Thursday, May 30, 2019

Why Culture eats strategy for breakfast


That's a famous phrase first uttered by Mark Fields, CEO of Ford Motors and then popularised by the management guru Peter Drucker. This statement connects with people because I've heard it many times and not just in Organisational behaviour classes in my MBA program.

Culture is crucial for several reasons. In the USA, the UK and other western countries, unemployment is at a 40-year low. Your organisation needs a distinctive culture to attract talent to it. However, what's right for the economy is even more valid for specific skill sets.

Just in the UK, we have skill shortages in web design, software programming, digital marketing, and all analytics roles but particularly in data science (on Linkedin 'Data Scientist' has gone from almost zero to the top search in the last ten years) through to engineering and architecture.

In the UK, this 'skills gap' is costing our Economy £6.3 Billion per year. Companies are forced to look at anything that will give them the edge over their competitors when hiring. There is an even more pronounced skills gap in the USA. I have seen figures for this 'gap' varying from $1000 Billion to $2,500 Billion over the next ten years.

Google and Facebook are well known for their beautiful offices and perks. Salary is another way to attract talent. However, culture is perhaps the most important. The top employees want to work in an environment that suits them.

Over fifty per cent of employees say that they would not take a job at a company that did not share their values. With Millennials, this percentage is even higher, sixty-five per cent or more. Millennials make up one-third of the workforce, and soon they will be in the majority. So, culture is the future.

However, even with straightforward surveys, there can be landmines. I worked as a contractor at one company where several colleagues told me confidentially that I shouldn't say anything critical in the annual survey. Apparently, the CEO had fired someone for doing that. Luckily I left the company shortly after this.

One day companies will see culture as they do brand today; Essential rather than desired. I predict that company culture will soon be measured on their balance sheets just as a brand started to be ten or fifteen years ago. 

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