How can organisations create a high-performance culture?

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What do the most innovative, efficient and successful organisations in the world tend to all have in common? The answer, more often than not, comes down to a high-performance organisational culture.

It’s essential that organisations make culture one of their top priorities as it’s such an essential driver of business performance, employee morale and overall success.

In fact, research shows that organisations with higher-performing cultures create a three times return to shareholders, have better employee engagement and collaboration, higher customer satisfaction and lower staff turnover.

In this article, we’ll discuss the meaning and value of high-performance company culture. And we’ll look at the different ways companies can build a high-performance culture.

What is high-performance company culture?

In its simplest form, high-performance culture is an optimal workplace that makes employees more effective.

Research and consulting company Gartner defines a high-performance workplace as:

A physical or virtual environment designed to make workers as effective as possible in supporting business goals and providing value. A high-performance workplace results from continually balancing investment in people, process, physical environment and technology, to measurably enhance the ability of workers to learn, discover, innovate, team and lead, and to achieve efficiency and financial benefit.

At Inkling, we think of high-performance work culture as a set of accepted norms and behaviours that determines how things get done and ultimately lead to an organisation’s success. It’s about employees feeling empowered as well as promoting good behaviours and processes through strong leadership.

Now that we’re clear on what high-performing culture means, let’s look at some of its benefits.

What are the characteristics of a high-performance culture?

Grant Thornton LLP and Oxford Economics’ Return on Culture study revealed the following benefits for companies with ‘healthy’ high-performance organisational culture:

  • Better financial results – executives who say their culture is extremely healthy are 1.5 times more likely to report average revenue growth of more than 15% over three years.
  • Improved collaboration – employees who described their organisation’s culture as extremely healthy were 1.7 times more likely to say their team collaborates effectively.
  • Better employee engagement and superior employee retention – employees who described their organisation’s culture as extremely healthy were 2.4 times more likely to say they are unlikely to leave their job in the next year. While half of the employees would leave their jobs for a lower-paying job in exchange for a better organisational culture.

With such incredible advantages, what actions can organisations take to improve their culture?

Ways organisations can create a high-performance culture

Creating a high-performance culture may seem like a daunting task at first, but we have a number of strategies leaders and organisations can use to get started and make improvements to their company culture.

1. Psychological safety

 Creating psychological safety in the workplace is one of the top ways organisations can develop a high-performance culture.

Research by Google named psychological safety as the number one most important dynamic in creating a successful team.

Amy Edmondson’s research demonstrates that teams with high psychological safety far outstrip those with no or low psychological safety on learning, growth and innovation, three key attributes of high-performing teams.

Authentic leadership is key to building trust and psychological safety which leads to better connection, collaboration, and ability to move through challenges as a team. Part of that comes from appropriate transparency which creates a culture and a safe space for others to do the same for people to come to you and people will look directly to the leader, to know what’s acceptable and what’s not.

At Inkling, working in organisational development, we tend to see that teams with authentic leaders demonstrate consistent and progressive improvement in workplace engagement, performance, satisfaction and improved ability to manage conflict.

Further reading: Building inclusive organisational culture in the workplace

 2. Communication

Regular two-way communication between leaders and employees is crucial for building a high-performance culture.

Through management articulating clear expectations and goals, employees can more easily work towards these goals at an individual, team and organisational level. This also helps employees feel a greater sense of meaning, community and engagement by understanding the bigger picture behind their role.

Leaders must put processes in place (such as one-on-one check-ins) to better understand each employee’s career and professional development aspirations. By doing so they can better mentor and sponsor employees and invest in appropriate learning opportunities to support career advancement.

Performance reviews and one-on-ones are essential for fostering trust, open communication between leaders and their direct reports, and creating a culture of ongoing feedback. They’re also an opportunity to re-emphasise the company’s dedication to employee growth.

Employees have the chance to provide good and bad feedback, discuss their progress, clarify expectations, celebrate and acknowledge wins and troubleshoot any concerns or challenges they’re facing. It also gives leaders a chance to coach, energise and motivate team members.

There are so many great tools managers can utilise to run effective one-on-ones, such as Officevibe, where you can create agendas and add talking points ahead of time, provide feedback, take notes, create action items, set individual goals, and note team and organisational goals to keep things on track.

Further reading: How to create a learning culture in the workplace

3. Invest in people

Organisations must invest in their people if they want to create a high-performance work environment and culture.

Investing in your people means you’ll attract and retain top talent and keep employees engaged. This can be achieved by:

  • Paying employees fairly.
  • Ensuring everyone has access to the skills, resources, team members and support they need.
  • Having policies and resources that promote physical and mental well-being. Such as flexible hours, a dog-friendly office, work-from-home policies, a gym membership or resilience workshops.
  • Frequently providing opportunities for learning, development and career progression. This could look like attending industry conferences, leadership development programs, personalised executive coaching, or team workplace culture training.

4. Purpose

We need to feel deeply connected to meaning and purpose beyond the day-to-day grind of our daily activities. We want to know that what we do makes a difference and the role we have in the organisation’s success. Organisations can foster high-performing teams by ensuring employees are tapped into their strengths and connected to the company’s core values.

5. Strengths

Building a strengths-based workplace delivers many benefits including enhanced team satisfaction and engagement, improved trust and confidence, and stronger relationships.

Practising a strengths-based approach to leadership is an ongoing process that needs to be applied throughout the company at individual and team-based levels.

6. Values

Knowledge and understanding of company values is part of a strong foundation for high-performance organisational culture. When employees feel as though their values align with their company’s they are more likely to stay there, feel engaged in their work, be driven and motivated to succeed.

Studies show 76% of executives believe their organisation has a defined value system that was understood and well communicated while only 31% of employees believe that to be true.

While Gallup research found only 27% of employees strongly believe in their company’s values and less than half strongly agree that they know what their organisation stands for.

With such a discrepancy between management and employees’ perceptions of and understanding of company values, leaders need to find new and interesting ways to communicate company values to their teams.

Leaders must embody and bring their company values to life through not only corporate communications but their everyday behaviours and interactions with colleagues. Here are some ideas for bringing company values to life:

  • Acknowledge and reward value-aligned behaviours through bonuses, prizes, and peer-voting, at a company-wide team day or via a real-time peer-to-peer recognition system (such as a #wins channel in Slack).

Inkling Insight: At our bi-annual Inkling DDD (Dream, Deliberate and Deliver) team visioning days, we each vote for a team member who we believe has best lived our company values and behaviours.

  • Incorporate peer-sharing conversations about individual values as part of your 1:1 onboarding process with new team members and incorporate the values into your one-on-ones and performance management processes.
  • Model company values by aligning company cultural activities with them. Such as giving employees paid volunteer leave days allowing them to easily embody a company value such as humanity, compassion or sustainability.
  • Be flexible. Values aren’t set in stone. Include all team members in decision-making, gaining feedback and continually refining your values. By having input in shaping the values, employees are more likely to remember them, believe in them and want to live them at work every day.

Further reading: How To Improve Culture In The Workplace

Where to get started?

Cultivating a high-performance company culture is undoubtedly a challenge that requires strategy, investment and leadership buy-in, but the financial and non-financial returns we know organisations reap are certainly worth the effort.

At Inkling, we partner with you to build programs that align culture with strategy by embedding targeted mindset and behavioural shifts. Contact Inkling to find out more about our culture and capability development programs.

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