higher.
This is why we conduct (and advocate for) the “stay interview” or any tool that gives leadership a sense of employees' engagement levels.
Looking at metrics like productivity can also help you make the connection between culture and performance.
Bottom line? Be deliberate about building and improving a strong company culture. If you are unsure about the current status or direction of your organization's culture, take a hard look at the above three questions. Your responses will provide the foundation for redefining the culture you ultimately want.