Apparently, everything is “culture.” Organizational culture made itself such an all-inclusive catch-all, that it’s lost its meaning entirely.
What kind of perks does your company have? Culture.
What are the company values? Culture.
How do people get promoted? Culture.
Companies want to change their culture now more than ever. But nobody knows what culture really is and how to “fix” it. According to Deloitte 2016 Human Capital Trends, culture is the third hottest topic for HR right behind “leadership” and "organizational design." However it’s becoming an overwhelming task to tackle because it’s just so big and unknown for companies.
We forget, though, that culture is the environment that results from how people do work every day, and management sets the example. For example, a client of mine runs the global rotation program at his organization. But, as he pointed out, if managers don’t buy into and actively support programs like that, what good will it serve employees who want those developmental experiences?
If you think about culture in any other context outside of organizations, you almost always think about the people. When you visit a country and you reflect on the culture, you don’t talk about culture in terms of the infrastructure, currency and language. You talk about the people and how they made you feel - “like family,” “inviting,” “in a magical place.” That’s culture.
Managers are the lynchpin to creating a culture where people feel developed and engaged. According to a SHRM study, both trust with senior management and the relationship with their supervisor were among the most important aspects for employee satisfaction. If leadership and management isn’t solid, it doesn’t matter how free your food is, how bright your walls are, or that you can bring your pet to work. These artifacts resonate only (and rarely) when it is built on a foundation that has been strategically laid for it.
I was listening to a “Deloitte Dbrief” webinar led by Josh Bersin. He made a great point which I’ll paraphrase: “There isn’t nearly enough going on in the millennial population to build leadership sooner…they often don’t have enough coaching and support before being thrust into leadership and management.”
100%, yes. The success of an organization - and the creation of its culture - can be boiled down to the leadership and behaviors of managers.
The first place to look, to start making small shifts in the culture, is at preparing your managers for the not-so-easy task of managing, engaging and developing a team. As a business or HR leader, here are three management-focused questions to ask yourself when it comes to your culture.
How does management show that they care about their people and their wellbeing?
How does management focus on and foster development and growth?
How does management create trustworthiness with their team?
The good news is, a culture that does these things will also create more accountability and ownership at the individual level. This is the new era of culture and engagement, and we need to get with the times.
It’s so much easier to reinvent your incentives program, change your benefits or launch a social responsibility initiative. The hard work is in digging deeper to see what’s really going on between managers and their teams. If you do that, you will soon be known as a culture that gets what really matters.
Romy Rost is a leadership coach and trainer dedicated to creating more productive, empowering, successful and fulfilled managers and leaders.