October 5th 2023
By: Nicolas Roy

Leadership and Organizational Culture: an Inseparable Duo

Have you ever taken the time to reflect on the influence of your managers in your organization? I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about their contribution to organizational culture. It’s important to understand that when we talk about organizational culture, we’re primarily talking about how people within an organization behave, how they interact, and how attitudes, established norms and beliefs influence these behaviours. In other words, how things are done within the organization. I’m sure you’ll agree that managers have an important role to play here.

So I thought I’d tell you about it, taking into account an intervention we carried out with a fine private-sector company.


This fast-growing manufacturing company was acquired by a new group of shareholders with a different vision from the previous shareholders. The company is known for offering attractive total compensation (salaries + benefits) and state-of-the-art workspaces with several relaxation areas for workers. All in all, a context that favours the company in question.

Initial Symptoms

  • Turnover is high (nearly 36%).
  • Loss of corporate memory due to numerous departures.
  • High absenteeism rate (8%).
  • Significant disengagement of the workforce.

The Solution

Support on several fronts for the organization, but particularly in understanding the situation by administering an employee survey, holding 4 focus groups and drafting a year-long action plan. Training and coaching for managers, with an individual approach, a group approach and the use of an e-learning solution (in autonomous mode) focused on the manager’s role, leadership and emotional and situational intelligence.

The Results

  • Turnover rate greatly reduced (less than 13%).
  • Increased sharing of corporate memory/coach-mentor posture.
  • Low absenteeism rate (close to 4%).
  • Renewed commitment with a rate of almost 52%.

From the outset, it’s not uncommon for organizations to want to act directly on the symptoms, rather than taking the time to analyze the causes. In this customer’s case, they put a lot of effort into attracting new talent, which they succeeded in doing, but unfortunately, they were unable to retain and mobilize them. They were quick to leave their new jobs, and the team had to keep recruiting to replace them.

Taking a Step Back

In a case like this, the first piece of advice is to take the time to understand what’s going on. There are many ways of obtaining information about the situation: surveys, interviews, focus groups, and other data recorded in the human resources management system. The important thing is to be able to make a clear diagnosis of the situation, and not just focus on the symptoms. In this case, the main issue for this organization was not turnover, loss of corporate memory, disengagement, let alone absenteeism. In fact, after collecting and analyzing the data, the impact of managers on employees was rather mixed.

Clearly Defined Findings

As part of the exercise, six (6) factors were identified as being at the root of the symptoms previously identified:

  1. Micromanagement: employees felt stifled and devalued in their roles, as there was no room for creativity, initiative and decision-making.
  2. Limited communication: a lack or absence of communication with expectations and objectives.
  3. Lack of recognition: little thanks or acknowledgement of employees’ work and efforts.
  4. Lack of active listening: managers didn’t pay much attention to their employees’ ideas and concerns.
  5. Constantly changing priorities: priorities kept changing without clear explanation.
  6. The sometimes-negative attitude: some managers were regularly unpleasant and didn’t set a good example.

The correlations between these six (6) factors and the symptoms observed in this customer were quite strong. It was therefore only natural to work on the culture by first addressing the epicentre of the situation: the managers.

The Impact of Managers on Organizational Culture

Numerous data and statistics support the importance of properly equipping and training managers to ensure a healthy, vibrant organizational culture. According to a Gallup study, there is a considerable 70% difference in the quality of culture between companies with underperforming managers and those with excellent managers. In reality, managers are the true catalysts of organizational culture. Without them and their input, a company may have the best compensation and benefits package, state-of-the-art equipment and premises, but it won’t be able to mobilize and retain its employees.

So, the outcome was pretty clear. The company needed to invest in the development of its managers to take them to the next level, but above all, to make them aware of their impact on their people. Unfortunately, this is all too often the case: awareness is lacking. Managers don’t always understand that their actions and behaviours can have a significant impact on the employee experience. In the case of this company, they had the will to improve the situation, and as new shareholders, the timing was perfect. They took the steps to make it happen, and their results after 1 year were exemplary.

Let’s Remember…

Organizational culture is the way people within an organization behave, and interact, and how attitudes, established norms and beliefs influence these behaviours. In other words, how things are done within the organization. Managers have a big role to play, and it should never be underestimated. There’s a lot of talk about the importance of storytelling in creating organizational culture, but I’d like to tell you that story experiencing has an even more obvious impact, because it precedes the story that will be told … and the manager is often the main actor! Owner/CEO: invest in your managers. Managers/team leaders/supervisors: be aware of the impact you have on your workforce. And there you have it! Good thinking!

Are you in a similar situation?
We can help!

Nicolas Roy, CRHA, ADM.A., M.SC.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at EPSI