Five biggest roadblocks in building a great work culture


Of the various challenges that hamper the building of an iconic organisational culture, most are also the outcomes of a great work culture, making it a vicious loop.

Seen as the key to ensuring high-performing organisations, corporate culture is one aspect everyone loves to talk about, yet it is the most complex subject. It can be compared to a culinary outcome, the ingredients of which are not so easy to guess. A strong corporate culture is hailed as the key to victory in a competitive marketplace, while a weak one is considered the death knell. While the explanation may be easy, the topic of culture remains complex.

Culture may be defined by the values in an organisation and the way things are done; and in turn, it determines how employees see themselves as part of the organisation; their overall understanding of the business, strategic decision making or description of their company’s purpose and more. That said, culture impacts performance—of not just individuals but the business on the whole. Successful companies with significant financial achievements, lower employee turnover and high engagement score will certainly have a strong work culture as the base.

Despite that, there are various challenges that hamper the building of an iconic culture that most organisations look up to. And surprisingly, most of the challenges are also the outcomes of a great work culture, making the whole issue a vicious loop. A recent Dale Carnegie report Transforming Attitudes and Actions: How Senior Leaders Create Successful Workplace Cultures says, “Corporate culture runs deep; the fact that it’s embedded in nearly everything an organisation thinks and does is what makes it so powerful–and so hard to transform.” According to the report,  the various challenges that most leaders see as hurdles in enabling a great corporate culture are:

Productivity Pressure: This being the highest rated challenge is also the trickiest one. About 50 per cent of the surveyed leaders say that the pressure to increase productivity is one of the biggest challenges they face in ensuring a positive culture. The report states that some of the desired outcomes that make having a strong corporate culture so important, such as productivity and employee retention, are directly related to some of the problems cited by the survey respondents as challenges to maintaining that culture.  

Workplace Transparency: 44 per cent of culture champion (those organisations that have an ‘excellent’ corporate culture) leaders cited workplace transparency as a challenge to maintain a high-performing culture, compared with just 27 per cent of other respondents. Senior leaders from culture champion companies seem particularly attuned to the shift in working styles with technology disrupting work relationships. “Employees’ perceptions of the companies they work for are now shaped by more than traditional, official channels, such as communications from HR and their direct supervisors, but also through company-supported social media and even outside forums, such as GlassDoor and LinkedIn, where a company’s message and image can be difficult to control,” the report states.

Employee Mobility: With access to seemingly better opportunities through social media, and the demand–supply gap in skilled workforce, talent mobility is one of the biggest challenges facing most businesses today. About 40 per cent of culture champion and other leaders admit that employee mobility is a big concern in ensuring an efficient culture.

Employees Working Remotely: The report says that the emergence of new ways of getting work done through technology also complicates the management of a company’s culture. Culture stems from shared learning and the very nature of the human interactions, which engenders that learning has shifted in many cases. “Working relationships may be transient (in the case of ad hoc teams and contract employees) and may increasingly lack the face-to-face intimacy that can speed the creation of trusting relationships (in the case of employees working remotely),” it states. While 40 per cent of culture champions say it is a concern, 28 per cent of other leaders agree too.

Integrating mergers and acquisitions: Understandably so, mergers and acquisitions can shake up the culture when two entities come together. While 38 per cent of corporate champions and 28 per cent of all other leaders say that mergers and acquisitions make it difficult to ensure a great work culture, the report suggests that, “Companies involved in mergers or acquisitions must deal with the integration of multiple corporate cultures, and for organisations operating internationally, societal cultures—the customs, ideas and behaviour of diverse peoples and nations—add further complexity.”


  1. We talk about values, culture, etc to feel good about that we are in line with contemporary organisation and people management – but having framed them in our corporate communications and on our pin boards, when it comes to ground realities, we push timelines, numbers and results leaving little time for real introspection and leadership and behavioural navigation in an experiential honest manner, where we superflously talk about, and leave helplessly sans ownership and commitment.

    MBO, Productivity and ROI have focused more on quantification, and once goals are fixed we feel things happen automatically and it is fair to put high performance pressure on people.

    – things happen more because of inspirational leadership, talent management, team building, values, culture, learning and development, recognition and rewards, talent retention, which automatically result into high performance vibrant humane and proud organisations in the scale of self-fulfillment

    – high task orientation coupled with high people orientation, and humane flexibility, committed more to vision and values and not to numbers, timelines, all time spent in compiling statistics daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc to be presented and reviewed at multiple levels before the figures are sent to the top management to the CMD Level.

    Others values etc are more for aesthetic consumption on display for ISO9000 or Brand Building, Award Winning etc, but followed by psychophancy and lack of transparency, and when it comes to people we focus more on marketing and production targets forcing people to slog 24×7 and at times without any humane considerations of overtime compensation, dignified food facility, conveyance facility, etc, leaving values, culture to rare discussions nice to have and be forgotten sooner.

    May be these values etc at times are there at the core, but one has no time to pursue, inculcate, propagate, standardise, practice uniformly at all levels of leadership down the line, depending more on the promoter leaders alike Infosys etc.

    Modiji says Na Khaunga Na Khanedoonga, but the Railway TTs collect amounts without giving receipts openly, under the leadership of a respected Minister alike Shri Suresh Prabhu which would be known across the country – where is the vigilance squad of the railways 24×7.

    Though we are overburdened with MBO, Productivity, Technology etc,yet we have the frequent railway derailments and accidents recently again, having done away with Niti Ayog, Railway Budget, etc. Roads laid get washed away in a month or two, to be laid and charged for again by the contractor, claiming roads are now being laid faster than before.

    Good we talk of talent engagement, employee experience, performance dialogues promoting self-discovery, and Q-12 leadership, while Q-12 leadership is again more for Gallup Survey and monitored quantitatively, rather than internalise with leadership support in providing tools and tackles etc under cash crunch, lack of priority, etc. And while exit settlement of final accounts of leaving employees are done several months later taking own sweet time, where consistency on values and culture and ethics at all times.

    While CEOs need to lead by example to lead by values and culture, share stories with people, let people find values etc in the day to day decisions which people could relate with in a contemporary context and not merely historically, values and culture acting as guiding principles for day to day behaviours and decisions and providing leadership down the line as Cultural SOPs.

    Hope this provokes value adding reflections, for persuading values, culture for wider consistent applications and behaviours, and productivity will follow.

    Know of an successful manufacturing organisation calling a sick person with fever to attend work, come what may, while provides free fruits and cakes and film tickets for the family, expecting productivity in return. Organisations want people to proceed on a tour when the wife is sick at home and one is ambivalent – Organisation and Business Goals first, people come much later.

    We need to be truthful to ourselves and purify ourselves further on the practice of values and culture at all times, the guiding principles. We cannot pray at the temple, and then practice corruption for business or political funding, or getting organisation work done.

    Know of an organisation which preferred to keep the chemical plant closed, rather then grease the palms of the central govt agency which releases permits for imported graphite electrodes.

    humble regards,

    hr consultant and leadership coach, india

  2. great to learn, it will be an eye opener for all whoever want to ensure work culture and business sustainability.

  3. Top of these five ‘biggest road block in building a great work culture’ is the mindset and behaviour of the chief of the organisation. Every culture gets created, executed and percolates down from the top. Most other things are excuses.

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