More about culture (1)

How are you doing? I mean this question and I care for your response. Have you taken time to ask yourself this question? Often, we are caught in our hamster’s wheel and do not even take time to evaluate how we are personally coping with everything.

There are many things we are struggling through that we believe we must. The truth is that life should not be a struggle on any level.

So, please take time this weekend to evaluate your present circumstances and get ready to tweak here, there and anywhere it needs to be tweaked.

We are going to continue today with organisational culture. In the past, the CEO would commission the HRM to produce an effective company culture. HR designs a campaign to tout a mission statement and core values that the CEO and senior management developed. HRM also implements some employee perks like free snacks in the break room or monthly birthday celebrations. Maybe they also field an annual employee engagement survey and report results back to the CEO. And then with their culture-building to-do lists completed, the CEO and HR move on to other priorities.

We know all about this as we talked about this last week.

This approach however no longer works for various reasons. Covid-19 has changed how leaders interact with employees and how colleagues connect with each other. The need to adapt quickly and remain flexible during the pandemic has also revealed the ineffectiveness of a top-down leadership approach.

Also, company culture has grown in importance, thanks to recent high-profile culture crises all over the place. There is now internationally an intensified push for DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion), and the continuing battle for talent. Culture has become a strategic priority with impact on the bottom line. It can’t just be delegated and compartmentalised any more.

A new culture-building approach is already in place at some organisations, one in which everyone in the organisation is responsible. Importantly, this model doesn’t relegate culture-building to an amorphous concept that everyone influences but no one leads or is accountable for.

Shared responsibility for culture throughout an organization involves different people and functions within the organization playing different roles in developing and maintaining the culture.

In this context, culture can be defined as the ways people in the organisation behave and the attitudes and beliefs that inform those behaviours (i.e., “the way we do things around here”) — including formal, stated norms as well as implicit ways people work and interact. Someone once described culture as being able to identify your workers even if they were in a pool workforce, in uniform with people from a different organisation.

At many organisations there is a gap between the existing culture and the “desired culture — the culture needed to support and advance the company’s goals and strategies. Is this the case in your organisation? Many CEOs complain that this is the case. In a new culture-building model, everyone is responsible for cultivating the desired culture.

This approach assigns different roles in defining and developing the culture. This happens through formal roles as well as informal spheres of influence and reflects how organisations operate these days. It also establishes clear accountabilities for results. While the actual implementation of this approach may vary based on the type, size, age, and structure of the organisation, the general distribution of responsibility is like this:

The board of directors guide the definition and development of the desired culture, ensuring that it aligns with business goals and meets the needs of all stakeholders.

The CEO and senior management team define the desired culture and cultivate it through leadership actions including setting objectives, strategies, and key results that prioritise culture-building. They also design the organization and its operational processes to support and advance the company’s purpose and core values.

Read also: How to lead in a multicultural organisation

The HRM design employee experiences that interpret and reinforce the desired culture. Also, implement strategies and programs that enable the rest of the organization to fulfil their culture responsibilities, such as offering training programs that develop leader capacity for culture-building and employee engagement.

Also developing culture guidebooks, processes such as performance management, and systems such as rewards and recognition programs that nurture the desired culture.

The Compliance, Risk and ethics team provide input to the CEO and senior management team on the definition of the desired culture from the perspective of ethics and risk. Also, ensuring that execution on the desired culture across the organisation aligns with the company’s risk management strategies through tools such as ethics decision trees, processes such as a whistle blower programme, and systems such as compliance monitoring that align with the desired culture.

Middle managers design employee experiences that interpret and reinforce the desired culture. While implementing culture-building strategies, cultivating employee engagement with the desired culture, and fulfilling the culture-building responsibilities of employees.

Employees provide input to the CEO and senior management team on the definition of the desired culture and culture-building programs and tactics by providing insights on how the desired culture aligns with or differs from the actual culture, customer perspectives, and employee needs and expectations. Employees should provide feedback on existing culture-building efforts and ideas for new ones.

Also, creating, adhering to, and enforcing routines and norms that interpret the desired culture; and aligning their attitudes and behaviour with the desired culture.

This article is adapted from a HBR article. The next part will go into more depth. We must get our organisational culture right this time. Have a restful weekend.