The 5 most influential factors on culture

Carolyn Taylor

I am often asked for a summary of what I find are the 5 factors which most influence culture.

The 5 most influential factors on culture
Understanding these is helpful for:

  • Building a plan to change an element of your culture
  • Ensuring that you preserve precious elements of your culture if things are changing, such as in a merger or rapid growth situation
  • Building a new site or move into a new geography

There are so many influences on culture, but here are my top 5

  • Behaviour of key leaders. Any small change in behaviour has a big impact. For example, if you are building a one-team culture, starting to ask people if they have consulted with colleagues sends a message that this matters to you.  Changing how you allocate time also sends a powerful signal.
  • Selection (including new hires), promotion and exiting of people, especially in leadership roles. Imagine you are goal is to become more customer-centric. Hiring some new people who come from organisations known for their customer-centricity brings that mind-set into your organisation, and sends the message that it matters. Promoting someone with this mindset, and announcing why you did it, is very impactful too.
  • Reward system, including what gets measured to determine bonuses. Will you measure behaviour? How much does this count to bonuses? Is the bonus system transparent? If customer-centricity matters, is the pool distributed in a way which rewards those who retain customers as much as those who win new ones?
  • Meetings – how they are run, what agendas, who is invited, when time is short what is cut, major rhythm-of-the-business meetings. If safety, or other HR matters are always the last agenda, and sometimes time runs out, what message does this send? For an stronger achievement culture, good meeting management sends a strong signal. Tighten up agendas with clear purpose for each item, improving clear decision making, following up on previous meetings.
  • Business planning process – strategy development, budgeting, cascade to individual objectives. Good process essential for an achievement culture. Cross functional dependencies are key to building a one-team culture. Selection of key metrics sends signals about what really matters.

Build a plan which addresses these five, enabling each to send a message about the behaviour you want in your organisation. If the messages from these five are aligned to what you want, your culture will match your aspirations.

You will notice that communication is not on this list. Communication is essential to establish the expectations (the ‘talk’ of culture change). But it is what is actually done, ‘the walk’ and how the business is run, which creates the culture. Walking the talk.


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