Trucks at Work

Culture: The X-Factor for future trucking success?

Talking about how “company culture” affects everything from profits to safety in the trucking business may seem a little strange.

I mean “company culture” on the surface seems to be a term more likely associated with the “touchy-feely” initiatives found on Oprah’s talk show or at Silicon Valley technology firms.

Yet crafting a rock-ribbed corporate culture is becoming a more critical factor for improving all manner of business ventures – and, yes, that includes trucking safety, how to build more competitive freight strategies, even driver retention initiatives.   

Indeed, a new global study conducted the Hay Group division of global consulting firm Korn Ferry polled 7,500 executives from 107 countries and found that “driving culture change” ranks among the top three global leadership development priorities.

Why is “culture change” so important today? Because it is no longer seen as an “afterthought” when considering the business focus of an organization, explained Noah Rabinowitz, senior partner and global head of Hay’s leadership development practice.

“Culture is the X-factor,” he stressed. “It’s the invisible glue that holds an organization together and ultimately makes the difference between whether an organization is able to succeed in the market or not.”

Yet it’s not an easy endeavor, nor one that many companies are fully engaging themselves in. For example, in a 2014 Korn Ferry survey, while 72% of respondents agreed that culture is extremely important to organizational performance, only 32% said their culture aligns with their business strategy.

To Rabinowitz, that means organizations need to make culture change a more “significant aspect” of their leadership development programs and overall leadership agenda.

“Culture change occurs, ultimately, when a critical mass of individuals adopt new behaviors consistent with their organization’s strategic direction,” he stressed. “Leadership development can be the most effective tool to change behaviors. And when leaders change their behaviors, others do so, too.”

“We believe that talent, leadership, and culture are intrinsically linked, and they are crucial to strategic execution,” added Arvinder Dhesi, one of Hay Group’s senior client partners. “It’s a mistake for top leaders to believe that culture is somehow separate from themselves or a separate project. Everything that we do contributes to the culture. There’s no culture-neutral behavior.”

Here are a few broad suggestions Hay Group gleaned from its global study about how company leaders can more effectively drive the kinds of culture change that improve bottom-line results:

  • Context is critical: Development work must be connected to the organization's current issues and strategies. "Context is king," noted Dave Eaton, Korn Ferry senior partner. "The development needs are very different if an organization is working through a merger versus hiring or transitioning to a new CEO."
  • Develop the whole person: To maximize leadership potential, organizations must match individual strengths and motivations to organizational needs, and development must align the individual's values, beliefs, and personality to the new culture. This may be crucial to sharpening truck driver recruiting and retention efforts down the line.
  • Treat leadership development as a journey: "Leadership development is always a journey," stressed Rabinowitz. "It should have a story line and an arc that consists of a variety of development experiences strung together in a compelling way, making learners feel that they are on a true journey with a beginning, middle, and end."
  • Service promotes purpose: To tap into deeper levels of motivation, individuals must feel they are contributing to something meaningful, such as making a difference to people’s lives. This starts with the organization articulating a mission that defines the value it creates for the people it serves, Hay noted in its study In turn, the organization’s mission is perpetuated by purpose-driven leaders who demonstrate authentic leadership to their teams. By linking elements of culture change with an organization's mission and connecting that to an individual leader's purpose, companies can develop stronger advocates for change, the company said.

Those are just some of the cultural “factors” trucking executives should keep in mind as they prepare for the future.

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