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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Welcome to the new era of corporate culture

As I watched the finalist videos at the Greater Washington Government Contractor Awards gala last week, I noticed a single word getting used over and over by the executives as they described their companies: culture.

Each executive was asked to use three words to describe their companies as they spoke about their markets and capabilities, and the concept of culture and what it means to employees kept coming up.

This idea of culture and its importance is something I’m noticing more often as I talk to executives about their companies. And employees are at the center of all this talk.

“I’m most proud of creating a great place for great people to work,” said Sunny Bajaj, president and CEO of Digital Management Inc., a finalist for contractor of the year in the $75 million to $300 million category.

A video from the awards program, which is produced each year by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, the Professional Services Council and Washington Technology is available. You can watch the videos here.

“Our employees carry our reputation in their hands every day,” said Ignacio “Iggy” Balderas, CEO of Triple Canopy, a finalist for contractor of the year in the greater than $300 million category.

Of course, I’ve heard the talk of culture from the first day I started covering the market in the mid-1990s, particularly when people talked about mergers and acquisitions. Back then, the talk of culture seemed more like a check box.

But about a year and a half ago, I interviewed Todd Stottlemyer, CEO of Acentia about the rebranding of that company. He talked a lot about culture, and connected the idea of company’s culture and identity into how you run the company. Acentia also was a GovCon finalist in the $75 million to $300 million category.

Since that conversation with Stottlemyer, the frequency of executives bringing up culture and articulating its importance has grown. Stottlemyer even wrote a column for us about it last month. We’ve also run several columns by Eileen Rivera about culture and communications. Here is her latest.

This talk of culture is more than just marketing-speak or companies wanting to do something "touchy feely". It reflects a fundamental fact about today’s market – these are tough times.

  • Competition is more intense, so your culture can help differentiate your company from others in the market.
  • Clearly articulating your purpose and mission helps managers and employees make better decisions, which can translate into positive financial results.
  • Profits are under pressure, so financial rewards are harder to come by for employees, but putting a focus on the company’s purpose and mission, the value of employees and quality of life can bridge some of that gap.

Bottom line, in tough times, you have to know who you are and what you do, and your customers, employees and partners benefit from that.

It’s no surprise to me that the top companies in the market – which the finalists for the GovCon awards represent – are so focused on culture. They know it makes good business sense. 

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Nov 05, 2012 at 9:52 AM

Reader Comments

Wed, Nov 7, 2012 Dain Dunston Austin, TX

Great column and right on. Culture is not soft, not optional and not something for a checklist somewhere in HR. It is the fundamental "state of being" of your company. Either you have the culture to innovate and execute better than the others, or you don't. Culture building is fundamental to leadership and to sustained return on investment. Thanks for posting this.

Tue, Nov 6, 2012 Scott Killingsworth Atlanta

Thanks to recent behavioral science research, the salutory effects of a positive workplace culture can no longer be dismissed as speculative or "warm and fuzzy" thinking: they're real, they're measurable, and they've been measured. Here is a newly published review that explains, and places in a coherent conceptual framework, diverse findings from recent behavioral science research about how leaders can most effectively develop an organizational culture that demonstrably impacts employee commitment and compliance. The paper concludes with several practical suggestions for putting these learnings into action. It's a free download at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2161076

Mon, Nov 5, 2012

Many CEO’s see HR approaches as “Over budget, after deadline, and we still don’t know if it works?” Executives are demanding increased intelligence on the workforce but, they also crave the rigor and business approach that they find in all other areas of the organization like finance, marketing, and operations. We help companies to provide a business oriented process approach around culture development and leadership, while cohesively providing prioritization, trending and forecasting, and most importantly a BUSINESS IMPACT approach. By using key metrics and CEO valued processes, we can bring culture management into a consistent approach, just like every other key area of the organization like finance, marketing, and operations. http://www.psculturematters.com/about-us/current-company-culture/ Bryan K. Short Vice President PS Culture Matters

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