Search
Close this search box.

ASSESSING & STRENGTHENING CULTURE IS CRITICAL FOR BUSINESS PERFORMANCE – HR Virtual Debate Report

A number of our most vital organisations and services have recently been exposed as being mired by unhealthy cultures. Here, we will explore how to assess organisations – in terms of cultural maturity – and explore the critical links to business performance, dive into how culture is felt and distributed across organisations and finally seek to identify who “owns” culture.

 

THE DELEGATES:
Connie Ristic, Talent Development Director – Silicon Valley Bank
Siân Ferguson, Director, Consulting – Kincentric
Melanie Lepine, Global Onboarding Lead – CBRE
Jan Hawkes, Strategic Organisational Design Manager – Kent County Council
Mark Grimley, Chief People & Transformation Officer – Government of Jersey
Cathie Donaldson, Director, Consulting – Kincentric
Alix Bolton, Group HR Director – Walker Filtration
Petra Watkinson, Senior Manager, Group Culture – Lloyds Banking Group
Pooja Bhatnagar, Chief of Staff – Finastra
Kerry Walker Head of HR – Legal & General

 

QUESTION 1: HOW CLEAR AND ESTABLISHED ARE THE CULTURE AND SUBCULTURES IN YOUR ORGANISATION AND WHAT ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES DO THEY BRING?

Connie Ristic:
SVB has a powerful and positive culture – psychologically safe, very happy, innovative – the space to fail fast and very fair. At the recent acquisition, I just ran a study focus group and I asked them to describe what’s best about SVB, along with a number of ethnographic questions. What I found was, we have three main elements to our culture: The foundational element is empathy and connection – there’s a particular style of empathy that people experience – and ask them what’s “golden thread” surrounding culture and invariably they respond that it’s “kindness”. For a financial services organisation, that’s quite unusual. The second strand is really around purpose and ambition and the third piece is pace and synergy, being very collaborative and flat in the way it operates. It’s really important that those attributes remain intact for our onward journey.

Melanie Lepine:
We are a business that has grown rapidly through M&A and we do have some fairly distinct cultures across the organisation. It’s been a journey around culture, where we’ve been working on our overarching EVP for the last year and have looked at more closely connecting leaders with our frontline, to understand the personas to bring those cultures together to one defined CBRE culture. We are trying to find the synergies, so that we can find some threads that go through the fabric of the organisation.

As a guiding light, we have our CBRE values, on which we draw into all of the different cultures, as we have a vast array of profiles across the business. In the past two or three years, what we’ve really striven for is to be really clear on our brand and to have an understanding of who we are as an organisation.

Janet Hawkes:
In Kent, like all local authorities now, it is a particularly challenging time – reduction in budgets, complexity and competing priorities – along with COVID, BLM and the cost-of-living crisis. All of these pressures have really changed our working environments and we need to ensure that our future employee offer and working practices are fit for these changeable times. Our current focus is on 11 strategic programmes, aimed at delivering our ambitions for the council’s future.

For me, it’s all about changing the focus to how we work together and the language we use. We strive through our people strategy to provide a more supportive culture, where our managers and staff feel that they are valued. It’s about looking after their wellbeing and creating an environment that people want to belong to and where they feel both valued and supported in a culture that celebrates diversity.

Kerry Walker:
L&G has a really positive culture and a continuing theme from our employee surveys is that there is a strong sense of organisational purpose, which is so important for engagement and connection. What really connects all our businesses is our customers and it’s our ambition to be even more customercentric, by being agile to respond to their needs. For us as an organisation our culture is foundational and we’re continuing to build an open, inclusive and adaptable culture, so that we can respond quickly, consistently, sustainably and be accountable across our businesses and functions.

Siân Ferguson:
The impact of legacy and assimilating new people and practices – in the context of reduced budgets, advancements in technology, the shift in customer expectations – resonates very clearly and that context feels applicable to all of us. I’m interested in how the whole, as a sum of parts, work together – or not as the case may be – and whether there’s a place for a single expression of culture. It might be more valuable to think in terms of sub-cultures first, although I suspect that will result in too many priorities.

