Company culture is a topic of increasing interest since the pandemic. Companies are keen to highlight their values; some adorn office walls for all to see. But while they are talking the talk, are they walking the walk?
While employees are told to live and breathe a culture, sometimes they just can’t see it to believe it.
Culture has also become a source of competitive advantage. A company’s ability to hold on to its existing workforce or attract new talent — especially in competitive markets — has a big impact on its ability to operate effectively without the disruptions caused by employee turnover and the resultant knowledge drain and skills gaps.
Employee Bargaining Power
Demand for talent is consistently outstripping supply – it’s an employee’s market. It has led to severe labour shortages in some sectors as seismic contractions caused by lockdown have been followed by great booms as industries rebounded, in some cases even stronger than before.
It increases the power to negotiate terms with employees, who, following a long period of pandemic-induced self-reflection, are much more in tune with what they want and are prepared to fight for it. Gen-Z in particular is looking for organisations with purpose. They’re looking for organisations that do put their money where their cultural mouth is and if they find that businesses aren’t living up to their promises, they are happy to move on to another opportunity that might offer more of a balance.
But company culture means more than just what goes on in the boardrooms and offices of a business. It’s how people interact with each other, from senior executives to those who have recently joined the company. With such a breadth of influence, the human resources department plays a unique role in how company culture operates both directly and indirectly.
Their interaction with candidates sets a bar that other discussions, behaviours and interactions can be measured by. HR’s implementation of processes, rules and regulations helps to steer employees to behave or act in a certain way.
Here are five ways your People Professionals can embed a company culture:
The process of embedding values starts at the recruitment stage. Of course, businesses will use a strong cultural message to attract candidates, but when recruiting it is important that the values of the business are aligned to those of your new and existing workforce. Including values-based questions in the interview stage, allows the hiring manager to test out candidates’ values to see whether there are some synergies. It also helps the candidates to understand whether your business is the right organisation for them.
Integrate Core Values into your Performance Management process
Defining a company’s core values is important, but it’s actually only the first step. The greater challenge is how to integrate these into the day-to-day life of your business. Core values provide a motivation to make a difference but also set a standard by which employees’ performance and behaviour are judged. It’s important not to just focus on outcomes people achieve but the way in which they do it and the values that they demonstrate whilst doing it because there’s no point having a project manager who gets a new system over the line, but actually has done it whilst burning out everybody that ever worked in this project team.
Celebrating values and behaviours
Shouting about examples of people, particularly those in senior positions, living and demonstrating the values and behaviours your organisation wants to embody is a great way of demonstrating that they manifest throughout the organisation. Establish mechanisms for colleagues to champion good behaviour with awards or celebrations that recognise specific company values on a regular basis. This will enable your People team to keep your values front of mind. On the flip side, employees should have permission to call out those same leaders and hold them to account, publically, by staff for not modelling or demonstrating the values they are keen to espouse.
Cascade your values
A lot of businesses will cite the words collaboration and innovation as two of their values. But these words may mean very different things to different organisations. Being able to work with people across an organisation is important, as is being able to innovate but these terms, without clear definition can be meaningless. And, in order to really embed these values across an organisation, they shouldn’t just come from the HRBP or HRD within the leadership team, who tell the workforce what the values are and why they think they are important. It needs to be a far more consultative process.
Consult your workforce
If you want a workforce to buy into a set of values, they have to feel that they have some ownership of them. Having a set of clearly defined values that the workforce buys into is the foundation of a truly engaged organisation. Begin a process of consultation and engagement to actually define what those values are in the first place because this will lead to a more successful embodiment of them.
How an HR apprenticeship can support company culture
Company culture, inclusive workplaces and values are a key focus for the HR Apprenticeships delivered by City Skills. Apprentices are encouraged to explore their own company values and learn how to employ certain mechanisms to bring employees into the process, and how to communicate and engage with them. They learn the values of certain activities and how to implement them successfully to embed culture within a workplace.
The apprenticeship also encourages group participation and discussion, which provides a safe environment to discuss some of these complex situations and learn from the best practice of others. This method offers insights into something many will have had little exposure to before.
Successful completion of the apprenticeship validates that a level of embedded learning has been achieved. This means somebody in an HR position will be more competent and able, with the necessary knowledge and skills to have a larger impact on developing a company culture than those that are new to this area of HR.
Culture is an overriding principle that supersedes a hybrid working model, a pay structure and recruitment methods. Organisations looking to attract new talent or stem the tide of the ‘Great Resignation’ therefore shouldn’t rely on flexible working options alone. Workers don’t usually leave for just one reason, so more money, the opportunity to work from home, more flexible working hours and even four-day weeks, won’t necessarily be enough to keep employees on board if there are other deep-rooted failures within the organisation.
Embedding culture in any business is a challenge, particularly if owners and senior leaders aren’t engaged in the process, but HR is key to the manifestation of values and culture throughout an organisation. You have to work at it, you can’t just advertise them on the walls.