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Former GE CEO Jack Welch once famously said, “The soft stuff is the hard stuff.” The business adage rings true for HR professionals trying to initiate culture change in their organizations. HR leader Norm Sabapathy, speaking at a mega session June 21 during the Society for Human Resource Management 2016 Annual Conference & Exposition in Washington, D.C., gave some tips for overhauling a corporate culture.
“I know a lot of people think culture is a mushy, fuzzy concept,” said Sabapathy, who is executive vice president of people at Cadillac Fairview Corp., an owner and operator of commercial real estate in Toronto. “But, increasingly, research is showing that people really do care about culture.”
So much so, in fact, that senior executives are finally starting to pay attention—which presents a tremendous leadership opportunity for HR, Sabapathy said. The notion of “culture,” loosely defined as the beliefs and behaviors that govern how people act in an organization, emerged in the 1980s and is now believed to be a major determinant of a company’s success or failure.
Sabapathy cited a mountain of evidence indicating that culture is a top-of-mind issue for today’s executives and that companies with positive cultures have better performance, productivity and profits than those without. For example, the Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends 2015 report found that culture and engagement were the top issues of concern to more than 3,300 business and HR leaders from 106 countries. And companies on Fortune’s list of the best places to work—known for their strong cultures—have stock performance that is double that of other organizations.
“For me, the No. 1 reason why any organization should care is that it has been proven that culture, if you have a strong one, is positively correlated with business results,” he said.
Speaking of numbers, here are Sabapathy’s 10 tips for driving a culture change that will stick:
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