Cathie Donaldson:
We increasingly hear about toxic cultures – ITV, CBI, Central Government and the Met Police – but it’s not a new phenomenon. Employees have become more enlightened, as a result of social progress and the impact of COVID and there’s a “talent uprising”, in which employees are putting pressure on organisations to think differently, to be more compassionate, to take heed of the metrics beyond the balance sheet. That enlightenment is putting pressure on leaders who need to be more diverse, more empathetic and they need to rolemodel behaviours. But I think that many struggle with what good really looks like in these changing and volatile times. So, we need to help them understand what is acceptable, what is brilliant and why those leadership practices of commandand-control no longer work in the modern workplace.

QUESTION 2: HOW IS CULTURE REFLECTED IN INTERNAL RELATIONSHIPS AS WELL AS THOSE LINKS WITH CLIENTS AND CUSTOMERS?

Mark Grimley:
I came to Jersey Government four years ago, which had just been through what they described as, “a massive target operating model”, a major restructuring to consolidate the organisation. Relationships and culture are of course central to a healthy organisation, as is the confidence of all stakeholders.

Culture affects relationships and relationships are built on communication and understanding and they take a lot of investment. Looking at performance management, it’s so important that this doesn’t become a blame system. So, my approach is for us to become an organisation with permissible cultures – a culture that works for your particular area is really important – because clearly, health runs very differently to police, for example. Police have to run on a more command-and control model, as does the prison service, but not so the health service.

Consequently, we have by default some very different subcultures across a multi-discipline organisation, whereby there’s the core entity, which can be configured to what works best locally. You don’t lose the essence of that core product, but you make it work for you. Forcing people to conform to a rigid culture is pointless, people want to have their own flavour and their own identity. Cultures don’t change overnight – they can develop by accident and you have to allow things to fail. It has to be something that is conscious and every decision made has to be evidence-based and mutual.

Alix Bolton:
We’re an SME that has grown through M&As and we have ourselves just been acquired. So, a massive amount of change to what was a 40-year-old, family-owned firm and so consequently, we need to re-define our culture. Our workforce is culturally diverse across geographical regions and we have to find a culture that both supports our values, but also has flexibility in diversity. That’s quite a complex equation and it brings us back to the question of relationships.

I have joined the business at the perfect time, in terms of it being a time to settle, consider and consolidate. We have just had our biannual, all-colleague survey across the various groups within the parent company and the themes are really key – what is coming through clearly is the need for communication, for identity and relationships within the business, between colleagues and teams – as well as connectivity with leadership, which is paramount to this. The reason I’m excited is that this is a chance to start from scratch, to completely redesign the culture, because the alternative is just bits and parts from different engines, incompatible and unaligned.

The workforce argument for a thorough reworking of culture is one thing, but the impacts on client relationships also makes it an imperative business reason that cannot be sidestepped or left to its own devices. When customers start asking questions, you have to listen and act and that often is the catalyst for change. Fundamentally, having a really solid culture is key to the success of any business and if there is the slightest doubt or ambiguity in culture, it needs to be sorted out and here, customer perspectives, relationships and understanding are so important.

Before my current role, I was at Northumbrian Water Group and that was a business where nearly every one of the colleagues was also a customer, which really did present some interesting insights for the business, as that link between the business and the end consumer – as they were the bill payers – was unique. Another interesting comparison is that at Northumbrian, many of the leaders had been there all of their careers, whereas the executive team I’ve just joined, the maximum tenure is a couple of years. That brings amazingly fresh insight, but also complexities, because there is little appetite for legacy or tradition, everything is about new innovation. For us right now, in terms of culture, brand and identity, it’s exhilarating to see rapid evolvement, but it’s important to remain clearheaded and pragmatic and ensure that any move to change is validated, not just for the sake of change.

Petra Watkinson:
I concur that relationships are fundamental to the culture piece, but for me, the big question is, where does culture start and where does it finish? We have many suppliers that work for us, countless intermediaries – for example IFAs, that are integrated throughout the business – and so from a customer’s point of view, they don’t really see us as so many separate entities and this is particularly pertinent where suppliers operate in the background. So, we have the consideration of being a large organisation, but also needing to work with others, to make our customer experience with our brands as seamless as possible.

