You Reap What You Sow

You Reap What You Sow

Investing time and effort in the right culture can reap rich dividends of the talent landscape of the organisation and show results in organisation outcomes as well.


Creating organisation culture is a complex, evolutionary process that requires every leader to be a role model for leadership expectations and every employee is a champion of the organisational DNA. Organisations that achieve scale usually put in effort into their values framework and engage the workforce around the same through constant communication, embedding such material into onboarding programmes, leadership frameworks and mandatory training schedules. Some organisations also prominently display their value statements in meeting rooms and notice boards to reaffirm its importance and encourage its practice in daily work life. A few other organisations embed the values into the performance management and potential assessment process.


Setting the Context


Organisation culture is the enmeshment of shared beliefs and values established by leaders or key stakeholders in the organisations. This is then transferred, communicated and reinforced through various methods to employees, ultimately shaping employee perceptions, behaviours and understanding. It also creates some kind of a thumbprint or unique caricature of the employee. Organisational culture sets the context and is personalised for industries and situations. When an organisation has a strong culture, employees have clarity with respect to the expectations that the top management has in any situation, and they are also aware of the consequences of non-adherence to the stipulated behaviour norms.


Strong owner-driven organisations tend to emphasise culture by walking the talk, whereas the larger corporate structures enforce it through governance mechanisms. Cultural goals are making it to the top of the agenda in every large organisation, with stakeholder emphasis shifting towards sustainable organisations with a social conscience.


The new models of engagement call for value-driven cultures that nurture employees through a culture of care for employees and their families. For instance, maternity benefits/child care, parental leave, marriage assistance, Employee Assistance Programme, flexible work hours, medical services and safety & security and employee query redressal systems. Governance and consequence management are both of significant importance in ensuring adherence to the cultural code of the organisations.


Despite all these efforts, the narratives may falter after a while, since organisation history and key narratives may not be understood by all employees, especially those who are new or do not have the opportunity for exposure to a wide range of business stakeholders. At times, manager messaging is also inconsistent.


No Prescribed process


The other challenge is that culture does not really have a prescribed process to enable governance. All critical HR processes such as performance, potential, hiring and leadership role modelling expect role modelling of values and behaviours. In practice, behaviours displayed and acceptance range varies across locations, verticals and by individual leader/manager. There is a significant variation due to the existence of micro-cultures evangelised by the local leadership.


♦ Emphasise culture tenets in large group meetings and in day to day practices


♦ Leaders to train future leaders on the tenets of organisation culture


♦ Showcase trust and care by respecting leaves or other forms of time-off


▮Strengthen consequence management for deviations from V&B:


♦ Measure adherence to V&B norms w.r.t team, peers or stakeholder reviews depending on the role with weighted evaluation as a part of performance and other HR processes


♦ Deviations to be redressed in employee grievance redressal process


▮Narrative/s of the organisation’s rich history, diverse businesses, and future vision to be disseminated with all employees, via:


♦ Documentary of Genesis of organisation used in Onboarding


♦ Video capturing the evolution of diverse businesses in the organisation and how they touch the lives of diverse societal groups


♦ The growth story of the company focusing on people, communities and customers


Organisations tend to be a bit lackadaisical when it comes to governance and consequence management in cases of non-adherence to culture. If someone is not behaving as per V&B expectations, they may/ may not be held accountable for nonadherence in any specific people process. Growth or promotion of individuals is not stopped in case of non-display of values and behaviours. What then can organisations do to ensure that the core DNA of the culture is permeated across all layers in a unified and consistent manner?


Outcomes of a good intervention


A good cultural intervention would ensure the following outcomes:


♦ Widespread accountability towards and role modelling of Values & Behaviours


♦ Clear and shared understanding of culture through leadership expectations, values & behaviours while enabling long term business sustainability


♦ People who do not adhere to Values & Behaviour over time, get identified and weeded out –it has equal or greater weight over pure business performance as part of performance processes


The following steps carried out on an ongoing basis would assist in creating a strong core DNA for the culture component of the organisation:-


▮ Define the tenets of organisational culture for the organisations


▮ Conduct Culture Audits:


♦ Set up periodic culture assessment survey to measure employee experience w.r.t culture, understand outcomes and action plan. Track improvements as needed


♦ Workplace Relationship Analytics to understand collaboration points and employee sentiment


♦ Walkthrough by the leader with practical checks to observe the organisational culture in action and assess the subtle differences.


▮ Role modelling by leaders:


♦ Thematic documentaries: what it means for business, employees and customers along with our future plans


▮ Embedding Values & Behaviour in all HR processes across the employee life cycle, including:


♦ V&B in all communication and campaigns.


♦ Integrate values’ assessment as a part of the hiring process and through the employee life cycle


♦ Real-time nudges to encourage people to practice V&B as part of their daily routine


♦ Evidence-based submission on recognition platforms to recognise individuals for displaying behaviours.


In the era of digitisation and networked enterprises, there is a lot of disruption that demands a constant shift in the culture. People and resources go through changes in expectations and alignments and this could lead to quick changes in core DNA of the organisation. Culture creates a sense of purpose in the organisation and sets the tone in terms of expectations of behaviour and shared beliefs. Creating and maintaining culture is a continuous effort and demands focus and commitment from leadership teams. Investing time and effort in the right culture can reap rich dividends of the talent landscape of the organisation and show results in organisation outcomes as well.


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Kalpana Bansal is Head - Competency Assessment and Development, Reliance Industries Ltd. She comes with an experience of more than 20 years and has worked in organisations such as Tata Unisys, Star TV, IMRB, Mudra Communication and Watson Wyatt (I) Pvt. Ltd and the RPG Group. Kalpana has an MBA and has completed her Executive Masters in Consulting & Coaching for Change from Said Business School, Oxford University.


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