Organisational culture… possibly the most important part of any organisation. Yet so often it is overlooked, ignored, misunderstood, or undervalued. The problem is your culture is not a physical thing. There is no standard operating procedure of “best practice” culture. But that does not make it invisible, the culture of a business lives and breathes in attitudes and values.
At Nine Feet Tall we say a company’s culture is critical for ensuring you have an engaged and high performing workforce. A healthy culture is also essential for an organisation’s brand identity and its customer appeal. This year Brewdog suffered sales losses of £7.4million, which was partly caused by revelations about a “toxic” organisational culture. Culture is visible in the way people behave and treat each other – and the outside perception of your organisation is very often linked to its culture. Therefore, getting it right is essential for your customers and for attracting new people to join your organisation.
Why is everyone talking about culture?
Your culture should be the fabric of your organisation and reflect what you value. Concepts like trust, honesty and integrity are associated with a healthy culture. International beverage and food brand Suntory recently renamed their Human Resources Department as “People and Culture.” A change that might not immediately affect their sales, but one which is symbolic of the shift towards no longer seeing humans as resource but seeing them as people.
Culture is at the forefront of board discussions now as the pandemic has highlighted the importance of trust and healthy workplace cultures. These encourage collaboration, knowledge sharing, creative ideas and allow for mistakes to be owned and forgiven.
What are the signs your organisational culture needs an overhaul?
- Hybrid working isn’t working
Hybrid working seemed like the logical solution, giving people the flexibility to both work remotely and in the office. According to ONS 85% of workers wanted to use a “hybrid” approach on their return to work. Surely this is the best of both worlds… Yet few organisations have cracked the perfect balance. Some have taken the approach of dictating when people must be in the office (which limits flexibility) and others have found those working remotely are missing out on conversations happening outside of online meetings. Some have already jumped to office refurbs or changes in lease agreements. But quickly adopting a hybrid approach to where people work without addressing working culture will not set you up for success. Our previous blog explores the challenges of making hybrid work.
2. Decisions are made by the few for the many
What opportunities do people have in your organisation to input into important decisions? If you have a central group of leaders who decide everything you are missing out on diversity of thought. According to Forbes: “Decentralization, if handled correctly, can be powerful. The key is to empower employees to establish autonomy when making business decisions.” You pay everybody, so empower them all to input. Even the quietest people have something to say, so your culture needs to allow for all voices to be heard. Without wider input, your direction will be narrow and eventually grow stale. If you are falling behind competitors or not attracting the best talent, maybe it’s time to address your structure and consider a flatter hierarchy.
3. Nobody is talking about wellbeing
Issues around mental health are being recognised and acknowledged and it is widely accepted that employers have a role to play in the wellbeing of their teams. This is no longer a nod to Health & Safety, but an understanding that you will get more from people who are cared for and looked after. This includes physical wellbeing, social wellbeing, emotional wellbeing, mental wellbeing and financial wellbeing. If we want a healthier workplace, wellbeing needs to be at the forefront of organisational culture. A good starting point is to use data to gauge attitudes to wellbeing and highlight areas which need addressing.
4. Your culture doesn’t “fit” everybody
How often do we hear about potential recruits needing to be a good “fit” for the organisation? If you find that your organisational culture is a barrier for some people, then you should be addressing how inclusive your organisation is. This week, MP Stella Creasey was told the “rules” prevented her from bringing her baby to the House of Commons, yet MPs find it difficult to find funding for adequate maternity cover. Organisational “rules” which mean some people are excluded from fulfilling their roles need to be addressed as part of a cultural overhaul. Issues of discrimination are unacceptable and have no place in organisations wanting a healthy culture.
5. Developing skills isn’t a priority
Benajmin Franklin once said “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” Your organisational culture should embrace continuous learning and encourage a healthy appetite for development. Your industry will evolve, and new skills will be needed so it is important there are the right training opportunities available – with adequate time and budget provided to access them.
Sometimes it is hard to put your finger on exactly what needs addressing, but if there is a mismatch between your strategy and your organisational culture you will know instinctively that there is something wrong. Nine Feet Tall have over 17 years of experience in addressing cultural change and getting to the heart of issues in organisational culture. For more information contact TiggyR@NineFeetTall.com