Seven Organizational Culture Killers

Posted on December 1, 2016 by Don MacPherson.

Organizational culture is an amorphous, powerful thing. Creating a strong culture can take years. Dysfunctional cultures are often the culprits behind highly visible events such as a data breach, a CEO meltdown, or even a rude remark by a customer service representative caught on video and posted to social media. In our December 6th webinar Building a Strong Corporate Culture…and Seven Culture Killers, my Aon colleague Ken Oehler and I explored some of the most common ways good cultures go bad.

Below is a summary of the “Seven Culture Killers” we discussed in the webinar.

#1 Arrogance: There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. The main difference is a confident individual, team, or company can back up their swagger with results. While not every organization is going to be comfortable strutting their stuff and saying we’re number one, having confidence can be a powerful motivator. An arrogant organization looks a lot like a confident organization with one main difference. They most likely believe they are the best and will always be the strongest in their sector, while being blind to competitors and disruptors that are raiding or about to raid their business.

#2 Misaligned Leadership: An organization has a healthy culture when employees share a set of beliefs about what is important, those beliefs drive consistent decisions and a set of desired behaviors. That’s the heart of Aon’s Culture Model. Not surprisingly, when leaders at an organization, especially executive leaders, are not consistent with those beliefs, behaviors, or decisions, your culture is in serious danger.

#3 Lack of Clarity: When an organization fails to define their business model priorities and connect those priorities to business value, trouble is looming. Confidence in the organization’s future is an important driver of employee engagement. In the absence of business priorities, employees feel they are sailing on a rudderless ship. You can expect them to define their own version of “right” or look for the lifeboat of a better organized company.

#4 Missing on Employee Engagement: Which comes first, a healthy culture or an engaged workforce? It doesn’t matter because the failure to create a healthy culture will make engaging employees much more difficult than it already is and a “Passive” or “Actively Disengaged” workforce will cripple any efforts to build or sustain a healthy culture. Learn more about what it takes to be an engaging leader.

#5 Values That Only Live on Walls: Having a set of values that employees know and understand is a powerful culture component. Those values don’t do any good if the only place they are present is on walls and the back side of security badges. Values have to live in the minds and hearts of employees if a culture is to thrive.

#6 Mixed Messages: See #2…and #3. In some dysfunctional cultures, you will find leaders who say one thing, yet reward and recognize another. The organization may be structured one way, but decisions are made another way. Confusion is the antithesis of a strong culture.

#7 Talent Churn: Turnover can be a good thing in an unhealthy culture. It’s an opportunity to get rid of dead weight, reset expectations with a new group of employees, and make your ideal culture a reality. If you have a modest 10% annual turnover, in five years you will have about 40% of the organization that has turned over. That’s opportunity. At the same time, losing top talent and failure to effectively instill your culture with a new set of employees will erode a healthy culture.

To learn more about Aon’s position on culture and how to create a strong one, listen to our webinar recorded on December 6th: Building a Strong Corporate Culture…and Seven Culture Killers.

Or download the whitepaper Getting Real About Creating a High-Performance Culture written by Aon’s Global Culture & Engagement Practice Leader Ken Oehler.

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