Why Board Members must take company culture seriously

As Deloitte publishes the 2018 edition of its Directors’ Alert, Talent Partner for the firm Sonia Breeze explains why an effective culture is key to business success and takes a look at some of the ways that Boards and CEOs can ensure a successful cultural shift.


Culturally it feels as though we are at a tipping point. Inclusive cultures are more important than ever. People are readier to speak up when they see behaviours they aren’t comfortable with. When there is a groundswell of support, as we have now, culture will change more rapidly.

Nevertheless, we must be prepared for ebbs and flows and not get disheartened when change isn’t instantaneous. There are very able people ready to step into leadership and Board roles, which can leave you wondering ‘Why isn’t it happening faster?’ But the good news is that many organisations and experiencing a culture shift and we are heading in the right direction.


The Key to a Company’s Reputation

The research is clear cut that organisations do better when they have diversity in their boards and executive teams, when they tap into a broader pool of talent. Furthermore, the Deloitte Directors’ Alert 2018 highlights that a company’s culture, which includes its approach to diversity and inclusivity, is key when it comes to a company’s reputation. With one of the key roles of a Board to be proactive in managing risk, this is a subject that Boards can’t ignore.

The key takeaway from the Directors Alert 2018 is that leaders need to proactively address their organisational culture, and to look at the type of culture they need to achieve their strategies.


The X Factor in Business Performance

Increasingly leaders are aware that organisational culture isn’t a fluffy add-on, but an essential component in achieving success. Culture is the X factor that makes a difference in business performance. Ensuring diversity at leadership levels, therefore, is imperative for Boards. They, with the CEO, are critical in determining how an organisation’s culture evolves.

So how do leaders go about ensuring a successful culture shift? The first step is to look at the company’s existing values and culture. What is the culture that you aspire to? What would this look like in terms of purpose, values and expected behaviours?


Walking the Talk

Crucially, any change cannot be shelfware. It must be baked in at every level, from the ways that leaders behave and demonstrate the values, to the communication and key events that bring the culture to life on an ongoing basis, such as in regular meetings or peer-to-peer awards.

Leaders need to understand the key levers that will accelerate cultural changes in their business. To ensure that transformation happens it’s important to set expectations upfront. To take opportunities to demonstrate the culture and expect the senior leadership team to do the same. It’s all about finding ways to define that culture and then bring it to life, so it doesn’t just sit on a piece of paper, but actually happens.


As a leader, you can’t underestimate the importance of culture change in business success. As you progress along your diversity and inclusion journey I have one final piece of advice for you. The more understand and embrace your desire culture, the more successful you will be.