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  • Writer's pictureRike Stein

Intentionally Designing Company Culture: The Key to Sustainable Growth

Updated: Apr 30

Recently, while speaking at a panel discussion about the Future of Governance, one question resonated deeply with me: What really drives change?

  1. Putting the "S" for "Social" into ESG: Delving into the social aspect, we uncover many critical elements ranging from health, safety, and wellbeing to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Among these, I am particularly drawn to the significance of culture and DEI. When we talk about company culture, we're not merely discussing abstract concepts. Rather, we're addressing the very essence of an organization's identity and values. As leaders, we need to recognize that intentionally crafting & driving company culture is not just a nice-to-have; it's essential. Company culture isn't just an initiative; it's the soul of the organization. According to Gallup, getting company culture right yields tangible benefits: from attracting top talent and enhancing retention to boosting engagement, productivity, and customer satisfaction. Therefore, it's imperative that leaders, including boards, prioritize the continuous development of culture, ensuring that DEI isn't just a checkbox but a lived reality within the organization.

  2. The Importance of Emotional Culture: The concept of emotional culture, particularly psychological safety, is a key consideration in company culture. This manifests across three levels: belonging, cognitive diversity, and innovation. Creating an environment where individuals feel psychologically safe to express themselves fosters creativity, innovation, and inclusivity—crucial ingredients for organizational success and resilience. Research underscores the significance of psychological safety, revealing that inclusive teams are over 35% more productive and diverse teams make better decisions 87% of the time. The goal is clear: to cultivate an environment where individuals feel valued, respected, and empowered to contribute their unique perspectives.

  3. DEI is Integral to Culture: Diversity, equity, and inclusion aren't standalone initiatives but intrinsic components of organizational culture. It's essential to clarify the terminology: diversity pertains to representation, equity focuses on eliminating discrimination, and inclusion revolves around fostering a culture of respect and value for every individual. The benefits of prioritizing DEI are numerous: from enhanced talent recruitment and retention to bolstered innovation and decision-making. However, achieving meaningful progress in DEI necessitates more than just lip service. It requires a concerted effort to embed DEI principles throughout the organizational fabric, from recruitment and promotion processes to everyday interactions and decision-making.

  4. Empowering Boards for Change: Boards play a pivotal role in guiding and challenging leaders to drive cultural transformation and advance DEI. Instead of merely scrutinizing policies and reports, boards should actively inquire about the strategies for fostering behavioral change and promoting inclusivity throughout the year. By prioritizing DEI efforts holistically and integrating them into governance structures, boards can drive meaningful progress toward a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive organizational culture. Moreover, they should challenge traditional mindsets and advocate for a shift from viewing DEI as a separate initiative to recognizing it as an integral aspect of organizational strategy.

  5. From Events to Impactful Change: Looking ahead, the trajectory of DEI efforts must evolve from isolated events to integrated organizational practices. This entails incorporating inclusive leadership competencies into promotion criteria, setting organization-wide DEI goals, and investing in initiatives like pay-equity audits and inclusive benefits systems. Research shows a positive correlation between prioritizing DEI and organizational success, with inclusive workplaces witnessing heightened productivity, innovation, and employee satisfaction. It's key for organizations to embrace DEI not just as a moral imperative but as a strategic imperative for sustainable growth and resilience.

The journey towards fostering an inclusive organizational culture is multifaceted, encompassing intentional design, emotional intelligence, and strategic governance. By prioritizing DEI as integral to culture and embedding it into every aspect of organizational life, we pave the way for sustainable growth, enhanced performance, and a more equitable future.


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