Why Care About Organizational Culture? Your Bottom Line Depends on It

organizational culture

Last month, the New York Times ran an opinion piece explaining the unquestionable importance of organizational culture.

"Although finding the right title, position and salary is important," wrote the author, "The culture of a workplace has a huge impact on our happiness and success." He also told the story about an ambitious young employee's realization that what she did wasn't nearly as important as where.

The conclusion falls right in line with what we already know from our recently released research on Dream Companies: that the environment you provide employees matters more than the particular job.

Hard Data about Organizational Culture and Dream Companies

Employees told us this unequivocally. And there were rewards for companies that delivered those great cultures. Those that did -- that effectively demonstrated to employees that they care about well-being, personal lives, and careers - were paid back with things like phenomenal retention rates and employees who were 192% less likely to leave than people holding merely dream jobs.

The recognition of the power of organizational culture is relatively new, even if culture itself is not. Workplaces have always had personalities. Even back in the mid-20th century, you knew which companies were designated as cool, traditional, fun, or buttoned up.

What has changed is employers' mindfulness about developing it. These days, leadership at companies is purposefully creating illustrative value statements and offering programs that go way beyond the required health benefits. Recognizing that employees want more from a job than a paycheck and a place to go for eight hours a day, these companies are offering people opportunities to give back, take part, and become part of a coveted employee community.

The attention pays off with employers that adopt these culture-centric approaches becoming not just coveted workplaces, but also, not coincidentally, thriving financial success stories.

Accenture: A Trailblazer in Organizational Culture

For organizations that adopt such mantras, healthy bottom lines aren't the only goal; but they're unquestionably the result. "We don't just want to help our employees have great careers," Accenture's North American Wellness Lead Julie Wilkes told us recently, "but have great lives."

No doubt, Accenture's been a trailblazer here. Julie, who has a Masters in exercise physiology, is one of a new guard in the professional world, a fully focused work/life and well-being expert charged with supporting good lives for employees in and out of the office. With about half of Accenture's employees on the road at any time, the company has taken great pains to connect people with exceptionally comprehensive wellness initiatives - for body and mind -- that can be accessed any time by remote.

Good health is an important component. But in fact the Accenture philosophy also includes work/life balance, community events, and giving back. Accenture has also made news for some particularly forward-thinking work/life additions including doubling leave for new parents, launching milk shipping for nursing mothers, providing a generous back-up care program, and offering the capacity to stay close to home (aka limited business travel) during the first year after a child's arrival.

Positive Organizational Culture: a Bona Fide Business Strategy

What's equally of note is the company's clear statement of the importance of these programs in the company's success, ranking them right alongside Accenture's other business strategies. "Investing in our people remains one of our highest priorities," Accenture Chairman and CEO Pierre Nanterme wrote in his 2015 letter to shareholders posted on the company's website. "Attracting, developing and inspiring the very best talent in our industry is critical to meeting the evolving needs of our clients and growing our business."

The banner year of the company signals that the approach is good business - for people as well as profits.  The author of that New York Times article summed it up this way: "If an organization values innovation, you can assume it's safe to speak up with new ideas, leaders will listen, and your voice matters," he says.

"It signals that leaders care about people as well as profits."  

Written by: Lisa Oppenheimer

About the Author

Lisa Oppenheimer at Bright Horizons

As Director, Brand Storytelling at Bright Horizons, Lisa writes “from the trenches” about the real life challenges of people in today’s workplaces: from the tensions of being a working mother, to working with millennials in the digital age, and everything in between. With a career ranging from freelance to full-time, Lisa brings a diverse employment background to her perspective.