It seems everything we read at the moment is talking about the global pandemic, technology changes, disruption, innovation and “pivoting” strategy.

In the pandemic, gin companies have shifted to making sanitiser and restaurants have moved to a takeaway product offering. But even before recent crises, there have been major shifts to disruptive technologies and business models going on for years.

In the past, you needed significant property assets to compete in the hotel business, but Airbnb has disrupted that sector without owning any property. Uber now undercuts decades old taxi companies without owning any vehicles. Netflix used online content to overtake the local Blockbuster store. Film camera company Kodak was overtaken by digital photography and consumers taking images on their phones instead of buying cameras.

All over the world, board members and CEOs are continually looking for the next competitive advantage only to discover that disruptive trends like this have changed the rules and challenged established business models.

In observing these disruptions and innovations, I’ve reached the conclusion that the best and perhaps only sustainable competitive differentiator today is a good organisational health and culture.

The tone for a healthy organisation and positive workplace culture is set at the top with the most senior leaders, flows through to frontline staff and is recognised by customers and partners.

For example, I know a builder who did some work for a NFP a few years ago and ended up completing two different projects about a year apart. A new CEO had started just when the builder did the first project. The new CEO led a number of changes to refresh the values and improve the culture. When the builder returned to complete the second project, he noticed and observed the positive and tangible difference in the staff culture.

Within the not for profit or “for purpose” sector, you would think that organisations would understand this and already be positioned to build their competitive advantage around their purpose, but sadly this kind of competitive advantage is not as common as you would hope.

When you build a healthy organisation, staff are more engaged and aligned with the Purpose of the organisation. They are more proactive in the workplace and take initiative to resolve minor issues before they become major ones.

In a healthy organisation, customers want to engage with you long term because of the positive experiences they have with your staff.

In these organisations, the Board, CEO and senior leaders set the tone from the top in how they behave – with respect, integrity and vision. This further embeds respect and trust within the staff, as leaders listen, and also don’t tolerate poor behaviour.

Today’s VUCA world (stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) means that no one person at the top of a company knows all the answers. Instead, leaders need to create a culture where ideas flourish -and staff feel valued and listened to, knowing that they can share their ideas about how to build a better organisation.

The right organisational culture helps shape the way ideas are generated and decisions are made around the management team and board tables.

Ensuring a positive, values-aligned culture depends on making sure recruitment is values based. As one of our disability services clients recently said, “we hire people who have skills and heart”. Just having the skills won’t get you in the door.

Healthy organisations deal with any workplace toxicity and remove those risks from the business. Performance management systems look at behaviours and living out the values rather than focus just on technical aspects of the job.

Healthy organisations have a positive workplace culture where the staff understand the Purpose and Values of the organisation and live those out day to day in their interactions with clients.

What steps can you take today to build a more healthy organisation, and embed this as a competitive advantage in delivering your services to your community?

CBB has a number of advisors with experience in human resources, leadership and governance. For an obligation free consultation, please contact us.