Our expert introduced the session by setting out the five levers which she felt can be applied to impact a company’s culture:
- Strategy – what is the purpose of the company; what are its values?
- Clear outcomes and KPIs – they need to be tangible. You need to bring them alive. Link them to rewards.
- Tools and AI – how can tools really help their daily life? Could you be doing more?
- Processes – all about productivity. Need to allow ease of use and flexibility to empower teams to make decisions.
- Actual workplace – different types of work/different types of work spaces. How can physical space work better?
You need to get the basics right. Look at it as a whole picture.
- Communication needs to be fluid. Priorities – you will have to compromise. Not everyone will be happy. Comms do need to be transparent; to be honest and authentic.
- Employee service mapping. Map across both employee and customer journey. The same word works.
- Benchmarking KPIs and NPIs.
Employee journey mapping.
- Is there a danger in focusing too much on the process?
- Policy framework of how we sit with each other.
- 1 2 1 – well-being conversations.
A representative of a very well known big-tech company shared a story: His firm has grown from two people in a garage to 108,000 globally.
They used to be able to share stories. They never sought to codify anything. Their way of working was based on intellectual curiosity. Come up with ideas and succeed or fail fast. As they got bigger it became increasingly difficult to make it relatable.
He then talked about the three respects: user, opportunity and each other.
They survey the 108,000 every six months. There is a cultural difference between the most successful and unsuccessful.
Psychological safety: can you have a really honest discussion with each other? Known as radical candour.
Are they honest in a trustworthy way? Are they genuinely trying to help?
Red face policy: would you be able to own up to everything?
Flex within boundaries. Avoid over-engineering process.
“Behaviour eats process for breakfast.”
As an organisation you need to have the ability to listen.
Vision, mission, values of organisation. “We are taking care of the lives in our hands.”
Every employee is enabled to challenge anybody.
Employees have to believe in the organisation and the impact it is making on individual lives. They need to understand their role within the organisation.
Co-creation: distribute innovation to the edge. Management’s role is to ensure cohesion.
Act and think like an owner. If this was my business, how would I operate?
At Disney they say: “Everyone is a cleaner.”
Our expert shared that at her firm there are only 150 of them and everyone has to get stuck in …
Another of our group works for a firm which is involved in a lot of mergers. Their problem is keeping pace: how do you bring all the acquisitions into the same culture.
Our expert posed the question: “Do employee surveys really work?”
- The response from the group was that genuine action needs to take place. The team need to be empowered. Get back to the team on what they are doing. It is the action which comes out of it.
- Another perspective: “It is not necessarily the action. People have felt heard. They feel a psychological safety.”
- Another member of the group said that they are now sending a few questions every week. The downside of that is that the choice of questions indicates exactly what management are thinking!
- Another of our group helpfully suggested that it wasn’t a good idea to publish any bad news just before asking people to complete a staff survey.
- Another of the group said that for 99% of the time we know the answers so why are we asking them in the first place?
- Building societies take surveys really seriously. They are very open and they do actually drive action.
- You need to get to the heart of what is going on in the organisation. If you don’t take actions it will drive more cynicism…
- Culture metrics can become a process in itself and culture itself becomes devalued.
- Sprints/engage/test/consult/feedback. Take friction out of the business.
One of the group reported that they had brought in external facilitators to ensure that the employees behave better!
The conversation then moved on to talk about disruptive high performing individuals. There are people who get stuff done but who are disruptive. A member of the group was adamant “they are culturally corrosive – you have to get rid of them”.
- “The highest fee earners don’t follow processes.”
- Another took a more pragmatic approach. They are sophisticated clever individuals. The customers might think they are fantastic but is their customer outcome right. What is best practice? What is acceptable?
- If you allow them to carry on, others may seek to emulate them. How do you break that cycle?
- Some individuals are resistant to change. Some are apparently “borderline psychopaths”! “Never hire brilliant jerks.”
- Can you get them to put the team ahead of the individual or do you fire them?
- A member of the group: “People lack the boldness to get rid of people. They are afraid of conflict.”
- The group then moved on to the growing move towards flexible working/home working/hot desking.
- One said: “It is a question of what the business can tolerate.” Whereas another felt that as long as the outcomes are clear and people are accountable and know what they need to achieve it can work.
- Another counselled: “If you move into flexible working, the communication structure is key.”
- If they work at home, they might feel alienated. Some want to work in the office.
- Someone raised the issue of people working in different ways. Some like to work odd hours. They might send an email at 4 in the morning but they are not expecting an answer. The modus operandi has to be spelled out. You need KPIs that you stick to. Results are all that matters.
- Another reported that people working flexibly often work far harder. “You get more out of people if you trust them.”
- An office is not a particularly productive environment. It all depends on what type of work and what type of space. The built environment is now changing.
- An anecdote: if you organise a teleconference, people dial in on time. If you hold a physical meeting, people faff!
And finally to bring us back down to earth:
- As long as we all remember that the most important person in your company is your customer. That is what we exist for.
- Aligned goals does sound really easy but it is really difficult to do.
Expert: Ruth Abela, Clarasys
Facilitator: Ed Hamilton, Clarasys