The third post in a series based on the National Center for the Middle Market’s in-depth research report, High-Performance Culture: How Middle Market Executives View & Harness the Power of Culture, this post explores how middle market executives prioritize and invest in understanding the impact of culture in their companies.

Data from our latest research suggest that a middle market company’s culture has a very real impact on revenue as well as a company’s ability to attract and retain high-value customers and talent. It’s important. And executives know it. Still, culture can sometimes be tricky to manage and measure.

Here’s what we learned about how middle market leaders stay on top of company culture:

First, make culture a priority.

Most middle market leaders believe culture strongly affects company performance. As a result, nearly three-quarters (73%) say culture is a top priority for their firms. The percentage rises to 86% among the fastest-growing companies, and two out of five of these top performers say culture is their number one concern.

Second, put in the time.

Given the importance of culture, it’s not a surprise that the task of managing it falls to the company’s top-level senior leaders. What is eye-opening is just how much time is invested in culture: On average, middle market executives say that their leaders spend nearly a quarter (22.8%) of their time focusing on culture. The fastest growers invest significantly more time than their slower-growing peers: 31.3% compared to 18%.

The focus of the culture appears to be correlated to the time spent managing it as well. Those companies that describe their culture as focused on creating a great place to work spend the most time in the area, followed by companies with a customer-centric focus. Companies with a risk-averse culture invest the least in managing it. Indeed, in nearly a quarter (22%) of these companies, no one in the firm is specifically assigned to overseeing culture.

Next, align your people.

It’s up to the leaders in charge of culture to make sure employees across the organization are on board. They accomplish this in a variety of way, including communicating the culture through a stated set of core values, facilitating ongoing training and team building exercises, and rewarding employees who uphold the culture through promotion, pay, and public recognition.

Fast-growing companies set themselves apart in all of these activities. Companies with a culture that is specifically focused on creating a great place to work also shine in their efforts to engage their people in the culture. On the other end of the spectrum, organizations with risk-averse cultures are the least likely to take any steps to align culture with the company’s goals and values.

Finally, measure the impact.

Culture may be a notoriously squishy concept, but it’s still possible to keep tabs on its impact. High-performing companies do this primarily through surveys of employees and customers to learn how much of a role culture plays in attraction and retention. A majority of companies, and especially larger companies and those growing revenue at 10%+ per year, collect statistics on both customer and employee retention, recruitment, and referrals, and they use this data to help better understand the effect of culture on the business.

Learn more about how to create a high-performance culture.

For additional insight into the impact of culture on performance and what leaders can do to ensure a stronger culture with the right focus for their firms, download our full research report, High-Performance Culture: How Middle Market Executives View & Harness the Power of Culture.

Previously in this series
Post 2: Culture and Performance: What's the Connection?

Next in this series
Post 4: Struggling with Culture Change? 6 Facts You Need to Know






This post is part of a larger research project by the National Center for the Middle Market. Get the full picture through the resources below: