Culture cannot be deferred to the responsibility of HR. It has to be the responsibility of the entire Leadership Team. Like a brand, culture is a story constantly being told. It requires the executive team to lead and role model it, to ensure that managers and frontline leaders will personify it in their daily actions and decision making. Culture cannot be measured, but it can be observed. Culture will drive or limit the success of any team. Whilst strategy drives performance, culture guides performance.
Ten Cultural Attributes Critical to Organisational Alignment
Cultural alignment is key to organisational success. What follows are ten attributes which can be observed and experienced:
1. Communication Loops between Front End and Back End: The ability for staff to communicate effectively with all areas rest with their understanding and familiarity of what they do, how they measure success, how their role impacts business outcomes and customer experiences. The larger a business the more likely silos are created by putting in place KPIs, which are not connected to customer or organisational outcomes. Familiarity is the key to effective understanding of performance measures between teams. The communication glue will always be frontline leaders and their ability to socialise performance needs amongst colleagues in an easy and meaningful way.
2. Frontline Problem Solving: The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. How staff problem solve when issues arise reflects the team culture. The ability to see and act on issues (even outside their responsibility) will reveal if a team is empowered to work together. If the expectation is for staff to make good judgment day-in day-out it will be revealed in their actions, whether they dive in, need to seek permission or defer it. Problem solving should be one of the key requirements of any professional development or reward and recognition system.
3. Unity and Agility: In an increasingly competitive market, the need for unity and agility is not only a critical success factor, but in actual fact, a survival skill. Team unity galvanises an organisation, where as being agile to change and responsive to market trends helps future proof an organisation.
4. Responsibility and Autonomy: The permissions and guidelines staff have in their approved decision-making, and where they are focused will highlight the desired culture being led by managers and executives (is it centred around customer outcomes or internal compliance targets). Having simple guidelines and client protocols is crucial to empower decision making.
5. Work Environment: Like any home, a work environment needs to have the right welcoming context, and a warm and inviting feel. There is only one chance for a first impression. Context, comfort, and communication are important to promote a sense of pride and professionalism in any workplace. The tone and message sent to the outside world starts with the look and feel of the work environment. You only get one chance for a first impression.
6. Collaboration & Team Rituals: It is impossible to have a great team culture if the staff are not familiar and connected with each other. The propensity to collaborate, volunteer, assist or lend a hand starts with people knowing and understanding each other. Never underestimate the symbolic importance of team rituals to catch up, communicate and share knowledge. Start or end of week meetings, inviting colleagues to team meetings, informal social events, morning teas, ¼ catch ups, team drinks are mission critical to building team dynamics. There is no right or wrong, just the need to have a formula that works.
7. Professional Development Alignment: This is much more than training! Professional development must link with where the organisation is moving from and to. It should focus on the application of no more than 3 or 4 core competencies that will help facilitate, anchor and consolidate the strategic and cultural aspirations of the business. Any more just creates ‘alphabet soup’ training, with no real obvious return or cultural alignment application. Note: behavioural training is always the most effective when coaching culture. The focus has to be on application back at work.
8. Improvement Story Telling: Stories reveal the identity, character, and personality of staff members, teams and customer experiences. You just need to listen, ask, observe and learn. The stories of how frontline staff are acting to personify and apply the desired organisational culture or business strategy are crucial to allowing leaders to assess team culture. Asking staff to share what they have done to help improve organisational performance each month will help fuel a continuous improvement and a connection on how their actions impact their colleagues and customer outcomes.
9. Wellness Balance: This is much more than just OH&S. Wellness balance takes into account staff member safety, well-being, mental health, work-life priorities and home pressures. Everyone has a front yard (career – what is seen at work) and a backyard (personal life and needs), which everyone is trying to navigate through different life stages. An empathy and understanding of staff well-being is critical to having engaged and motivated employees. Everyone has emotional drivers and personal motivations in both their front and back yards. You cannot ignore either. Success at the expense of your family or health is a failure!
10. Mission & Value Alignment: It is crucial for staff to have the ability to act, behave and personify the mission, values, and strategy of the business, and apply it locally to their own role. They do not need to be able to recite verbatim the organisations mission and values. They do however need to be able to demonstrate how what they do links to the core purpose, direction, and values of the organisation. As Warren Buffet so simply puts it; ‘If you make a mistake I will be forgiving, but if you damage the brand I will be relentless!’
Culture will always precede performance and forms the epicentre of customer experiences and long-term growth strategies. The ultimate measure of any organisations culture is whether the upfront promise relates to the lived experience by staff and customers.
Do you have a GAS culture?
The best teams have “GAS” cultures… because staff actually Give A Sh*t!
Culture is not “soft & fuzzy” but the difference between success & failure!