The other challenge, which may be more prevalent in financial services than most other sectors, is the impact of a great deal of regulations and close scrutiny from third-party bodies. Across the FS industry, there are many colleagues being very focused on risk management, which is understandable, because of the regulatory implications. For them, if they do not manage risk effectively, the penalties are considerable and reputations can easily be damaged. With the current environment and cost-of-living challenges, I think there is also an enhanced expectation from customers and clients as to how banks and other financial services will support them, which has implications for our culture and what it genuinely means for our colleagues and all the customers they serve.

I see a similar challenge facing a number of organisations today, where people who have been in a company for many years are being asked to unwind behaviours, or to do things differently and that can take them time to adjust. It can be difficult to ‘unlearn’ all of the things they have previously done during their time at a company. On M&As and how you bring together different cultures, I was taken by the idea of having a core culture product that is malleable for different interpretation, in a way that works for different teams and the way that the business is structured to accommodate that. But here, one of the risks to bear in mind is when you end up with different interpretations of the same values, as separate areas of the business may perceive them in a variety of ways – some of which will be directed at supporting customers and others more inwardly. So having the capacity to configure can be of benefit, in enabling people to personalise culture for their teams, although that means it’s open to different ideals and in light of this, leaders need to have a pragmatic approach to interpretation.

Pooja Bhatnagar:
Relationships, are the mirror reflection of culture, behaviour and values. Sticking values and behaviours on the wall does not work, role modeling becomes the evidence and shows whether the culture is actually being lived or not. Not just employees, it is also customers asking questions on culture and on purpose and how that connects with us as an organisation is very important. It’s not just about having these things said, it also has to be enacted and evidenced.

It pays to take notice of engagement survey scores too – we are at 73 – but that’s swinging right now, as a result of what has happened in the tech sector over the past several months. We are having to almost recreate and re-establish culture and I’m part of the transformation work we are currently carrying out. We are not only focusing on our culture but trying to further strengthen what we have achieved.

One of our statements we always go by and it’s a phrase our CEO always says is: “Doing well by doing good.” It’s a difficult time for the tech industry and we have to invest in our culture, faith, trust and relationships. We have a great culture, but we are having to reassure people of what we have, what we are doing and what we stand by and we’ll continue to do that.

Alix Bolton:
Increasingly, we are using analytics to really delve under the skin of the organisation and look at the demographic in a much more descriptive way. We can see how different groups are performing, through various lenses and our most recent engagement insight report, for example, demonstrated that the most disengaged colleagues in the business are actually white, middle-aged and long-serving men. However, they are not leaving in droves, on the contrary, the main source of our attrition is coming through new talent – millennials, usually female and especially more diverse subsections. Nevertheless, the general picture is positive, there’s real heart and soul across the business, along with great purpose. It’s just the identity piece that could do with being supercharged.

QUESTION 3: IS THERE NOT A POSSIBILITY THAT ACKNOWLEDGING AND SUPPORTING SUBCULTURES COULD LEAD BACK TO SILOED THINKING AND DEPARTMENTALISATION?

Siân Ferguson:
We need to value subcultures just as much as we value a single cultural narrative. The importance lies in valuing differentiated relationships, a variable value exchange due to a diverse range of people and that this could be the most effective way to go forward. So, being really clear about who you have relationships with and the dynamic and interdependency you have with them, could help.

It seems that what we’re moving towards is having a thread – a theme with variations if you like – in how we now build cultures that are fit and ready for the future. Legacy has been mentioned a few times today and I’m curious about what we might want to resurrect and what we might want to leave buried, in terms of the old and the new.

Cathie Donaldson:
Having spent much of my career client-facing, in various commercial leadership roles, my best friend in every organisation I worked in, was always the HR Director. That’s because employee experience always reflects in customer experience. The reality is, many employers are still losing good talent from their business, because of culture challenges within the organisation and clients often follow, not long afterwards.

If you want to look at strong NPS scores and customer service data, then you have to look at what’s going on inside the organisation. This is also a way of talking to the C-suite in a language that they most understand, rather than trying to explain the nuance and complexity of culture, because some still see it as that soft fluffy HR stuff. If you start talking about culture and outcomes in business terms, that helps position it as a strategic imperative with C-suites.

QUESTION 4: IN WHAT WAYS IS LEARNING AND INNOVATION REFLECTED IN YOUR CULTURE AND WILL IT BOTH SUSTAIN AND ENABLE YOUR BUSINESS TO GROW?

