Is it Time for a Cultural Reality Check?

by Jaci Jarrett Masztal & Bill Barnes

What would you say if you were asked, “What is the most important aspect in your company’s culture as evidenced by leadership actions and communications?”

Would your answer be related to the quality of the products or services your company offers?  Or maybe it’s all about revenue?  In general, we were curious to see what people would say, but we really wanted a better understanding of the current state of company culture.  Therefore, we conducted a study where we asked 1,000 random employees across industries this one basic question:  (May, 2017)

What would you say if you were asked, “What is the most important aspect in your company’s culture as evidenced by leadership actions and communications?”

We provided a list of seven common topics along with ‘other’ to allow additional topics to emerge. Participants were asked to show the Primary and Secondary area of focus in their culture.

Here is what we found:

What surprised us the most with these results was the spread.  Six topics were selected by at least 20% of the participants as being either the primary or secondary area of focus – there was no dominant cultural theme!

Second, the findings show that leaders in only one in three companies exhibit a focus on revenue growth (36%) or customer experience (33%). That is incredibly low.

Third, there is a near equal focus on operational efficiency and cost control compared to growth and the customer.  These companies are focusing more internally than externally, which translates into cost control at the expense of their customers.

The findings suggest that it is time for a cultural reality check. If leaders want to optimize their business, is it really okay for their cultures not to have a focus on customers and revenue growth?  These findings strongly suggest that companies are missing out on the collective channeling of positive, productive culture for the betterment of the customer experience and the business.

Most agree that a healthy, focused, and productive culture is critical to business success.  And culture drives behavior.  When customers are the focal point of a company’s culture and there is employee alignment – from the inside to the outside – businesses flourish.

Yet, despite wide-spread agreement on the importance of culture, we continue to find a lack of accountability within organizations with regard to culture.  We believe one reason for the lack of accountability can be attributed to measurement.  Unless an organization has an objective understanding of where the culture currently stands, it will not know what is needed to become truly customer focused.  Thus, trying to drive a cultural change without measurement to determine the baseline and track progress, can be a waste of time and energy.

It is important to understand where your culture currently stands, and cultural assessments help provide critical insights. 

Be informed, have a true understanding of where your culture is now, and seek to make it better to optimize performance. Culture can be managed, but it must first be a strategic initiative and then it must be measured – baseline and ongoing.  Don’t neglect that critical component that measures progress and keeps your organization moving in the right direction.

After all,“Not to know is bad. Not to want to know is worse.” 

As Senior Vice President at Burke, Inc., Bill Barnes leverages an extensive background in customer experience to help clients design and implement successful CX programs.  With a deep understanding of CX, Bill knows that in order to for a program to be successful, one needs to understand the internal cultural issues that inhibit improvement and measure customer centric culture, which is the foundation of this work.

As an organizational psychologist and Vice President at Burke, Inc., Jaci Jarrett Masztal energetically helps companies connect the dots between internal company culture and employee engagement to the external customer loyalty and business performance.

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Source: Feature image – @andresr –


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