An organisation's culture is important.

Fortune Magazine compared the performance of the Russell 3000 Index against an index made of the Fortune 100 Best Companies To Work For between 1998 and 2016, and showed that companies with employee-centric cultures were more than twice as successful financially over that period.

So culture is important - I've written previously about this sort of thing - even in the sort of world where you'd think that people would come second string to something very impersonal: technology. Simply having the most data or the fastest computers won't help a business become the next big digital player. But having enough data and fast enough computers with the right leadership, people and culture almost certainly will.

But please don't just take my word for it.

Some big names in the tech industry recognise the big idea that people need to come before technology. One of Google's ten things is "Focus on the user and all else will follow." And Marissa Mayer, ex-CEO of Yahoo, observed: "Employees, especially young people, want more than a paycheck."

Arianna Huffington wrote about one element of this in the form of a tool that not only sends an out-of-office reply when you're emailed while on holiday, but also deletes every email you receive so that you don't come back to a full inbox.

So what can organisations do?

Culture change is an interesting thing that is simultaneously momentary and long-lasting. Office culture immediately following a restructuring announcement feels very different to the way it did immediately before, and yet culture change programmes are typically several years in length. I've drawn from Frederic Laloux's fascinating Reinventing Organizations for just two principles that make certain organisations stand out for the right reasons:

  • Embrace servant leadership and the idea of managers as coaches, intended to bring out the best in employees rather than direct them
  • Focus on values and purpose over financial performance and objectives - this can feel particularly tricky for businesses driven by 'shareholder value' as Gavin Stewart recently wrote about

Leadership, people and culture are words that everyone knows are important to get right, and everyone knows are tough to get right.

But it can sometimes be simple. I was talking to a technology leader recently who said that he's moved away from competency-based interviews to simply hiring people who are smart and kind. Those business leaders who can genuinely motivate positive change in ways people understand will end up seeing greater success in their organisations. And if you'd like to be one of them, I'd welcome a conversation; please get in touch.