UK CEOs rank highly for “positive role model attitudes” but fail to prioritise culture

A new survey reveals that British CEOs are lagging behind on prioritising organisational culture

Executive search firm Heidrick and Struggles have revealed the results of a new global CEO study which found that “intentionally building your company’s culture can impact the company’s financial performance.”

The survey entitled “Aligning Culture with the Bottom Line: How Companies Can Accelerate Progress” involved the contributions of 500 CEOs across nine countries and examined how culture propels organisational performance in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Spain, the UK, and the USA.

The survey identified a group of respondents as “culture accelerators” and were CEOs that were found to be “significantly more intentional in the way that they focused on culture than others.”

The survey found that the people within this group had companies that showed “double the Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of others surveyed for the same study, suggesting that organisational culture can drive overall financial performance.”

Interestingly, 10% of UK CEOs surveyed were found to be “culture accelerators” compared with 11% elsewhere. However, UK CEOs did rank highest globally for “adopting personal leadership and positive role model attitudes in order to effect organisational and cultural change in their respective businesses.”

They were also found to “prioritise engagement with their employees far more than their global counterparts and are keen to personally promote organisational culture and systemic alignment between culture efforts and other company processes.” UK CEOs were also the most likely to assess their company culture by looking at their employee retention rate.

In terms of leadership priorities, only 70% of UK CEOs said they had made culture a “key priority” over the last three years, compared to 82% of CEOs surveyed overall. British CEOs also ranked “agility and innovation” as the most important factors for financial performance while CEOs elsewhere prioritised strategy and leadership when asked the same question.

Out of the respondents, UK CEOs were those who most often said their culture effort goals were “navigating the pandemic and the many new ways of working that have now entered the cultural norm.” The study also showed that UK CEOs viewed increasing employee engagement as one of their main goals of culture going forward (26%) which was aligned with the global average and slightly higher than Europe’s 24%.

Ian Johnston, survey co-author and Partner in Heidrick and Struggles’ London office said: “The global pandemic caused turmoil within many organisations and it seems those who have maintained a focus on culture during the uncertainty will be better positioned for future success.”

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