Company culture is often overlooked as a success factor for projects and engagements. Culture is like Karma – good culture begets good karma – bad culture the opposite. Culture (and without wishing to dwell further on the 1980’s New Romantics) has a much greater impact than it currently gets credit for. Good culture is often overlooked and can be taken for granted.

Bad culture is often dismissed as “it’s just the way it is” or “this is how we have always done things”. This blog raises awareness of the commercial impact of culture and why, if we want to ensure our projects are successful, cultural alignment is key, particularly between prospective partners and suppliers.

Having worked with a diverse selection of customers across all industries, I can provide some insight into the difference a good company culture makes commercially compared to a bad culture. Good culture can be defined as open, inclusive, supportive, empowering and collaborative. Bad culture, on the other hand, is either the opposite or absent of these good culture traits. But how does this translate into a commercial impact?

Having done the same modern workplace engagement in two similar, global organisations, one which was typified as having a “Good Culture” and the other a “Bad Culture”, the difference became quite stark. In the good culture company, requests for information and meetings were met speedily, often within 24 hours. In the bad culture situation, it could take a week just to find the person responsible before the request for information or a meeting was even made.

Giving feedback was natural and second nature in the company with a good culture, whereas in the other company, any feedback had to be painstakingly drawn out (if any was given at all). But the biggest difference was the impact of collaborative working. In the good culture, there was a passion to help and work together, sharing ideas and shaping future direction. In the bad culture such collaboration was invariably lacking and in extreme cases incredibly confrontational, as disinterested parties looked for reasons to scupper or derail the engagement.

The net result was that the engagement in the company with a good culture was completed in 6 weeks and the resultant modern workplace timescale was 6 months. In the bad culture the same engagement took 20 weeks, and the resultant timescale was nearer 2 years!!! Another big difference was in the cost. Factoring in the friction caused by delivering such a program in a bad culture increased estimated cost 5-fold. So not only does a bad culture increase the time to deliver programs, it also increases the cost. Sadly, this cost is typically intangible until the program is under way, by which time both the partner and customer are contractually locked into a budget and timescale which will, in all probability, never be achieved.

This leads into the second aspect of culture; the importance of cultural alignment between customer and partner. Like in other social partnerships, things do not always run smoothly. The issues, like the budget & timescales example above, need to be addressed. This is best achieved if there is cultural alignment between both parties. However, during the partner selection process culture is seldom considered and that is sowing the seeds for a sub-optimal or, worse still, failing project.

Typically, the selection process will focus on solution design & methodology, geographical coverage, previous experience and case studies, even the rapport with the Sales team. However, the cultural dimension, in spite of its commercial significance, is often left unexplored. Some organisations are considering non-traditional sources like Indeed or Glassdoor (4.2 last time I looked), in the same way consumers might use the reviews on Amazon or Netflix, to see what their potential partners’ employees (and their own for that matter) are posting. Comparing the potential partners comments and score with their own is one way to assess the likely alignment. A partner that generates a lot of negative comments or a poor score will not be as good a partner as one that is similar in score or attracts similar comments.

In addition, the selection process should be less RFP centric and allow more of the cultural aspects, including some practical examples of diversity, inclusivity and the other behaviours valued internally by one’s own organisation. For example, when looking for a modern workplace partner, do they use the collaboration tools and approaches they are recommending to you? A potential partner who claims to be diverse and multicultural – do you see that diversity in their representatives? It’s one thing to see the claims written on paper, but you need to actually experience them. Ask to meet the delivery and support teams as well as the sales team, and gauge for yourself how well they work together. This can be very enlightening.

Also, how does the potential partner treat its own employees? HSO, for example, was ranked 25th in the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to work for in the UK, with “understanding the importance of workplace engagement” and “genuinely valuing its people” as two of the main reasons for its high ranking.

However, don’t just take my word for it, see for yourself in this short video.

So, the next time you are looking to engage with a supplier or select a partner, think about this- Is my own internal company culture good? Can I select a team that has a good culture and works well together? If I can, this will increase the likelihood of an effective program. Secondly, is my organisation culturally aligned with my preferred partner and are they aligned with me? If the answer to this second question is “close enough” then you are good to go. Getting Cultural Alignment may mean not selecting the cheapest partner, the biggest partner, or even the most technically advanced partner, but picking the one that’s the right fit for you. This will, at least, ensure you and your partner are pointing in the same direction on the road to success, which at the end of the day is what we’re all here for.


Mark Sweeney
Cloud Engagement Director at HSO