insight magazine

Today's CPA

Culture: will you drive it or will it drive you?

I want to talk about culture. Not how you hold a teacup, but how you shape the environment that exists in your workplace.
Todd Shapiro ICPAS President & CEO


I want to talk about culture. Not how you hold a teacup, but how you shape the environment that exists in your workplace. Over the past year, we’ve discussed many factors impacting our organizations: an aging workforce, multiple generations, work-life balance, work anytime-anywhere, and unlimited PTO. These things, among others, greatly impact the cultures within our workplaces. So, what kind of culture do you want to create?

First off, can you define your organization’s culture? If you can, is it siloed or collaborative, team oriented or individual focused? Does it value diversity of gender, race, and ethnicity? Does it encourage professional advancement and emphasize work-life balance?

Culture can have a huge impact on one’s organization. It impacts staff recruitment and retention, and innovation and implementation of new business development. Culture can literally drive the success or failure of your business. Which means it’s critical that everyone understands the culture in your organization.

A collaborative culture, for instance, doesn’t just happen—you need to foster it. You’ll need to encourage staff to work together. If you have a work anytime-anywhere or sporadic work-at-home program, it’s critical to also have technology tools that still enable collaboration.

While you may value gender, race, and ethnic diversity, does your culture reinforce that? Women are significantly underrepresented in the partner ranks of firms and the offices of CEOs and CFOs. We excuse that by saying that women choose not to pursue the leadership track in order to have a family. Maybe that’s true if your organization requires executives to work endless nights and weekends; however, if we truly value gender diversity, no woman should ever feel that she must make that choice. On the other side, why should men feel that they must choose not to be part of raising the family if they want to progress into leadership?

If you value work-life balance, does your culture support it? If staff, especially young staff, leave early for a personal function or to coach their child’s sports team, do the older partners or directors comment on their commitment? You may think that no one knows what you say, but they do, and it impacts the culture. If you truly value work-life balance in your workplace, all need to embrace and support it. If you are in a leadership position at a firm or company, do you know what the culture of your organization is, and is it the culture you want it to be? Do your employees understand the kind of culture you want the organization to have?

Many studies show that collaborative, diverse environments drive better business results: greater innovation, higher revenues, and increased profits. Still, it can be argued that there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to the culture of an organization. So, I’ll ask you this: Are you truly fostering the culture you want? And in the end, will you drive it or will it drive you?