Connie Ristic:
We have a core value around learning and improving and the belief that’s underneath a growth mindset and the support for enabling people to learn, reach potential and progress. One area we need to build upon is innovation as one of our core values and we have the opportunity to improve on that now, in the midst of the change agenda.

Noticeably, the way that innovation happens in our culture is different, because we work so closely with the innovation economy. We have all the tech and we love innovations, but we need to support a more internally-driven innovation culture. The creative thought is definitely there, but we need to inspire the confidence to bring that value more readily into the business, essentially unlock that creativity and turn it into a valuable and tangible asset.

I own the learning piece and I’ve had in my strategy for quite a long time, to embed this crucial area, before we grow too big and leaders’ focus naturally switches to the commercial imperatives. We have the type of legacy issues that others have mentioned today and so my main focus as we grow bigger, is to reduce process and cut out the red tape and make sure that individuality and diversity can thrive. It used to be that everybody knew each other, now there’s less opportunity for that more personable relationship and so we are open to different approaches on how we collaborate, to fill that void created by increased remote working.

Melanie Lepine:
Learning and culture for us, are very integrated and the project that we’ve been working on to build our EVP – along with our focus on culture – is L&D, which is intrinsic to our organisation and central to building innovation, agility and diversity-ofthought into our culture. We’re also looking closely at those all-important core beliefs and values that are imbedded and how we can make sure those are embedded through everything that we are doing, from recruiting and onboarding to learning and development, through to employee experience and career progression.

The opportunity and challenge is because of the variety of different personas and making it relevant to all, whilst allowing people to interpret what that means for their persona and for their part of the business, but still having some structure and sharing best practice. We’re trying to join the dots and to think about every touchpoint in the employee lifecycle – enabling the talent acquisition team to really understand what’s happening in our culture – and how all colleagues can really be a part of that. It’s important to develop people as soon as they come into the organisation and help them understand their career prospects and their core skills, to continue to be relevantly skilled in this fast-changing world of work.

Jan Hawkes:
For generations, local government was widely considered a job for life and once you were in the council you stayed. But as we know, there are very few sectors in which that will be the case now, so we have to counteract that and be at the forefront of change and be prepared to adapt accordingly. We need joined up commissioning, integrated services – working closer with constituent services such as NHS and other partners – to actively look at and discuss the constant agenda for innovation and always being curious about what and how we do things. As a political organisation, there was always a tendency in the past to be quite risk averse, but now with so many challenges, we have to be curious always.

Indeed, one of our core values is to embrace technological changes, be adaptive and to be early adopters, in order to meet the challenges ahead. But that requires a trusting and supportive culture, where people feel confident enough to take a chance on innovation and different delivery models. So it’s important to learn the lessons if and when things go wrong and to celebrate innovation, rather than throw someone under a bus, where it didn’t quite meet expectations. Again, as so often has been said today, that goes back to leadership and relationships. Organisations can sometimes pay too much attention to the rhetoric and they need to look beneath the water line at the iceberg, to see what the culture really looks like and ask what is our leadership style, are we holding yourselves to account and do we have the courage to hold that mirror up?

QUESTION 5: YOU WONDER HOW AI IS GOING TO IMPACT ON OUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH OUR COLLEAGUES AND OUR CLIENTS, IN TERMS OF LEARNING AND CONNECTION WITH CULTURE.

Siân Ferguson:
AI has, of course, been with us for a long time and for centuries years, we’ve been associating human feelings with inanimate objects. So, it’s not that this is something new, although that does not diminish the challenge of integrating humans and AI for positive purpose. We do however need to have an understanding of, how does it help us and how does it hinder us. With technology comes a propensity for value and a potential for disadvantage, just like humans.

In the learning debate, my interest lies in how we can make learning really part of the DNA, so that work life is about learning, in a way that delivers a value to employees, while organisationally helping us to learn faster than our competitors. That’s what will sustain a business in the changeable future ahead.

Cathie Donaldson:
As human beings, we’re often very fearful of technological advances. Think about the Industrial Revolution and the Luddites who rebelled against the mechanised loom, whenever technology comes in, there is always a good and a bad side to it. In this era, the internet has had its pros and its cons, but for all the good and bad, there is no doubt that it has revolutionised business – and how we operate on so many levels – although we have to stay mindful that there is also a dark side to it.

