Company Culture Starts at the Top

Posted: Jul 12  |  By: Parker + Lynch

Company culture is difficult to define. It’s intangible – a state of mind or collective consciousness embedded within an organization and its employees. Ask 50 accounting and finance leaders to define company culture, and you’ll get 50 different answers.

What is clear about company culture is that it starts at the top. Accounting and finance leaders play a crucial role in helping shape company culture. Yet too many of these leaders have limited knowledge on how to develop it. They focus on financial results while neglecting the company’s emotional health, but, in fact, the two complement one another.

An organization’s greatest asset is its employees, and healthy growth requires a united team that supports the company’s vision, mission and goals. Here’s a look at how accounting and finance leaders can develop and promote a healthy company culture.

Make tough decisions

An organization is only as strong as its weakest team member, so creating a healthy culture requires coming to terms with internal issues.

When it comes to company culture, most employees fit into one of four categories:

  1. Underachievers who undermine company culture
  2. Underachievers who promote company culture
  3. High achievers who undermine company culture
  4. High achievers who promote company culture

It’s easy to eliminate the first category, but it’s tougher (and just as necessary) to eliminate the third group. Doing so will allow you to focus on cultivating the second and fourth categories and position the organization for growth in the future.

Choose managers carefully

Because leaders set the tone for culture, be vigilant in choosing to promote managers based not just on operational efficiency, but on cultural fit and ability to lead by example.

When you identify emerging leaders, consider the full range of leadership criteria, including soft skills and characteristics that are difficult to quantify. If you want to have an organization where team members line up to support their leaders, you need to hire and promote people who care about individuals and make others feel valued. Positive, highly motivated management is critical to making this happen.

Meet the needs of your team

Having a motivated team aligned with your company’s vision is vital to your organization’s success. But how do you attract these “A players?”

Today’s employees want balance. They want to work hard and excel in their careers, but they also want to spend time with family or pursuing personal interest. A company culture that addresses these desires attracts top performers.

Offer flexible work arrangements, professional development opportunities and encourage employees to disconnect from work on a regular basis. Be careful about paying lip service to work/life balance issues. Too often, leaders promise flexibility, professional development and balance but their actions belie their words. Anything from small comments to stalled advancement sends a message that the organization doesn’t trust people enough to follow through on its promises. That does more damage to culture than not offering those programs in the first place.

Company culture is a process. You can’t merely speak it into existence. Follow the tips outlined above and give everyone on your company a reason to feel confident in the future. No one strategy fits every organization, but every company can experience success by facing challenges head-on, choosing leaders carefully and meeting the needs of top performers.

It’s important to consider generational differences when creating company culture. Read our white paper on how to Maximize Your Multigenerational Workforce for strategies on blending generations.

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