Business organisations are continuously being forced to adopt innovative approaches to overcome tomorrow’s challenges that keep them apart as a differentiator of their competitors. Most of these organisations often overlook the fact that an effective and supportive work culture can make a business more unique than a strategy.
It is important to note that the culture of an organisation is formed by a set of behaviours, beliefs and mindset. A positive culture is also as crucial as it is the execution of a business strategy.
One question we may need to respond to is: Could business organisations execute differentiation strategies without a healthy and supportive corporate culture?
Employees have always been considered to be the engines of business organisations. Nevertheless, they enjoy working in a positive environment, and no employee would ever want to work in an environment that could potentially damage their mental health.
Therefore, it is important to note that when organisations take priority on their employees it impacts on their enjoyment, satisfaction, and efficient performance. Within a healthy culture, employees are likely to make great efforts to advance their knowledge, skills, and abilities to support a business organisation’s strategic objectives and vision.
Likewise, organisations that look after their employees by investing in their development can experience business success and growth.
The creation of this strong partnership with organisations and employees working together in a positive and harmonious relationship focuses on mutual interests: the future of the organisation and a healthy and prosperous environment for employees. Organisations can then experience effective and supportive work culture that enables them to achieve a huge growth in their business.
We may need to ask – Which factor is the most important one to promote a healthy work environment?
Among all those factors that may impact employees’ health, leadership seems to make the greatest impact. Leadership behaviour not only helps to accomplish the objectives of the organisation and a successful strategy execution, but can also greatly influence employees’ behaviour, health, and motivation. Hence, it is crucial to understand the relationship between corporate culture, leadership, and people’s behaviours.
Corporate culture can be defined as corporate values, principles and behaviours existing consistently across an organisation for a long time. Ideally, an organisation strives to be healthy and provide a healthy corporate culture in which people also want to work. If employees feel happy while working, they choose to stay, and their motivation and efforts become greater. Hence, the organisation’s culture is usually the most important determiner in successfully executing strategy too.
Creating a healthy corporate culture that is supportive and open to change starts with a senior leadership team that communicates often and effectively. An organisation’s management teams, or leaders can be categorised into three types: Top Team or Management (e.g., CEO, CFO, COO, and CIO), Middle Management (e.g., head of departments and directors), Lower – management (e.g., team leaders, supervisors).
The issues related to leadership, sponsorship, communication, consensus and people’s behaviour have been addressed by many researchers and authors. Some of them have highlighted the successful impact of top management and leadership on strategy implementation. They have also emphasized that executor or people issues are crucial for implementing strategy.
For example, Floyd & Woolbridge (1992a) identified a gap between the strategy implementation perceived by the top team and the lack of information and communication received at lower managerial levels (e.g., supervisors and team leaders). According to them, top, middle managerial and supervisory levels, and employees should all be involved during the strategy implementation process, and all should agree on and commit to the strategy implementation objectives.
The distinctive characteristic of an unhealthy corporate culture can be identified in the presence of counterproductive cultural traits, hostility to change that may adversely impact the programme, the work climate and ultimately the outcome of an organisation’s strategy execution (including causing its failure).
Herecleous (2000) stated that if middle senior managers believed that the strategy was not good enough or did not think that they had resources with the right skills to implement the strategy, then there was a strong possibility that the implementation could be sabotaged. He also pointed out that groups could be found within the organisation that may disagree with the strategy, and thus could sabotage the execution of the strategy by either deliberate actions or inactions.
Leaders exert a heavy influence on an organisation’s working culture. Through the example leaders establish, they shape an organisation’s culture in their daily behaviour and actions. Hence, their objectives must not only be to set up the vision and objectives for the organisation, but also to build and sustain a healthy corporate culture that enables them to achieve their vision, objectives and guarantee their growth.