The HR leader and Libby Sartain have reported that CEO’s now rank HR as one of the functions that adds the most value to their organisation. CEO’s commented that people issues, such as finding and keeping the right talent and building a high-performance culture, are at the top of the corporate strategic agenda as keys to sustainable competitive advantage. By focusing on HR you can easily add value to any organisation.
Where HR can add the most value
Start the culture conversation at all levels. One way to accomplish this is to conduct a cultural assessment or audit of your organisation through employee surveys, focus groups or interviews. Review your organisational history, leadership styles, HR programming and industry practices to determine what currently drives and reinforces the culture. Finally, what is your customer experience? What cultural elements are obvious to customers? Is culture aligned with business strategy? Where are the disconnects? What needs to change? This can be the basis for healthy discussion at team meetings and employee chat sessions.
Develop a business case for cultural change. Why is the change needed? How will desired changes in culture support the business strategy?
Work with the senior leadership team to determine the desired culture. Core values, desired behaviours and shared vision are essential for a positive culture change effort to succeed. Every leader must embrace the need to change, or it won’t happen. Senior leaders must make new behaviours their way of life to reinforce desired change.
Develop an agenda or action plan for enhancing the culture or bringing about change. Start with the highest priorities and work on the toughest issues. For your culture to become self replicating, the way things are done will have to reinforce the core values and the culture.
Communicate what needs to change and why. Solicit input from people. Once the needed changes and process for change is defined, tell people what is expected. What are the rewards for changing, and the consequences for more of the same.
Change the organisational structure to enable change. Find new ways to accomplish work tasks. Use teams for one-time projects. Broaden roles and responsibilities.
Acquire talent based on cultural fit. Identify the characteristics of people who exhibit those behaviours that you’ve identified as desirable. The people who fit and thrive in your culture will perpetuate that culture in everything they do. If you have to choose between the candidate who has better skills or knowledge but doesn’t fit, and a candidate who is slightly less qualified but fits culturally, choose the slightly less qualified person and provide the necessary training or on-the-job experience. Get rid of those who don’t fit in the culture.
Redesign your on-boarding process. Make sure that every new hire knows what it will take to fit in, and understands the cultural imperatives. Talk about the ways of working that lead to success and those that will derail careers. Create legendary stories of successes and failures.
Create cultural messages. Be sure that every meeting, every training program, every communication to people includes cultural messaging and reinforces the values, mission, traditions and practices.
Involve everyone. Southwest Airlines has a culture committee, but there are many ways to get people involved. Try focus groups around topics. Form cross functional teams. Call random groups of employees together for monthly breakfast or lunch meetings. Engage the help and support of a group of passionate, committed people to identify cultural disconnects and recommend remedies.
Build an internal brand that supports the external brand. Make a promise to deliver a consistent employee experience. Be sure that your employees know the differentiating elements in their experience in the organisation that will enhance their work lives and careers. Begin to create an employer of choice reputation internally and externally.
Recognise and reward results. Your recognition and rewards should support the culture that you are working to reinforce.
Cultivate leaders who promote your culture. Develop excellent leaders who will propel the culture down the ranks. Identify high potential leaders and promote them. Invest in leadership development programs. Be sure content reinforces cultural messages. Keep the good ones, and get rid of those who are unable to pass the culture on.
Make it interesting and fun. Create contests, activities that enhance the culture. Decorate the office in inspiring ways. Celebrations and events can reinforce the message.
Use HR tools. Something as mundane as the annual benefits enrolment can be a source of key cultural messages. Every training class should reinforce the basic behaviours and values that reinforce the culture. Performance review forms should measure cultural fit, as well as, job performance.
No one should be locked out of the efforts to build a high-performance culture. Culture has to become the DNA that forms the building blocks over everything else. So the entire organisation must have a role in keeping it alive. Work with corporate communications, advertising, and marketing to capture the culture messages and tout these internally and externally. Let product management see that new product development manifests the cultural values in the way it responds to the marketplace demand for quality and service. Work with your legal department to demonstrate the company culture by developing ethical standards and a code of conduct that is not just in compliance but also the right thing to do.
And remember that no, one department can force corporate culture on to the rest of the company. You must achieve buy-in from everyone, from the CEO all the way down. This way you play it safe and also to win!