A Cultural Shift Towards Well-Being

For years, the role of HR professionals as ‘change agents’ has been much debated, and also has had its fair share of evolution. Being the agents of transformation, HR professionals can add significant value to organisational growth. If one looks at the overall HR space in the last decade, “Impact of change” and “organisational culture” have remained as two parallel lines, progressing together, impacting each other in terms of foundational principles, and, simultaneously achieving paradigm shifts. It is therefore imperative that the organisational heads and HR professionals periodically review their “organizational culture.” 

 

The next logical question here is- what are some of the radical practices in today’s corporate culture space that can proactively influence the organisational culture?

 

The Answer to this is that there are three predominant trends in this space.

 

1. Realignment of leadership styles to cater to emerging needs of today’s workforce

2. New tools/apps continuous feedback and frequent evaluations

3. Strategic focus on short term and long-term factors impacting organisational culture

 

 Realignment of leadership styles to cater to emerging needs of today’s workforce

 

Being a people leader today is a matter of not just intellect, but also emotional quotient. Multiple generations at the workplace, the unique challenges that millennials throw, the demands of a competitive business environment and individual career ambitions, together form an extremely challenging path to tread on. But the change that the culture management space has undergone in the last couple of years is best represented by the single most important tool that today’s people managers are expected to master- “Conversations.” Frequent check ins, ongoing feedback, meaningful and exploratory career conversations characterize the Manager-team member relationship today. The role of HR Professionals has transitioned from a strategic workforce administrator who used to “recruit and manage” to someone who walks the talk with employees, and, is there to support and engage with them on a regular basis. In summary, it has become imperative for every HR professional to ensure a valuable employee experience. This reflects very strongly in proactive leadership trainings, intensive performance management processes as well as regular organisational communication in order to influence the culture of the organisation and employee morale in a positive manner.

 

The key questions then are –

1. How difficult or easy is the transition?

2. How big is the challenge for them to live up to the expectations of being an engaging leader or change agent?

3. Does every leader have the innate ability to connect? 

4. Does every stellar performer who has risen up the ranks with his/her domain expertise have the ability to cater to multiple individual motivators?

5. How many Gen X individuals in leadership roles (who have experienced stringently managed work environments in the past) can sustain the need to provide a flexible work place that promotes emotional well-being?

 

The HR professional who ponders over these very questions. would figure that this is not a challenge that relates to competence, but one that relates to his/her character. To stand committed to the individual well-being, and, remain sensitive to multiple individual motivators, needs an innate focus which may not always be a workable area of development for everyone. There precisely, lie the challenges of today’s organisations when it comes to accomplishing its culture goals.

 

In Quotes “To stand committed to the individual well-being, and, remain sensitive to multiple individual motivators, needs an innate focus which may not always be a workable area of development for everyone. There precisely, lie the challenges of today’s organisations when it comes to accomplishing its culture goals.

 

New tools/apps continuous feedback and frequent evaluations

 

The second trend towards influencing the organisational culture is technology related: a new genre of tools and apps that leverage mobile functionality and social media integration, provide for simply “staying in touch.” The simple objective targeted through these tools is “constant connect” - connect to enable employees to engage with company communication, celebrate success, share feedback that shapes decisions and most significantly, to generate a feeling of “being listened to.”

 

What is exciting to note is the manner in which change agents bring about organisational transformation by combining technology as well as core human aspects like conversations and connect. In an era of technological revolutions, engagement principles are consistently focused on establishing a humane, connected, and flexible environment to accommodate the needs of a multi-generational work force. Interestingly, enough technology has been blamed in the past for taking away from human connect. The contemporary culture of organisation’s scenario is therefore one that is definitely unique, since it utilises virtual connect to cater to the technology appetite of today’s employees, yet, providing a platform that enables continuous interaction.

 

Strategic focus on short term and long-term factors impacting organisational culture

 

The third shift is how cultural transformation is looked at. While for years transformation was restricted to fun events and activities at work, in the recent past, it has evolved into something which is much broader in scope, an aspect that cuts across various HR and business domains, and, impacts every aspect of life at work starting from onboarding to performance management to exits.  Contemporary transformation strategies include experience-based rewards, authentic career conversations, and end to end plan that touches every crucial point of the employee life cycle. It seems as if “cultural transformation” is a constant objective across the implementation of all people related processes. And, if there is one element that has been given consistent emphasis, it is the human element.

