Studies show that most companies separate culture initiatives from their business story and strategy, which means it’s also separate from the employee and customer experience. The fact is, culture is the byproduct of your story and strategy in action — and the words and actions of every employee embody it. So the real question is, what is the state of your go-to-market story and strategy? What message are you sending to your employees? What message are you sending to your customers? Executives must understand that words matter. More specifically, executives must acknowledge that the message behind the company’s story and strategy will play a significant role in the type of culture that takes root inside the business. Here are the questions every executive must ask and answer:
Do my employees understand the company’s story?
- Our company’s purpose?
- How we want to be positioned in the market?
- Who we are?
- What we do?
- The value we deliver?
- What makes us different in the market?
Do my employees understand the company’s strategy?
- Customer needs and desires?
- Promise to customers?
- Pillars of our go-to-market strategy?
Executives who can answer these questions with a resounding “yes” will most likely have high-performing cultures. Executives who answer “no” or don’t really know the answers should take a hard look at the role their company’s story and strategy play in their business.
Leveraging your story and strategy to produce a differentiated culture requires consistent communication throughout the employee and customer experience. Words and actions must be consistent. An executive interviewed by Duke University’s research team said, “If you ask 10 people at five different units questions about purpose, message, value … do they say and believe the same thing? Is there a strong sense of common beliefs? I think if people say yes, then culture would have an influence and that would be a good way to measure it, but if people said no, then culture is not a prominent or important part of the company.” Needless to say, buy-in and understanding of the story and strategy must go beyond the boardroom. It has to be embraced and activated throughout the employee population.
How do the CEO and executive team get leaders and team members on board? First, the CEO must commit to going through a disciplined process of crystallizing and documenting the strategy and the story with the executive team. Then the CEO and C-suite must commit to an end-to-end, integrated infusion strategy, which is a formal initiative that includes sustained and integrated communication, education, training, coaching and mentoring programs. These programs ensure the story and strategy are clearly communicated and understood by all stakeholders.