By Ben Egan, Senior Communications Manager at leading HR consultancy ETS
Organisational culture can seem so intangible, so difficult to define and yet it is so fundamentally important. It has a bearing on pretty well everything at work from the employee experience and staff retention to customer service and performance.
So, your company culture is something you can ill afford to ignore. And, as a leader or HR function, the onus is on you be tuned into the prevailing culture, to really understand it in order to ensure you are promoting one that fits, and is fit for, your business.
The workplace continues to change at great pace. Factors including technology advances, politics and employees themselves are drastically re-shaping work as we know it. And, without the right culture in place, companies can pretty quickly be left behind. Modern workplaces must have an outward-looking, future-focused and ethical approach to doing business and an open and flat structure. Employees today are demanding this.
Naturally the prevailing company culture will have a strong influence here, along with established values and working practices. But with something as intangible as your culture, where exactly should you start when trying to establish where you currently are and, if necessary, plan any tweaks to drive cultural change?
To get a clearer picture of where your culture is currently, run through the following questions with a cross-section of employees or managers as a group exercise…
- In our industry, what does the future look like and what are the emerging trends? Are we confident that we’re well placed to cater to these possible changes and keep pace?
- Does our business currently have the expertise and capability needed to do this? Also, is our strategy future-focused?
- Who are the industry leaders in our field and how far away from them are we right now?
- How quickly and how much is our industry changing?
- What is the impact to our business of failing to change quickly enough?
- What are three most important things we need to do (or change) to get there?
We’re making a list…
If you’ve already concluded that your organisation’s culture is not where it needs to be, there are likely a number of things for you to consider next in terms of actions. Clearly you’ll have to prioritise but here’s a handy checklist to keep in mind.
Set out your medium-to-long-term strategy. With longer-term planning you naturally need a degree of flexibility to allow it to stand up to other changes outside of your control.
Outline the culture you need. What are the big changes needed to meet any evolving customer demands? When you spot a change, what is your internal process for responding (do you even have one)?
Identify what are your biggest cultural gaps. Some of these might be behaviours or capabilities that you can develop in your current people. Others might call for hiring in of new people, particularly in specialist roles.
Work out how you’ll measure your culture. One of the most common ways companies measure this is as part of a wider employee engagement survey but you might instead/also consider a dedicated culture or leadership survey that hones in specifically on these areas in greater detail. Doing this will prompt your leaders to regularly contemplate:
- Are we thinking ahead enough?
- Are we setting the right culture? One that allows us to think ahead.
- Is our culture enabling and supporting (or inhibiting) our strategy?
- What is holding us back as an organisation?
- Are our future leaders engaged and on-board with the future business direction?
- Are our high performers intending to stay? If not why aren’t they?