PPAI Highlights Role of Company Culture In DEI Initiatives’ Success

Company culture is fundamental to the success of any diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiative. Regardless of size, every company has a culture which defines its values and goals, and drives the business. Before embarking on any organizational change, and before making any business decision relating to DEI initiatives, it is important to evaluate that culture. To that end, PPAI has prepared a Current Company Culture Assessment to assist in reviewing an organization’s culture.

PPAI’s DEI Playbook defines culture as the values, goals and norms that drive behavior in a group or organization. Values, in the context of company culture, are important and lasting beliefs shared by the members of an organization about what is good and desirable, while goals are measurable or observable desired results of an organization’s efforts, and norms are the informal guidelines about what is considered standard behavior in an organization based on collective expectations between members. It is important to note that norms are typically not published or documented. They are behaviors that seem right and acceptable within an organization.

“A company’s culture influences whether a person succeeds in their organization,” says Maurice Norris, PPAI’s public affairs manager. “It is common for people to report either leaving or being let go from an organization because it wasn’t a ‘good fit’ for them. This often means the employees’ values, goals or norms did not align with those of their department or organization.”

Losing and replacing employees is costly—the cost of recruiting, hiring and training new employees, coupled with compensating and even training remaining employees to take on additional responsibilities until the position is filled, can quickly compound costs. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, the cost of replacing a single employee is equivalent to six to nine months of that employee’s salary. For example, if a lost employee earned $80,000, then between $40,000 and $60,000 will be used to recruit and hire a qualified professional to fill the vacancy. There may also be a loss of support and continuity for customers in the interim, whether internally or externally.

“Having and adhering to a clearly defined company culture benefits everyone in the organization,” says Norris. “This includes establishing and communicating clearly defined values, which enables potential employees to evaluate whether their values align with those of their potential employers before joining an organization. Having established expectations for employees to abide by, and goals to work toward, makes current employees’ performance measurable.”

He adds, “Adherence to a clearly communicated organizational culture also means employees understand what is important to the company and what it represents. Recent trends show this can also influence potential clients’ spending decisions.”

In developing its DEI Playbook, PPAI has found that publishing a set of values and goals for the organization is not sufficient. Everyone in the company, especially executives and senior management, must be committed to abiding by the established values. Employees defer to leaders for examples of behavior that is expected and acceptable. When the values, goals and norms of a company and its employees are aligned, employees experience a stronger sense of loyalty to the organization. This alignment is crucial because people want to work for companies they believe in, which translates into a larger talent pool of people who are interested in working for the company. The growing phenomenon of people searching for purpose and meaning in the work they choose to do is largely perceived as characteristic of the younger generations.

This trend is also a natural characteristic of human behavior, regardless of age. Norris says, “Many people search for meaning and purpose in most things to which they dedicate their time. While the source of meaning and purpose may look different for everyone, it certainly helps to also find those things in the place where people spend at least one-third of their day, five days a week. Having purpose produces a sense of pride and contributes to a person’s level of job satisfaction, resulting in increased employee retention.”

Evaluating an organization’s culture and deciding what to do with that information can be daunting. There is further guidance beginning on page 19 of PPAI’s DEI Playbook to help with the practical implementation of the company culture assessment. Also, for any questions about the DEI assessments, please reach out to Diversity@ppai.org.


filed under December 2021 | DEI
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