Why does organisation culture matter, and what do we even mean by it? Whether you have thought about it or not, by default you will have a culture already. Whether it is the kind of culture you would choose or want is another matter. It will be defined by the way people behave, feel and think and the way they interact with one another, their stakeholders and beneficiaries.
The question is how can you change and influence your culture and take charge of what you need and want it to be? The problem with culture is that it is difficult to define: you know it’s there, but it’s impos-sible to grasp. How do you come to an agreement on those shared attitudes and practices? And even if you do, how do you get all your staff to adopt and act upon them?
The reality is that you cannot get everyone to behave in exactly the way you want; nobody ever did and in any case, you are not a dictatorship! There are also many external economic, social, political pressures and changes influencing organisation culture over which you will have little or no control.
Leaders however do have an important role in influencing the culture of their organisation in several ways and thereby impacting the quality of the workplace itself and its desired outcomes. Whether you are a CEO, a manager or supervisor, there are steps you can take:
Share your vision, values and behaviours
Specifically what are the most critical behaviours that will characterise the culture you want to create? Involve staff in identifying and describe these behaviours to reflect your vision and mission in an inspiring way. Give the vision meaning in policies and practices of the organisation.
Endeavour to be the change you want to see. Like it or not, you are a role model. Your teams and organisation will look to you to take the lead. If you want people to change their habits, the leader needs to be willing to do so as well.
Clarify boundaries and expectations
Ensure everyone is clear about their role and what is expected of them – clarify standards as well as goals and ensure clear accountability. Communicate regularly with each employee about how the organisation’s purpose connects to their specific role in the organisation.
Give development opportunities and support
Most people want to do the best they can and develop their skills and experience. Encourage managers to delegate and provide opportunities for growth and development with coaching and training where possible.
Ensure clear accountability
Clearly defined deliverables, which are reviewed regularly and part of the performance management plan help people understand that they are accountable in all things they do and are clear about what success looks like.
Give encouragement and a sense of worth
People will perform well if they feel good about themselves. Praise and acknowledgement for who they are and what they do is vital to build a sense of trust and achievement and self-esteem for individuals.
Make people feel they belong to a winning team
Involve managers and staff in reviewing and constantly raising standards. Reward and celebrate success. Most important, give hope, encouragement and a way forward when things don’t always go according to plan.
These are just some of the actions leaders can take and for consistency across the organisation, it is important to train and bring managers together to create an impetus for culture change and aspirational goals.
Looking at ways of measuring employee engagement may also be beneficial and HR input on changing demographics an important consideration. You may establish a process where you regularly evaluate your organisation’s culture, and then work to determine what steps you can take to maximise your culture’s impact on the bottom line.
Finally, changing global markets and generational shifts mean that realising the benefits of diversity in all its various forms is becoming increasingly important. Managing diversity may have its challenges but the rewards have been proven in terms of creativity and innovation. The leader’s role in embracing diversity will also have a major impact for the culture of the organisation.