By Melissa J. Anderson

According to Deloitte’s latest Core Values and Beliefs survey, executives tend to take a more rosy view than employees on the perception of their company’s culture and the effectiveness of methods to communicate that culture. Commissioned by the office of the chairman, the study polled 1,005 US residents and 303 corporate executives. The goal was to find out more about how workplace culture can be a business driver.

According to the study, 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a unique company culture is important to success.

Punit Renjen, chairman of the board, Deloitte LLP, emphasized the importance of corporate culture. “To be an exceptional organization in today’s business climate, organizations must articulate, invest in, and nurture workplace culture now more than ever. If properly supported, it will transcend any environmental shifts, and serve as the foundation for organizational sustainability and growth.”

But how important is culture for success? Executives and employees felt differently.

When asked which factors impact a company’s success, 76% of executives noted “a clearly defined business strategy,” followed by “clearly defined and communicated core values and beliefs,” at 62%. On the other hand, only 57% of employees cited “a clearly defined business strategy” and only 55% mentioned “clearly defined and communicated values and beliefs.”

One key area where executives and employees matched up was the importance of employee engagement. According to the report, 83% of executives and 84% of employees believed that an engaged and motivated workforce was the top factor for a company’s success.

Social Media

The study also asked executives and employees how they felt about the potential of social media to impact corporate culture and erase hierarchical communication boundaries. According to the study, 45% of executives said social media has a positive impact on corporate culture. On the other hand, only 27% of employees said the same.

Similarly, 41% of executives said social networking helps build and maintain workplace culture. On the other hand, only 21% of employees felt the same. Finally, 38% of executives said social media increases transparency of management, while only 17% said the same.

Renjen said, “Our research suggests executives are possibly using social media as a crutch in building workplace culture and appearing accessible to employees.”

He continued, “While business leaders should recognize how people communicate today, particularly Millennials, they must keep in mind the limits of these technologies. The norms for cultivating culture have not changed, and require managers to build trust through face-to-face meetings, live phone calls and personal messages.”

What Makes Culture Work

According to the study, executives and employees have different views of what creates workplace culture. Executives ranked tangible factors like “financial performance” (65%) and “compensation” (62%) near the top. Deloitte says employees ranked those factors lowest.

Employees, in fact, ranked intangible factors like “regular and candid communications” (50%), “employee recognition” (49%), and “access to management/leadership” (47%) the highest.

There seems to be a disconnect between how executives and employees view culture. It could be that there is a breakdown in how an executive’s vision is being carried out when it comes to motivation and social networking. It could also be that someone who becomes an executive has generally different motivators than someone who does not. Additionally, there may be generational factors to contend with as well. But it’s clear that the experience of workplace culture is very different for some executives and employees.

Renjen explains, “Leaders who understand the importance of the intangible elements contributing to workplace culture become sensitive to what makes their organization truly special. That is how they define core values and beliefs that are unique, simple, leader-led, repetitive and embedded – transforming themselves from good to exceptional.”

By getting a clear understanding of the intangible factors that influence how their employees work and are motivated day-to-day, executives can make the leap from senior manager to leader.