What does Culture have to do with it?

Organizations today express concerns about generational leadership and succession and wonder what is required to ensure they have the talent in place to lead their organization into the future. Questions abound; is it pay, is it interesting work, is it opportunity? I believe it may include all those things and more; and the most pressing is the culture of the organization. Having attended the International Society for Human Resource Management conference and heard from inspirational speakers and leaders that included Sir Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington and Tony Hsieh I now believe it is culture that determines who wants  to work for your organization and it is the leadership who defines and implements the organization’s culture. Tony Hsieh, in particular, brought this to life as he shared his story on how he had created a “Culture of Happiness” at Zappos. He crafted organizational values that reflect the input of all the employees working at Zappos; he listened.


Zappos’ first core value is to deliver “WOW” through service.

*Zappos gives a great deal of freedom to pursue team decisions and for people to self-organize in groups around areas of personal “passion” outside of regular duties.

*Zappos has empowered employees to make meaningful changes and decisions at all levels without a lot of supervision.

*Zappos’ creed is delivering happiness and therefore building customer loyalty at every step of the way.

*At Zappos, open and honest relationships are built with communication at all levels, at all times.

*Zappos strives to encourage learning across functions and across the company by sending employees to visit their different facilities and inviting other companies to tour their facility to learn together.

*Zappos has its own web TV channel for employees and every year creates a yearbook with employee input and photos.


According to Denning’s new book, The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management: Reinventing the Workplace for the 21st Century, he likes Zappos, which he described models the changing workforce of tomorrow.  Statistics show that companies who are value-centric and focused on creating a great culture, are highly innovative and grow at 4 times the rate of companies with low employee engagement.

Aside from leaders having a clear vision for the future that inspires others to follow, it is critical to recognize how employees feel about working for the organization. Yes, I did say “feel” not “think” about the organization since feeling is where our passion resides. We know employee engagement is the result of doing work that we are passionate about and being recognized and valued for our contribution. It is the day-to-day experience of how employees are treated and valued that will determine their commitment to the organization short-term and long-term. According to research done by Manpower, 84% of employees are looking for another job this year. What is this figure saying about the work cultures of the organizations where these employees are currently employed?

So if culture determines who wants to work for your organization, and in turn your talent pool to ensure the future success of the organization, what are you doing as a leader that triggers the passion of the employees who work for you? How are you defining the culture of your organization?