To build a better culture, ask 3 questions


After nearly 30 years of advising executives, I have an arsenal of recommendations, insight and answers about talent and culture. But before I can help my clients address their root issues and develop innovative solutions, I must stop and ask them several questions.

Here are three key questions I ask. I encourage you to consider them as well.

#1 – Do you have culture by design, or default?


Culture is the cornerstone of your talent strategy. Employees want much more than a job. They want to be part of something rewarding, engaging and purposeful. They want to contribute to a company in a meaningful way. As a result, culture has shifted from a “nice to have” to a “must have” for today’s successful companies.

This leaves CEOs with two jobs: First, build a strong corporate culture. Second, leverage a strong corporate culture.

#2 – What are your talent needs?


If you continue with the status quo and don’t innovate your talent strategy — likely treating your people as an afterthought and taking a tactical approach — you’ll struggle to get ahead.

To assess your needs and remove the talent discussion from the back burner, ask these more specific questions:

  • How many people will you need over the next few years, and in what positions?
  • What specific qualities are you looking for in those people, and how will you know when you find them?
  • Does your organizational structure support your talent strategies and, if not, what should it look like?
  • How effectively does your current candidate and leadership pipeline ensure you find and develop key talent?
  • Who has ultimate executive responsibility for your overall talent strategy? What internal/external resources do they need?

#3 – What are your gaps or blind spots?


Just as you gauge your capabilities and needs for things like equipment, suppliers, facilities and finances, you should consider whether you have the right talent on board and the right culture in place to meet your business objectives. In fact, there’s nothing more important.

A talent and culture gap analysis is a great way to see what you’re missing. This type of analysis reveals opportunities and deficiencies in terms of your people and culture. It identifies the competencies and skills you need for future growth and compares it to those of your current employees.

It is also the best way to get to the root causes of problems such as chronic open positions or high turnover. The symptoms of these problems are easy to see, but hard to diagnose; it’s not always clear why they’re happening. A gap analysis is the first step in discovering whether you have talent or culture issues that will sabotage your goals.

The three questions above are certainly a good start, but a more detailed assessment will get you even further. The information provided by an in-depth gap analysis serves as the foundation for your overall people strategy.


Read more on this topic and watch the webinar: How to Conduct a Talent and Culture Gap Analysis.

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