The Secret Ingredient to Improving Organizational Culture

As with innovation, there is not always a straight and measurable path from culture toward business value. Even so, there is a tangible, wide-lens business case for investing in both.

 The competitive advantages of innovation arise because opportunities beget opportunities in the ever-shifting landscape of an unknown future. Since we don’t know what comes next, we change over time and explore new ideas in hopes of opening new and surprising doors. The long-term benefits of innovation have been well-documented: innovation multiplies productivity, future-proofs the organization, and helps to expand the business. But in reality, not every organization can foot the bill nor, perhaps, stomach the risk for innovation investments with uncertain returns.

 Luckily for those organizations, the benefits of investing in a “good” organizational culture are similar to those of innovation. Unlike innovation, though, culture is a sure bet.

 What makes an organizational culture “good,” though?

 Some leaders believe the recipe for a good organizational culture is an ever-expanding list of “perks.” Add a beer garden to the campus, throw in some catered lunches, sprinkle some modern décor into the come-when-you-want office, and call it done. But gestures are not culture, and neither is veneer.

 Organizational culture is built, bolstered, and broken in the monotony of everyday experiences. There is nothing that touches more of your employees’ day-to-day experiences than your organization’s company computers and the internal technology products to which they’re connected.

 Your internal technology portfolio is the subconscious language your company uses to speak to employees, making it the self-talk of the organization: how you communicate to them, how they communicate with each other, how they organize their days, and how they integrate their work into their lives. It’s not just “your internal technology.” It’s the fabric of how people spend the majority of their waking hours.

 Your internal technology portfolio speaks to employees, and some of your portfolios are disrespectful. Outdated or cumbersome internal tech is an obvious signal to everyone in the organization that they aren’t worth investing in. It says to your employees, “Your problems aren’t worth solving.”

 Allowing your internal technology solutions to fall behind is all-around bad for business. It slows down work, fragments your data, demoralizes and frustrates your employees, and makes it harder to communicate – all subtly reinforcing a sluggardly and disconnected culture. 

So often, the business case for upgrading internal technology doesn’t pass muster because it doesn’t have a direct and measurable effect on the organization’s bottom line. But we know – as with innovation – that some technologies don’t need a clear, linear path to revenue to be valuable. Internal tech portfolios, organizational culture, employee happiness, and business value are intertwined. When you give people better tools, they can build toward better outcomes, and everyone will be happier for it.

 Don’t let simple or short-sighted considerations about gains and losses detract from smart investments in your organization’s long-term productivity, sustainability, and growth. Remember: Long game is strong game.

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