The world of organisational culture has changed in the last 10 years. It doesn’t matter if you are a manufacturer, financial services provider, a FTSE 100 or a SME, this is what you need to know about culture today, that still seems to be misunderstood.
1. Your values are not your culture
Your values form part of the building blocks of your culture, along with your purpose and vision or equivalent but they are not the culture itself. The process of setting them does not mean that you have a great culture.
It is an often heard comment that your values on the wall do not make great culture and it is so true. Culture needs to be lived, it is seen, heard and felt throughout the business, through your customers, your employees as well as your partners and suppliers.
So, what exactly is it?
- It is the beliefs, mindset and attitude that your employees turn up to work with every day
- It is the leadership style leaders and management capability that’s displayed
- It is the customer experience you deliver
- It is how your people communicate and collaborate
- It is how manageable your employees workload is and how effective the tools are they use
- It is how you treat your partners & suppliers
- It is how much of an effort you make to be diverse and inclusive
- It is your appetite for risk and or innovation
- It is how all your processes, policies and systems support what you say you want to achieve
It’s a long but not exhaustive list of what your culture is made up of and a reminder of how many facets of the organisation you need to really embed those values into.
2. Culture Change Needs to be Embedded Not Just Communicated
Firstly, if you want to design a new culture or change/enhance an existing culture whether it’s at organisational, regional, divisional or even team level, you need to do it with intentionality – there needs to be a concerted effort AND a structured approach to it.
The good news is that with all the technology, tools, data and experience that we have at our disposal these days culture change can now happen quite rapidly and in a fairly agile way but still it requires an organised approach rather a once-off intervention.
A 3-stage approach is a good starting point:
Stage 1: Understand the current culture – listen to your stakeholders and understand what their views and concerns are. Listen to your people and find out what really happens in the day to day happenings of the organisation. What’s enabling performance and results and what’s holding it back or could hamper the strategy or current transformation project?
You also need to understand what the case for change is. If there isn’t a compelling case for change then you need to create a very desirable and compelling future state.
At this point it’s also useful to explore how equipped your leadership team are to drive and lead any culture change.
Stage 2: Design the future culture required to fulfil the aims and ambitions, whether that be the purpose/mission and vision. What are the values, behaviours and mindset shift required to drive the new culture forward?
For larger companies, this might not be just at the top of the organisation- it might be what does this division want to do differently to standout or outperform from the rest. What’s the right culture to mobilise the people on your strategy? Make it personal to you. It’s not one size fits all.
Stage 3: Embed the culture. Build a roadmap and engagement plan to embed the desired culture and make it stick. This is the piece that most organisations don’t do well. Culture needs to be fully embedded across the entire business and not just into HR policies but also into processes, systems and structure that guide the organisation.
3. A Culture of Innovation is your only Choice
If you’re not innovating, you’re sliding backwards. There’s no such thing as sitting tight and waiting to see.
There is lots of innovation going on today but mostly it’s happening in pockets of organisations, in a lab or hub in a different building somewhere. Innovation needs to be embedded as a way of life where people have changed the way they think and work, with everyone contributing in some way to the innovation ecosystem.
In our book, Building A Culture of Innovation, we talk about the attributes of a Next Generation Organisation as Intelligence, Collaboration and Adaptability.
- Intelligence is about getting meaningful insight so that you know what problems, opportunities or ideas will best serve you and your customers.
- Collaboration is about truly leveraging skills, knowledge and experience of not only your own employees but also your partners, suppliers and customers.
- Adaptability is about speed and agility to move. We’re still seeing businesses take too long to get a new proposition to market. And employees taking too long to adopt new ways of working.
Making these 3 things a way of life requires changing the mindset, behaviours and skills of your people.
4. Your Future Culture needs to be Human, Business and Technology Focussed.
Let’s start by saying that the future of work is definitely human. Even if we think that 40% of today’s jobs will be automated and the near future sees us fully working alongside robots. There will obviously still be jobs for people. The likely scenario though is that there will be an even greater skills gap and the war for talent even tougher.
This means that creating a culture which will attract and retain the best talent needs to be a priority.
Employers will have to factor in the overall wellbeing of their people (physical, mental, financial and social)
Employee experience will need to be inclusive and welcoming to people from all backgrounds and be able to appeal to the needs and wants of all generations of workers.
The rapid pace of change will mean that you will constantly need to be upskilling and creating a learning culture.
Given the pace of technological change no single technology solution is going to define your culture but you will need to provide work tools which enable people to work the way they want to. Flexibly, collaboratively, differently. You will also need to provide the tools that continually measure your culture and its impact so that you can react immediately to issues that arise. Or even with AI in culture tools, you should be able to react before the issue!
It’s obvious that you need to focus on the business aspect but don’t lose sight of your strategy! We’ve seen too many people and tech initiatives fail because they weren’t connected to the overarching strategy of the business. Define your strategy then decide what culture and tech you need to support it.
5. Equip your people to lead the culture of the future
Many of the skills that will be needed for the future will need to be learnt. Equipping people at all levels with the right skills for the future will be key for success.
Leaders: There’s always quite a bit of focus on leaders but not necessarily on the right things. Ensure they are equipped with future- focussed leadership skills such as resilience and adaptability and being an excellent communicator with strong empathy and an inclusive mindset.
Managers: Rather unhelpfully referred to as the permafrost- these people need to not only be taught how to be effective people managers, time managers and project managers, they need to be given the resources to manage their own careers and the time for their own ongoing learning.
Front-line staff– rather than herding ‘staff’ through culture change- you need to think about the individual scenarios that are going to appeal to and benefit people. The modern workplace is very diverse and its people have various needs and wants- don’t make too many assumptions that put people in buckets such as Gen Y or Mothers or LGBT- take the time to find out what they really want.