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Fostering an inspiring corporate culture

With start-ups popping up everywhere, new working methods and a war for talent, the need to stand out with an inspiring corporate culture has grown. Ashvin Pudaruth, Managing Director of SD Worx Mauritius, boils it down to a simple choice: ‘Either you make culture, including values and leadership, a strategic priority or you don’t; there is no middle way.’

    Millennials desire a strong company culture more than anything else when deciding who to work for.

    The benefits of an inspiring company culture are plenty. For starters, it gives your company identity. It’s who you are, what you stand for and why you matter. Besides that, it allows you to attract and – equally important – retain talent. When your employees feel like they belong to your organisation, they’re more likely to stick around for the long term. And a stellar company culture also has a positive effect on your business from the inside out. It shapes your brand image among your customers. Yet, only a minority of European employers puts an emphasis on culture in the war for talent.


        Shortcut to greater appeal

        Does this mean that most companies are already satisfied with their culture and how their teams translate corporate values into their daily work? Possibly, but if you ask those same employees, they paint a different picture. Over 4 in 10 employees admit there’s no fit between their personal beliefs and the mission and values of the organisation they work for. In Italy and Spain, it’s more than half of the workforce. No biggie? Think again. In the eyes of employees, a cultural fit is by far the top attribute of an attractive employer.

          Turning values into behaviour

          The reason why many companies seem to be missing the target is that they content themselves with high-level efforts. But, to put it bluntly, a catchy poster with your 5 core values and a cute acronym alone won’t cut it. If you fail to translate your values into employee behaviour, it’s all idle talk. The trick is to encourage and even reward value-driven behaviour, from sending thank-you cards after somebody’s acted according to your values even to making it an element in career development. This way, you’ll avoid ending up with a team in which half works hard to live by the values, and half ignores them because there are no consequences.

            Abstractions vs genuine expectations

            There is no single rubric for an inspiring company culture – every business is different – but even if your employees understand your culture, they may not enforce it consistently because they don’t see how it applies to them. For example, your payroll officer may find it hard to relate to your value ‘Innovation’. Therefore, shy away from giving your employees abstractions. Instead, give them real examples. This means translating your values multiple times, so every team and each individual knows what’s expected of them. Likewise, what matters most for new hires is not how much you repeat the value ‘Integrity’, for example, but how they observe integrity in others.

              Line managers hold the keys

              Line managers are pivotal figures in any corporate culture. They should model ideal behaviour. If not, belief in the organisation will drop, along with engagement. The problem, however, is that many managers grow through the ranks and, although excellent process managers, may well be poor people managers. Although training can help, they especially need the right mindset: a line manager’s main job is to empower individuals and facilitate activities, more as part of the team than above it. Every organisation should regularly assess this coaching role among its line managers because the figures show there’s still plenty of room for improvement.


                Just over half of European employees explicitly say they have good, competent managers. Mainly managers in the Netherlands (63.1%), the UK (61.8%) and Norway (60.4%) score well.

                  Make it YOUR culture

                  Last but not least, go for a well-defined culture. You can’t embrace all possible corporate values. Make choices. And make them yours. Which company has integrity, commitment, accountability and quality as core values and wants to create a better tomorrow? Right, about half of the companies out there. So, don’t be afraid to give the foundations of your corporate culture a unique twist. It will make translating them into understandable messages, providing real examples and encouraging your line managers much easier.

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