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How Workplace Culture Can Be an Extension of Strategy

Angie Tran

Content Marketing Manager @ AdRoll

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Strategy and workplace culture come hand-in-hand when you’re growing and promoting your business. A company without a solid strategy will soon collapse. However, strategy without workplace culture unnecessarily hamstrings the trust a company needs in its community and in its offices. 

In today’s world, social awareness and empathy cannot be secondary functions of a business, large or small. Instead, companies must learn to express their values at each level, from production to marketing.

In a 2016 study, Deloitte found that 82% of businesses believed a company’s values and workplace culture could be major competitive advantages. Yet, within that same group, only 28% said they understood their own culture. An even smaller 19% said they had the “right culture” for their needs.

It’s clear that workplace culture is not just a factor in setting your company’s strategy — it can be the driving force in making sure that strategy comes to fruition.

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How You Can Start Incorporating Culture into Strategy

If your company or team’s workplace culture is not already synchronized with your business strategies, there is no better time to start than now. Your culture will likely grow organically from your needs and position in your industry. But, here are some helpful tips for building the culture that’s right for your business, so you can begin marketing that information to consumers:

Define specific culture goals

Before you define how your company’s culture is represented in your strategy decisions, you have to nail down the values that will inform it. No matter the business, you can find an ethos at the heart of why the business was started. Whether it is unwavering customer loyalty, rock-solid business ethics, or simply a commitment to highlighting diverse perspectives, find your jumping-off point and build from there.

Once your team has accepted these values, work on specific goals that will advance your culture. This can mean anything from increasing diversity in hiring to limiting product failure. Either way, let your values guide the way to setting concrete examples of your workplace culture within your organization.

Align human resources with your culture goals

You don’t need to make wholesale changes to your staff when instilling a new, improved workplace culture. Instead, look for ways to infuse your HR department with your values at the beginning of the hiring process. By ensuring new employees are filled in on your culture goals, your workforce will soon be brimming with individuals who place that culture at the forefront of their decision-making.

Encourage HR to continually invest time and resources into advancing these goals. The more your employees hear you talk about your values, the more likely they will implement them into their work. Not to mention, a desirable workplace culture can lead to a greater influx of talent as it helps to differentiate your company in the labor pool.

Accentuate existing workplace culture success

Considering that just over a quarter of businesses understand their own cultures, it’s worthwhile to look into your current culture profile and lift up the areas that are succeeding. The benefit of this approach is that it positively reinforces employee activities that are already building the right culture. Improving employee morale through culture can lead to increased productivity, as well. Studies have shown that happy employees are around 12% more productive.

Create a culture evaluation protocol

Once your team is on track, the next step is to ingrain your culture with integrity by continually reevaluating your culture goals. While it may seem like the heavy lifting is done once you form your ideal workplace culture, progress is really only made by living out those values. Pro tip: Put together quarterly culture reviews to keep a close eye on how your team’s decisions line up with your values.

The Challenge of Aligning Strategy With Culture

A Harvard Business Review study of a European industrial services organization during a major culture shift found several pain points to keep in mind when you’re doing the same. When the market shifted to an environment that required a greater emphasis on service differentiation, the company’s previous strategy of cost leadership soon became outdated.

The new strategy required a move from a results-driven workplace culture to a more empathetic and team-based approach with less leadership pressure. This culture shift initially caused friction between established managers and personnel. It wasn’t until the CEO introduced new development programs and began to educate employees that perception shifted.

Although this friction is far from comfortable, it’s an unavoidable side effect of changing company culture. The good news is that this company is far from alone. According to Deloitte, more than half of all companies are changing their company culture in response to both “shifting talent markets” and a greater level of competition.

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How to Turn Culture into Success

More and more, marketers are being asked to do the dirty work of improving company culture. No other department is better suited to being the key holder of culture-based success than marketing. Not only do marketers need to regularly define company values for their own purposes, but they also possess the communication skills needed to impart that message to others.

Relying on marketing to weave a company’s values into its pitches and projects has become ubiquitous in most industries. From Coca-Cola to Adidas, marketing messaging informs consumers about the values important to businesses. Evidence is mounting that a company can no longer avoid issues that consumers care about, and effective, targeted marketing is becoming vital. 

However, growing positive public sentiment regarding your company’s values begins with workplace culture. The same Harvard Business Review study collected data on a North American retailer well-known for its customer-friendly approach. They found that, as the company grew, efforts to continually encourage and grow its existing workplace culture with clever marketing and employee education paid dividends.

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Where other companies may have failed to scale their culture with their increased business and scope, its well-maintained and articulated workplace culture permeated into the future. When outside hiring became necessary, these elements were already in place to onboard new leadership. As the retailer’s strategy evolved, its culture kept its integrity and became a key differentiator for the company.

Well-defined company values trickle down to the way your workers interact with consumers or end users, no matter the industry.

Targeting the Right Audience for Your Values

It’s true that you can’t please everybody. But you can focus your marketing efforts on consumer groups that better match your company values. Thankfully, a number of tools are at your team’s disposal to help define the groups that respond best to your messaging.

AdRoll’s ecommerce marketing tools, for example, feature advanced audience targeting that can track the context, demographics, and interests of your customer base. Lookalike targeting uses AI to identify individuals that look and act like your most high-value customers, allowing a culture-driven business to seek out new leads.

Targeted marketing can help a well-defined culture pay immediate dividends. By collecting data on the interests of customers who have already responded positively to your brand, you can make sure your ads reach an audience primed to appreciate your workplace culture.

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