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Culture = Cash: The 10 Most Essential Elements of a Winning Company Culture

Culture = Cash: The 10 Most Essential Elements of a Winning Company Culture

For more than 15 years I have travelled worldwide to help companies achieve more success, and when I look at the pattern of the key areas that most companies need help in, consistently one of them is organizational culture. I have done a massive amount of research on this topic, read dozens of books and deployed well over 100 “Organizational Effectiveness Audits,” to various client companies. Recently, I sat down and reviewed all of the research, all of my reports, all of the surveys and spent several days trying to create a focused list of key attributes of a winning culture.

Before I give you the list, though, I’d like to take a moment to help you understand why having a winning organizational culture is so incredibly critical to the success of your business. A phrase that I like to use is: Culture = Cash. I can tell you without any hesitation that the number one factor in creating highly engaged, satisfied and loyal CUSTOMERS is the level of highly engaged, satisfied and loyal EMPLOYEES in your business.

I am asked this question all the time: “Is it ‘customer first’ or ‘employees first’?” Again – without any hesitation – I can assure you that it is “employees first.” If you hire great people, take good care of them and build a strong winning organizational culture, then your happy, loyal and satisfied employees will go out and take great care of your customers.

It’s also worth noting that money is not one of the key drivers of employee satisfaction. Yes, money is very important, but if you pay someone within 10 percent above or below what he or she would make to do the same job at any other company, then money comes off the table as a prime motivator.

“Money is not one of the key drivers of employee satisfaction…if you pay employees within 10 percent above or below what they would make to do the same jobs at any other company, then money comes off the table as a prime motivator.”

To put some numbers around it, all of the research that I’ve seen shows that highly engaged and satisfied employees can generate as much as a 104 percent – 189 percent increase in profitability, whereas a poor organizational culture with disengaged employees can cost a company up to 22 percent of total revenues. Even if my numbers are skewed, there is clearly a huge financial incentive to creating the sort of culture that attracts top talent and gets them highly engaged in delivering world-class products and services to your customers.

So after more than a decade of research and working in hundreds of different organizational cultures, here is what I believe are the 10 most essential elements of winning culture:

  1. People enjoy the work they do and the people they work with.
  2. People take pride in the work they do and the company they work for.
  3. There are high levels of engagement, connection, camaraderie and a community of caring.
  4. There is a culture of fairness, respect, trust, inclusiveness and teamwork.
  5. The leaders “walk the talk,” live the values, and communicate a clear vision and strategy for growth.
  6. There is a lot of open, honest, robust and transparent communication across the entire organization.
  7. The company invests back in employees; there is a commitment to learning, coaching and development.
  8. There is a bias for action; employees have an ownership mentality and always strive to give their personal best.
  9. There is high accountability and a strong focus on delivering the desired results.
  10. There is ample recognition and there are rewards for excellence; mediocrity is not tolerated.


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What I would recommend is that you take a moment and score your company on how well you feel your organizational culture matches up to my list. Think about your company and on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being “we are excellent at this,” (“this” being what I described above) all the way down to a one, which means that your culture is not at all like the one I have described.

I also suggest you hand out this list to your entire team and get them to score how they see the culture in your business. My advice to you is: any area where you score a seven or below needs your attention, and anything below a four requires your immediate attention. The goal, of course, would be to achieve a score of 8, 9, or 10 on all 10 of the elements from everyone in your organization. Once you get to that level I can pretty much guarantee that your business will be enjoying a high level of success.

John Spence is the author of two books, Awesomely Simple and Excellence by Design, and has been recognized as one of the top 100 Business Thought Leaders in America and one of the top 100 Small Business Influencers in our country.

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