As President & CEO for Ricoh North America, Carsten Bruhn leads the information management and digital services company.
In my opinion, investing in culture is not about spending millions of dollars. While there may be financial costs, money alone will not build an organization equipped for long-term success. Building an inclusive, sustainable company for the next generation requires leaders to set the example by investing their time and energy and moving beyond talking points to living the culture in all that they do, every day.
Culture is everyone’s concern.
Company Culture” is notoriously difficult to define. Broadly, it encompasses the shared values, behaviors and beliefs that underpin how work gets done. This means it’s shaped by more than just the HR team. Everyone is responsible for building a thriving culture that enables strategy and drives performance, from higher revenue to attracting and retaining talent.
According to Gallup, a culture that attracts high-performing talent can lead to 33% higher revenue. So it’s important to be investing in recruitment campaigns as an organization. For instance, my company’s marketing and HR leaders joined forces to attract prospective talent through an aligned recruitment marketing campaign tied to our culture of excellence. Launched in 2022, the campaign created a seamless experience from attraction and application to onboarding and retention. This cross-functional initiative has yielded phenomenal results, with 97% of applicants accepting offers of employment.
Culture must go beyond words.
Too often, people go to work each day only to find a disconnect between what they hear and read about their company culture and how they experience it. We’ve all seen mission statements and company values prominently positioned above the reception desk, but the onus is upon the leaders to bring those words to life. You can implement a number of recurring opportunities for leadership to engage with team members throughout the organization. For example, I hold a weekly “Coffee with Carsten,” where I personally have the opportunity to meet with smaller more intimate groups. Monthly town halls can be a great way for your entire management team to share and field questions from the broader organization. These initiatives allow you to move from how you define and talk about culture to how you model and build it.
In a PWC survey on organizational culture, 67% of respondents said that culture is more important than strategy. Beyond recruitment, you can invest in defining clear cultural attributes and training your employees. For example, my company trained more than 600 North American leaders to be cultural ambassadors, exemplifying these attributes and advancing culture change. It’s efforts like this that help a company’s mission and values come to life in all areas of the business.
Culture should unleash greatness.
You cannot build culture in PowerPoint, you need to live it. We must encourage our team members to get lost in their jobs and throw themselves into pursuing new solutions to problems without fear of failure. It is critical to recognize and reward the right behaviors regardless of the outcome. How you show up as a leader, how you recognize success, and how you respond to failure builds and reinforces trust and unleashes innovation.
As leaders, sharing our own personal successes and failures can further build that trust by demonstrating authenticity. Conversely, we need to continually ask our team members what they think. One way you can do this is by regularly visiting offices, meeting with team members, recording and sharing those visits with the broader team. Another is by conducting engagement surveys on a quarterly basis, seeking feedback from your people on everything from their confidence in the future, to trust in leadership, to overall satisfaction, among other critical cultural drivers.
The Takeaway: Building a culture of excellence involves pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones to inspire and enable the transformation going on around us. For some, this may be expanding the responsibility for company culture beyond HR; for others, it’s all about putting words into action. For many, it’s all of the above.
Former Campbell Soup Company President and CEO Douglas Conant once said, “To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace.” I couldn’t agree more. Fixing company culture can feel insurmountable, but the investment is always worth it.
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