HR Guide to Company Culture: 5 Tangible Leverage Points

HR Guide to Company Culture: 5 Tangible Leverage Points
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An HR Guide to Company Culture and Your Organizational DNA
When it comes to people and organizational dynamics, the concept of company culture can seem nebulous and less vital when compared company strategies, systems, people, or finances.  The truth is that different companies do things and present themselves differently.  That difference matters — to the people and to the business.

Company culture and the inevitable subcultures that develop are the organizational DNA that — intentionally or unintentionally — guide every behavior and decision.  In fact, our organizational alignment research found that culture accounts for almost half of the difference between high and low performing companies in terms of:

  • Revenue growth
  • Profitability
  • Leadership effectiveness
  • Customer loyalty
  • Employee engagement

Strategies must go through culture to be successfully implemented.  Without a healthy, high performing, and aligned corporate culture, people and companies struggle to thrive.  Based upon this research, clients asked us to develop a high level HR Guide to company culture to be used as a starting point to culture change.

Understanding Company Culture
While there are as many corporate cultures as there are organizations, we define workplace culture as how work gets done on a day-to-day basis.  A company’s culture comprises the shared beliefs, underlying assumptions, values, and norms that directly shape behaviors and decision-making. A company’s culture defines its identity and drives organizational behaviors.  And, in general, your culture is either aligned with (helping) or misaligned with (hurting) your business and people strategies.

The Role of HR in Cultivating Company Culture
While we believe that company culture is everyone’s responsibility (especially leaders and high performers), the HR function has high potential to impact culture because HR can influence every touchpoint of the employee experience. From recruitment and onboarding to leadership, performance management, and learning and development, HR business practices serve as mediums through which culture permeates the organization.

HR Guide to Company Culture: 5 Tangible Leverage Points
To make an impact, HR practitioners must orchestrate purposeful interventions in at least five areas.

  1. Recruiting: Assessing Cultural Fit
    Hiring is the gateway through which individuals first become members of an organizational culture. Beyond assessing technical prowess, HR must help interviewers to discern the candidates’ cultural fit. By incorporating behavioral interviewing techniques, hiring simulations, and organizational culture assessments, HR practitioners can help unearth the subtle nuances that signify cultural resonance and foster a workforce united by a shared purpose and values.

    Do your recruiting and interviewing processes effectively assess for cultural fit?

  2. Onboarding: Assimilating into Cultural Expectations
    Done right, the new employee onboarding process should serve as the formal initiation and socialization into a company’s culture. HR should work with the business to design impactful onboarding experiences that transcend benefits and administrivia and purposefully instill newcomers with a meaningful sense of belonging and purpose.

    Done right, new employee onboarding should lay a solid foundation for long-term employee engagement, performance, and retention.

    Is you onboarding process infusing new hires with your cultural expectations and corporate values?

  3. Performance Management: Aligning Actions with Values
    A company’s performance management process is where the cultural rubber meets the road. HR should work with the business to ensure that cultural metrics are proportionately weaved into performance evaluations and feedback mechanisms to explicitly reinforce behaviors that uphold cultural and team norms while addressing deviations that threaten cultural integrity.

    Then through targeted coaching, recognition, and corrective action, HR can help cultivate a healthy, accountable, and aligned culture to propel the organization towards its people and strategic priorities.

    Does your performance management process strengthen or weaken your corporate culture?

  4. Meetings: Reinforcing Your Desired Culture
    Meetings at work consume a disproportionately large amount of time and energy from everyone. Our organizational culture assessment data found that most managers spend at least half their time in meetings – most of which they rate as ineffective.  Because they touch so many people so often, how you conduct meetings greatly influences your company culture.

    For example, one global insurance firm is notorious for running a fire drill at board meetings to reinforce a culture of safety and preparedness.  One global non-profit starts each leadership meeting with a “mission moment” that emphasizes their fundamental purpose.

    Do you utilize workplace meetings to reinforce the culture you want to see?

  5. Leadership Development: Building Leadership Capabilities and Behaviors
    How employees are led, managed, and coached impacts their discretionary effort and sense of belonging.

    Based upon leadership simulation assessment data, leading means setting direction, creating alignment, and inspiring people to perform at their peak.  Managing means organizing work, creating accountability, and solving problems.   Coaching means bringing out the best in people by diagnosing gaps and helping to activate people’s strengths.

    As you can imagine, different ways of leading, managing, and coaching create different workplace cultures.  Some cultures reward individual heroes, and some cultures prize more humble leaders who activate their teams.  Company cultures can deteriorate if leaders don’t set the example for others to follow.

    Are your leaders consistently modeling your desired culture?

The Bottom Line
Healthy, accountable, and aligned corporate cultures lead to higher levels of performance, employee engagement, and customer loyalty.  HR practitioners should play a powerful role in shaping, nurturing, and safeguarding the desired organizational ethos. Do your leaders and employees understand and feel in sync with your company’s fundamental beliefs, behaviors, and priorities?

To learn more about the importance of an HR Guide to Company Culture, download The 3 Levels of Culture HR Must Get Right for High Performance

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