 

Road to Cultural Transformation

 

Culture is a key distinguishing feature that differentiates one organisation from the other, as it is unique for every organisation. Culture helps in binding a corporation together, as it comprises of inter connecting sets of processes, attitudes, goals, roles and core values that have been developed over time, and therefore, it becomes difficult to change the existing culture. However, changing culture is not that difficult if one adopts the right kind of strategic approach with a defined set of roles and responsibilities. It all begins with defined and clarified set of strategies, shifting the way people think. To encourage change, a corporate entity should work across boundaries, bring together different experiences and practices, and most importantly, empower employees in the right manner so that they can generate innovative ideas and make change happen.

 

Cultural change requires a holistic approach. Driving cultural change should be done from the top, and, with a clear intent and purpose, and, shared with all employees. Top leadership must reinforce the changes through definitive practices. As unclear roles and responsibilities as well as lack of empowerment tend to make this change even tougher and near impossible. Building expertise in a change management process and providing strong resources like organizational design support and communications expertise is another approach to encourage change and most importantly constant feedback mechanisms that goes a long way to making big changes less overwhelming.

 

 “To connect, listen, implement feedback, and enhance organisational culture is a continuous journey to promote wellbeing.” This outlines the vision for engagement for any HR leader today. One of the biggest outcomes of this paradigm shift in the perspective on change impact and cultural transformation is visualised how organisations view their own performance and success, and, by way of effective management, the change techniques, mindsets, behaviours and employee beliefs. Significant investment in new tools and devices will enable the workforce to stay productive and more engaged.

           

The change impact is no longer restricted to the balance sheet, it is much more holistic, and covers contribution to society, brand value and other long term non-financial outcomes. It seems as if HR as a function has brought its attention back to focus on a foundational principle - the way a workforce feels about their workplace will definitely affect organisational performance. Cultural transformation is no longer just a workplace approach; it is an ever evolving, living element, the reach of which is not restricted to infrastructure, environment and activities, but one that extends to the psyche of employees.

 

Cargill has recently undergone a digital transformation in HR across the globe, with a focus on improving the operational efficiency and drive best practices with people analytics. To ensure the success of this huge transformational change we took the following measures–

 

1. Since Cargill has various business across different locations so clarity on what processes can be standardized and where customization would be required

2. Whether the process flows are user friendly and create the best customer experience

3. Change in HR structure and roles to define COE, business partner and support functions

 

In a digital structure, a lot of accountability lies on the managers for people-based decisions, hence to involve the managers and ensure their support was pivotal for the success of this transformation. For employees, it is a fundamental shift in the way they work to get things done, and hence, we have a hyper care period to cater to the issues and help them familiarize and accept the new processes.  It has helped them understand why the organisation had made this change, and, how it would improve their experience with HR processes.

 

While trying to bring any culture change it is very important to keep the following points to make it a success -

1. The leader must create a vision or story which would connect to the employees

2. Once the vision is communicated, the organisation should put a framework to help employees embrace the change and make it sustainable

3. Leaders should use more of the engagement tools and less of the positional power to help employee create the change

 

A critical question at this juncture is - what will drive success with regard to strategies in the future? It is easy to talk of “cultural transformation” but much harder to action a “sustainable” transformation strategy. A simple yet complex question needs to be answered, “what an organisation can do to consistently listen to employees, implement what is pragmatic and close the feedback loop authentically?” The task of driving cultural change and the necessity for trust in an organisation’s fabric are critical things that will determine success. Organisations that can incorporate this evolving engagement/transformation into its daily functioning will certainly be future ready.

 

In Quotes “The task of driving cultural change and the necessity for trust in an organisation’s fabric are critical things that will determine success. Organisations that can incorporate this evolving engagement/transformation into its daily functioning will certainly be future ready.

Ashu Malhotra is Market Lead - Indian sub-continent and Malaysia and Global Human Resource Solutions and Director on Board, Cargill India. He carries an experience of more than two decades in HR and has previously worked in Jabong, Tulip Telecom, Alcatel Lucent India, Bharti Airtel, Honda Motor India, Total and Dabur India.

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