Opinions expressed by entrepreneur contributors are their own.
With 2023 business planning underway, business leaders are setting priorities for the next year and beyond. For some, the focus may be to emphasize productivity or roll back certain benefits like flexible working schedules.
A high-performance culture improves productivity, brings higher profits and happier employees, improves talent retention and continues a growth cycle. A cornerstone of 2023 growth should be building or maintaining a high-performance culture for all businesses. Refraining or forgetting about culture in 2023 is a mistake, as it plays a critical role in company performance.
Related: How to Create a Work Culture That Can Survive Anything
Understanding the importance of high-performance culture
A high-performance culture allows an organization to succeed and grow. This type of structure is good for business and for each employee. Not every high-performance culture will look the same, but every organization with a high-performance culture values workers and holds their trust in return.
Employees may come to work partly for a pay check, yet evidence suggests they crave meaning from work and are more productive when they get it. Like everyone, workers want to feel a sense of purpose and mission in their daily lives and enjoying the same at work is only natural.
The best cultures embed their mission throughout the employee experience, honoring and furthering these values daily. These cultures also offer their employees interesting and engaging projects which drive their sense of belonging to the organization. A recent survey by McKinsey showed workers across all levels of income believed having an interesting job was as important as earning a solid income.
Related: How to Develop a Company Vision and Values That Employees Buy Into
Workers feel fulfilled by purpose-driven work. Unfortunately, many employers ignore culture in favor of focusing on profits. Workers need clarification and connection in these types of work environments. In a survey from Gallup, only four in 10 employees strongly agreed they knew what their company stood for and what differentiated their company from competitors. Even for organizations that often articulate their values, management could be viewed poorly if employees do not see the connection between the values and the organization’s actions.
When leaders grow nervous about their businesses’ future, they can feel tempting to ignore culture at the expense of profit. In fact, culture becomes even more important in times of economic uncertainties. In these moments, employees will look to management to set the tone. Without a culture of fostering engagement and collaboration, workers could lose productivity due to stress and conflict.
Related: Why Purpose-Driven Entrepreneurs Focus on the Bigger Picture
How to build a high-performance culture
To build a high-performance culture, first, understand how your culture functions. Employees usually understand culture best simply by judging their own level of satisfaction. Their daily experiences are typically defined by coworkers and frontline managers more than company management. Leaders who do not work with frontline managers daily will likely need to speak with employees to understand their experiences.
Signs of an underperforming culture could include low employee retention, low productivity and frequent workplace conflicts. Not every employee will be satisfied, even in the highest-performing cultures, but consistently unhappy employees reflect serious problems. Direct, private conversations between employees and HR can offer insight. If employees seem reluctant to speak candidly, much-needed feedback via surveys can provide ways to track improvement.
After gathering information about employee experiences, HR may wish to prepare a report assessing the culture as it stands. Strong cultures should clearly understand which policies contribute to the culture and how to continue them. Doing so will help preserve civilization in the face of future business difficulties or leadership changes.
On the other hand, struggling cultures need to identify the most negative factors of their culture to begin changing. High-performance cultures feature strong leaders, actively engaged employees, ongoing workforce development, strong communication and adaptability. If employees are disengaged, find out whether imbalanced workloads, micromanaging, lack of flexibility or absence of trust could contribute.
During this process, employees also feel that their input is genuinely welcomed, which should be. Psychologically, employees are accustomed to a toxic culture may fear expressing their true thoughts, especially if their frontline managers previously engaged in verbal abuse or insults. Build this trust by taking accountability to admit that culture has not met the mark and protect employees who voice their concerns from retaliation.
Each leadership level, from the C-suite to frontline managers, plays an integral role in rebuilding a company’s culture. The positive vision set forth at the top needs to be actionable. Once the vision has more tangible attributes, through structure and processes, each level of leadership can provide the necessary training and easily communicate these goals on how they translate into the fabric of the company.
A high-performance culture is often viewed as optional. That cannot be further from the truth. A high-performance culture is the backbone of an organization, providing a strong framework for business growth. Moving into 2023, culture should be central to every successful business strategy.