improve corporate culture modern work management

5 Ways to Improve Corporate Culture Using Modern Work Management Tools

By John Schefer, Account Executive at Workfront

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“Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” said one of the most influential management consultants of all time, Peter Drucker. Or at least Mark Fields said he said it. This was 2006, before Fields went on to become chief executive of Ford motor company, and the quote has been circulating online ever since.

As popular as this aphorism is, most executive boards pay only lip service to the idea. Just 20% of respondents in one survey said they spent any time managing or improving culture, according to Andrew Cave in Forbes. In fact, 63% failed to routinely consider the impact of culture on business, and only a quarter said they perform an internal or external audit of their culture.

This is surprising, given the stakes at hand:

  • Companies with strong cultures saw a 4x increase in revenue growth, according to Forbes.
  • Companies with engaged workers grew revenue 2.5x as much as companies with less engaged workers, according to Bain & Company.
  • The stock process of Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” rose 14% per year from 1998 to 2005, while companies not on the list saw only a 6% increase.
  • Happy employees are 20% more productive than unhappy employees. When it comes to salespeople, happiness has an even greater impact, raising sales by 37%.

The evidence is clear. Culture matters. Employee engagement is paramount. And addressing these problems doesn’t have to be as difficult as we usually make it out to be. In fact, says David Cummins, co-founder of Pardot, “Corporate culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage that is within the control of the entrepreneur.” With that in mind, let’s talk about what you can start doing today to improve the culture at your organization.

1. Believe Employee Engagement Matters

As Alan Lepofsky told Workfront CEO Alex Shootman in his book Done Right, “Management needs to rekindle the spirit of great places to work. We need to convince executives that return on investment isn’t the main measurement of the success of a project but, instead, employee satisfaction. When you have dedicated, loyal, loving employees, they will do more for your company than you could ever measure.”

An employee who is engaged actually cares about the company beyond his paycheck or the quality of coffee in the break room. These are the workers who are willing to make the extra effort, with or without being asked, to ensure that the job is done to perfection and, directly or indirectly, that the business succeeds. It makes for happier employees—and a healthier bottom line.

According to Towers Perrin, high levels of engagement with a company can increase operating income by 19% and earnings growth by 28%. Contrast that with low-level engagement, which can result in a 33% decrease in operating income and an 11% decrease in earnings growth.

2. Make Sure All Employees Feel Valued and Appreciated

In his book, Alex also quotes McKinsey researcher Jon R. Katzenbach, who makes a compelling case that “pride matters more than money.” In his study of organizations like the US Marine Corps, Katzenbach discusses the benefit of “anticipatory pride” as a driving motivational force. Alex writes:

“[Katzenbach] traces pride as a motivating force back to childhood — that early instinct we have as children to make our parents or caregivers proud of our achievements. We want to see them glow when we win that race or come home with good grades on our report card. According to Katzenbach, that instinct endures but evolves as we move into our professional lives. We want to feel pride in our accomplishments and shared success with our colleagues.”

So, put the tools in your managers’ hands to easily show appreciation to their team members—and for all colleagues to express thanks and support to one another. Modern work management tools make it easy with features such as a like button, emojis, and other forms of immediate feedback that have the extra benefit of being visible to others who are connected to that team or task. Nothing is more motivating than a public pat on the back for a job well done.

3. Help Your Employees Help Themselves

When you remove productivity barriers and make it easier for your team members to succeed, everyone wins. Modern work management software accomplishes this in several ways:

  • Automated reporting makes it easy to measure productivity across the board, shining a spotlight on potential areas for improvement.
  • Comprehensive project visibility helps everybody see how their individual contributions impact big-picture goals and initiatives.
  • With project status always available at everyone’s fingertips, nobody wastes time manually checking on progress or sitting in unfruitful meetings.
  • Smart task lists and work queues make daily work prioritization a snap, so everyone can get right to work on the tasks that matter most.

After implementing just such a solution at global insurance company Allianz Partners, workflow systems engineer Mary Ann Erickson, said it “allows us to focus on strategy, creativity and innovation...employees appreciate our team because, through Workfront, we make it easier for them to be super productive.”

4. Increase Transparency

Not all work is glamorous. Some of it is tedious, boring, and frustrating. Sometimes you can’t do much to change the nature of the work your team members are being asked to do. It is what it is. And you might well wonder how to increase employee morale if the work they’re doing just isn’t very exciting or motivating on its face. “The answer,” says Alex in his book, “lies in one of the unsung attributes of any motivated organization: transparency.”

Alex points to five interdependent types of transparency, starting with vision transparency. The vision of your organization must be clear, consistent, and well understood both inside and outside of the business, and all of the other types of transparency—objective, team, task, and customer—must clearly connect to this vision. As author and consultant Simon Sinek famously said, “If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.” That’s the power of a clear and present vision.

On a more tactical level, greater organizational transparency can be achieved through robust reporting tools, portfolio planning systems, effective resource management, and centralized communication tools—all of which are features of modern work management solutions.

Marketing operations manager Alyson Hoover said the operational system of record they onboarded at Ferguson Enterprises “has eliminated silos and given us true visibility at the leadership level. We’re able to provide a much better customer experience.”

5. Foster More Effective Collaboration

The state of interpersonal collaboration often forms the backbone of a company’s culture—including how difficult or easy communication tools are to navigate, how contentious or smooth the interactions are, and how harmonious the group dynamics tend to be. Nothing is more frustrating than being stuck in an email inbox all day, navigating confusing email threads, when you’re trying to move a group project forward. But, if you give your team cutting-edge collaborative tools, and then get out of their way, you might be surprised at the difference it can make.

Dawn Cejudo, senior application support specialist at Inland Empire Health Plan, lauded her work management solution for its ability to “get everyone out of email. Its collaboration features make employees more accountable to one another.” The solution helped employees feel more empowered, more connected, and more informed, as it “eliminated silos, increased accountability, decreased emails and enhanced our cross-functional collaboration. We’re getting work done so much faster!” Cejudo says. A definite win for employee morale.

Culture Matters

“If you are lucky enough to be someone’s employer, then you have a moral obligation to make sure people do look forward to coming to work in the morning,” says Jack Mackey, Whole Foods co-founder and CEO. But most companies are failing at this obligation. Gallup reports that 63% of employees are not engaged at work and 24% are actively disengaged—leaving just 13% of workers who are engaged in the work. Clearly, most organizations have tons of room for improvement when it comes to company culture. There’s some pretty low-hanging fruit here. And the five tips above give you a great place to start picking.

[Harvard Business Review Report: “The Future of Work: A Nexus of Strategy and Execution”]

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