I guess AI is going to keep presenting the same issues as it develops, but over time, we will become comfortable with exploring and exploiting the advantages that AI and technology will bring. I look at my teenage daughter and her cohorts and they have a natural affinity to figure it out and that shines a light on the importance of listening across the demographic, as opposed to one distinct voice and opinion from the C-suite. We need more “shadow boards” within organisations to both complement and hold boards to account. We must not discount the digital natives because of their relative lack of life experience, because the older generation really doesn’t absorb and comprehend technological advancement in the same way, leading to businesses reacting instead of preempting change and that is a competitive disadvantage.

Kerry Walker:
The role of artificial intelligence within our organisation is the hot topic right now and both L&D and HR leaders will have a significant role in this, as we start to upskill and reskill our people, to evolve their roles.

Alix Bolton:
The most in-demand jobs now did not exist five-to-ten years ago and that includes new skills required in HR. We’ve had the move from; personnel, to human capital, to human resources and now to people experience. An even more surprising stat is that 85 percent of jobs that will exist in 2030, are currently unknown and this is research by the World Economic Forum, so we need to take this seriously. But there’s no point in just preparing students in primary school, we need a multi-generational approach now whereby every part of the demographic is agile, appropriately skilled and forwardthinking. It’s not for us now to create the future of work for the next generation, that is going to be created by them, for them.

For me, it’s about how we craft and redesign work for now and culture is a huge part of that. With the young cohort coming into work, they have been used to the dinner table talk of, “you can do anything you want, you can be anything you want and work to your full potential.” So, when they finally join an organisation, they have those high expectations baked into them and any business that falls short will see early attrition escalate.

QUESTION 6: IN TERMS OF CULTURAL MATURITY, IF YOU HAD A PROGRESSIVE FRAMEWORK DEVELOPMENTAL MODEL TO WORK WITH, COULD IT HELP YOUR ORGANISATION INCREASE AND STRENGTHEN ITS CULTURE?

Mark Grimley:
Culture is people, it is their value base, it is their behaviours, it is what is acceptable to them or not. Whereas, if we consider tools, that is more associated with ethics rather than culture and that’s an important differentiation. We’ve discussed different types of culture, but actually they aggregate up into a single source. A case in point is the culture within performance management, is it a positive to develop or is it there to blame? You can tell when an organisation has low cultural maturity, as it tends to be reactive and have pockets of poor behaviour and a heightened tolerance to wrongdoing.

When organisations are complex, the framework is multi-layered and culture either thrives or fails by its relationships and type of leadership and it’s about the mindset, the language and, of course, behaviours. Remedying this is a case of pragmatically and honestly analysing the evidence, studying the data, designing and building the desired outcome and gaining buy-in from all stakeholders. The big challenge is, nothing stays still, there’s constant change – there’s always a takeover, a merger or a new way of operating – but your moral compass and stated purpose needs to remain very clear.

For me, a framework is one that is situational – it is not off-the-shelf, it is evidence-based – and you have to be realistic too, as you will inevitably make mistakes and you need to be ready to change tack if things are going wrong and need readjusting. Professor Damian Hughes, from Manchester Met University, is a sports psychologist and he talks about the culture in football teams and he says that during training sessions, they begin by just kicking the ball to each other. They practice and they practice the basics, which become second nature. What then changes is the team’s culture and relationships and how they behave on the pitch. The captain of the team will go and tell someone if they’re being petulant, they will celebrate together as a team when successful – that shows the different layers and complexity of the framework of a team. So, from the basics and process to the behaviour of the team to the influences of the manager and the board, everyone knows their place and they are all accountable. The framework really is about what works at what level, as opposed to just a single model. I know a lot of people use the culture web – but that is not actually describing your culture – it is taking an opportunity to discuss different aspects of culture, but it is not your culture.

Alix Bolton:
Sometimes we are in danger of putting things into boxes and whilst models are important, if they are rigid frameworks, that simply won’t cope with the speed of change now. We people managers are all very keen on and familiar with models and they do have their place, but they are by nature a fait accompli. So, when it comes to cultural frameworks, it has to be designed to be “what we want it to be” – something that is done with us, not to us. We also have the propensity to over-think and overengineer and that often leads to bolt-on mentality, when perhaps what we should be doing is taking a completely new approach and not being bound to the tried-and-trusted and status quo.

