Culture as Strategy for Growth



Show me a leader who ignores her company culture, and I will show you a leader who is about to get a big wakeup call. An overwhelming amount of research over the last years have proven the effect strong, highly engaged cultures have on employee retention, productivity, innovation, bottom line results and shareholder return.

The brutal reality, however, is that these kinds of cultures are quite rare.Gallup’s 2021 State of the Global Workplace report show that only 20 percent of the global workforce are feeling engaged in their jobs. Considering that Gallup’s studies show that companies with highly engaged employees are 18 percent more productive and 23 percent more profitable, the universally disengaged workforce is estimated to cost the global economy a staggering $7 trillion USD per year!

And the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t exactly helped.

While many workers enjoyed the extra time and sense of freedom that at first came with working remotely, many have reported that the healthy boundaries between work and life have been harder to defend and that “always-on-cultures“ have negatively influenced their mental wellbeing and happiness at work.

Culture in the Age of Covid

In a pre-covid PwC study, 71 percent of the surveyed executives said culture was an important topic and key to their business success, and 66 percent of the employees agreed.

In PwC’s newly released study, 2021 Global Culture Survey, 67 percent of the executives said culture was key to their success to adapt during the pandemic. However, this time only 46 percent of the employees agreed.

What happened?

One possible explanation recently came in a message to me:

“In my company, culture has just become another empty word in the corporate bullsh*t lingo. Management throws the word around like confetti, but I don’t think they even know what they are talking about. And it certainly doesn’t show up in how they act, what they prioritize, or the behaviors they incentivize.”

The PwC study agrees with the frustrated writer’s viewpoint.

“At the heart of this mismatch is the issue of authenticity; business leaders believe they are a walking embodiment of the organization’s culture, values, and purpose, but their employees disagree.”

The PwC survey also revealed that while 63 percent of the executives considered their own company culture being great, only 41 percent of their employees agreed. Data shows that workers don’t feel fully seen and heard, and that workplaces aren’t as tolerant and inclusive as leaders like to think they are.


Mind the Gap

According to Microsoft Work Trend Index Report, 2021, forty percent of the global workforce are thinking about leaving their employer this year. What was first named the “Great Resignation” is now being called the “Great Discontent.” People are leaving their jobs because they are discontent with leadership, culture and the overall employee experience.

This is particularly true for Millennials and Gen Zs (basically all workers born after 1981) who will make up 75 percent of the working population in 2025. Companies who want to keep their talents, attract new ones, and stay competitive in the new world of work, will wisely pay attention to what this generation wants.

So, what do they want? According to Deloitte’s Global 2021 Millennials and Gen Z survey, they want purposeful jobs, work-life balance, flexibility, and freedom to work from anywhere. They want to work for companies that care about the planet, emphasize inclusion, equity, and diversity, focus on mental health and employee wellbeing, and who have cultures that align with their personal values.

A Glassdor survey shows that 77 percent of workers say they will consider the company culture before they apply for a new job and 79 percent said the company’s mission and purpose are important to them. 50 percent say that culture is more important than salary.

And it’s not only Millennials and Gen Zs who care about culture. “Across the countries we surveyed, it’s clear that job seekers are seeking more meaningful workplace experiences,” says Christian Sutherland-Wong, Glassdoor President and COO. “Job
seekers want to be paid fairly but they too want to work for a company whose values align with their own and whose mission they can fully get behind.”

Will COVID-19 turn out to be an accelerator for more purposeful, inclusive, healthy, and human work cultures? I hope it will. And believe it can. But only if organizations and leaders decide to use this opportunity to do, be and change things for the better.

Culture as Strategy for Growth

For over twenty years I’ve been helping leaders and companies develop, change and make culture a strategy for growth; both on the inside of large, successful IT companies like Tandberg and Cisco, and for the last nine years as founder and leader of Corporate Spring, a firm specialized in leadership and culture for the new world of work.

The last five years my team and I have noticed an increased awareness around the importance of culture among business executives. While we used to have to explain why culture is important to business success, today we spend most of our time helping our clients shape their desired culture in practice. We have realized that while many leaders talk about culture and acknowledge the importance of it, only a few deliberately and strategically work on creating the kind of culture they need to secure their business success.

One can say there are two ways of approaching culture: consciously or unconsciously. A conscious approach means that you shape the kind of culture you need to deliver on your business purpose and goals. An unconscious approach is basically doing nothing and just let the culture develop by chance. And strangely enough, the latter approach is the most common.

Lately I’ve come to realize that the reason why many leaders take the unconscious approach to culture is not necessarily because they don’t think it matters. It is because many don’t know how to approach it, what to do and where to start.

The Corporate Spring Mode

The Corporate Spring Model was developed to give our clients a holistic framework to have meaningful conversations within their teams, learn how to prioritize the cultural elements that impacts their performance the most, and equip them with a tool to make their culture a strategy for growth.

Grounded in science and many years of practical and strategic culture work, the model has been tested on hundreds of teams around the world, and it has led to significant, and at times astonishing, improvements on employee engagement, innovation, and team performance. It is a powerful roadmap in how to build thriving, high-performing team- and organizational cultures.

The Corporate Spring Model captures the importance of purpose and identity, belonging and trust, power of mindsets, and work environments fueled by passion and joy. It’s about leadership, communication and collaboration, and the fact that everything influences everything, considering that organizational life is human at its core.

And now you can learn how to work with this model too.

Welcome to the “Culture as Strategy for Growth” Webinar!

’m thrilled to collaborate with Oslo Business Forum and Nordic Business Forum and host a webinar on how to make culture a strategy for growth, on August 26th at 1 pm CET.

In this webinar I will talk about:

  • The Return of Investment of making culture a strategy.
  • 3 mistakes many leaders make when trying to change culture
  • A practical and impactful model for high-performing, high-growth cultures.
I look forward to seeing you there!

Sign up for the webinar with Annicken R. Day here!



Annicken R. Day is a Culture Strategist, Founder, and CEO of Corporate Spring, Writer for Business Insider and HuffPost, co-author of the book “Creative Superpowers,” and author of the bestselling novel “Fly, Butterfly.” After 12 years as Chief Culture Officer and Culture Strategist in Tandberg and Cisco (recently awarded The World’s Best Workplace), she founded Corporate Spring in 2012 and has since then, together with her team, helped hundreds of teams around the world build thriving, joyful, high-performing cultures.

“Annicken R. Day has a gift for transforming bureaucracies into businesses that buzz with creativity and joy.” Adam Grant, Wharton Professor, New York Times bestselling author of “Think Again”, “Originals” and “Give and Take”.

Get the book “Fly, Butterfly” here.