What’s on the menu?

Volume 22 Letter 1

Recently an executive left their company for a 30% pay raise and an impressive job title. In less than six months, citing a very challenging corporate culture, they returned to their previous company.

Someone once stated that culture eats strategy for breakfast. If that’s true, then we should be careful about what we put on the menu. Corporate culture has a super sized impact your company’s ability to attract and retain talent and without talent even the best strategies will quickly be shredded.

Life was so much simpler when the sole responsibility of business was to increase shareholder value (profits). This Milton Friedman myopic view of achievement was embraced by a generation that viewed money as the only yardstick of success. However, as the fight for talent is heating up the bottom line can be sharply impacted by an inability to attract qualified team members who are looking for more than just a paycheque from the companies that employ them. This battle for talent has prompted the rise of other measures of success to share centre stage.

Employees still care about profits but they have other concerns, too. For example, were those profits generated ethically? What is the environmental footprint and is the workplace an inclusive and positive eco-system? It’s because of talents’ oversized impact on bottom lines that investors are paying attention to these same measures … and so should you.

A recent PWC survey found that 81% of employees are looking to work for a company that aligns with their values. Increasingly those values include social and environmental components. Potential employees are increasingly looking to earn their paycheques from enterprises where the moral high ground is valued as much as money.

In a perfect world this sounds easy. Pledge zero CO2 emissions and a fair workplace with merit based advancement and presto. But the world isn’t easy…it’s messy! Businesses emit CO2, their products contribute to landfills and service industries (and others) can be difficult places to work for many reasons.

So how do businesses transform or at least start moving in the right direction? This is where strategy goes front and centre because strategy always defines ”How” we plan to accomplish something.

People are quite aware that transforming a business is hard work but sometimes it’s the challenge that can be most attractive. They want a say in how transformation will take place. So where do you start? Let’s look to the experts.

  1. Clearly state the business’s values: These values must state what rules you’ll play by. This sets a pact between the enterprise and the people working there (and those you hope to recruit).
  2. Set the business objectives and fund them: The business objectives define “What” is to be accomplished and these must be specific, measurable, actionable and timely. The resources allocated to each objective signals the importance to the company.
  3. Don’t set the strategy: The strategy (how each objective will be accomplished) should be set by the team responsible for its implementation. It’s their job to allocate the designated resources to ensure the objectives will be reached.
  4. Ensure people have the skills: Invest in people development ensuring they have the skills needed to succeed (mega bonus points if you teach them how to set a strategy!)
  5. Only rewards results: Every strategy execution has risks – only reward success. Rewarding anything other than results, breaks the pact with your team (see #1).

Culture may eat strategy for breakfast but don’t believe for a moment there’s “one right” corporate culture. The right corporate culture is the one that supports your objectives and ensures you attract the talent needed to execute your strategy and to do that follow the steps outlined above.

1. Quote often attributed to Peter Drucker but in-fact is anonymous
2. PWC survey conducted in 2019

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