Siân Ferguson:
I have been drawn to some key points in this conversation around the value of a shared language. We also touched on the importance of monitoring progress. What it often comes back to is, that if it’s hard to predict what’s going to happen with any degree of probability – and even if we can, we might not pay attention to it – then we have to be able to make enough sense of what comes at us. So, a sense-making mechanism may be more helpful to us, one which works for each specific business and circumstance.

Cathie Donaldson:
“Low maturity equals high tolerance”, is a very profound take from our debate today, around culture and it’s a phrase that I can relate to during my career. There is real learning to be had here, it’s less about the models and frameworks and more about measurement. The nitty-gritty here is, we should all be asking, “how do we measure success? How do we know that we are making progress? How do we know that the outcomes are successful? Is culture owned in the C-suite? If so, what does this mean for your business?

Melanie Lepine:
It’s a difficult question to answer, but my heart says that culture is with the people, they create the culture… they are the culture and they bring it to life. Equally, if the C-suite isn’t living and breathing it and are not role modelling, they cannot hold people to account for their behaviours.

In that situation and in this more people-centric world of work, it is people and teams that will be creating their own culture. Our organisation has an entrepreneurial culture – colleagues want to make a success in the business and they want to do it their way – and I think that creates quite an interesting element creating a culture that is dynamic but consistent, has some process and structure, but allows for innovation and autonomy. They are effectively driving the culture of our organisation, because that’s who and what we are recruiting for. They are the people that we want to bring into our organisation, to make us successful.

Mark Grimley:
We have to think where this ownership needs to sit. The board, the executives – including the CEO – are all accountable to shareholders and all stakeholders on all levels. They are driving the strategy for your customers, the lifeblood of the business and they are leading the organisation.

Is it about ownership or is it about accountability? Ownership actually sits across the business and people own their culture and they work in the environment that they create. But accountability, that’s a different question and I believe that it does sit at a leadership level and is predicated on their tolerance and acceptance of interpretation and autonomy. In turn, the behaviours that they demonstrate, set the tone for everybody else and consequently, this is an integral aspect of the model.

Petra Watkinson:
Agreed, making that differentiation between ownership and accountability is key. Historically, business leaders in banking may not have gone into their roles thinking that what they were doing was about culture – it can be seen as being nebulous and difficult to describe – and there’s a fear factor as well about exactly what is meant by culture and how to comprehend it.

As a consequence of this, changing culture in an organisation is invariably difficult to articulate and you never know what is going to result from it, as there is no predictable or guaranteed outcome. During the plan, you may see employee survey figures going up or down on measures of performance or engagement, but how do you prove the connection to the changes in culture? This is definitely a challenge in measuring progress, in demonstrating causation, not just correlation.

QUESTION 7: IN WHAT WAYS IS THE CULTURE IN YOUR ORGANISATION DRIVING YOUR SUCCESS AND WHAT MIGHT YOU NEED MORE OR LESS OF?

Melanie Lepine:
In terms of talent, when we think about business performance and the culture and subcultures that exist today, it doesn’t enable us to have great mobility. It doesn’t assist us to really enhance our organisation, through supporting and developing our talent. We’ve talked a lot about how employee experience drives customer experience and therefore, if we are not really enabling our people and we are seeing high attrition levels, that is going to have a knock-on effect to the impact on serving our clients and on our overall customer satisfaction. The takeaway for me is how we can really engage our execs and how we can really make this something everyone cares about.

Mark Grimley:
For me, culture is an equaliser in two ways, it should be owned by everyone equally. It’s also like an equaliser in a recording studio which you need to constantly tweak and adjust, like a DJ on the deck, to find the right cadence and balance. Culture constantly needs tweaking to align it to your performance and to what you’re trying to achieve.

A key point for me is, in our organisation, culture is on the risk register, because it impacts our performance so heavily, positively or negatively. We had two major instances on the island just before Christmas, including a major explosion on the island, that showed the best of our culture in a crisis. We’ve spoken about a culture that enables people to fail fast, well that is, I believe, dependent upon circumstances. For example, you can’t have surgeons failing fast, it has to be appropriate and you have to change those dials constantly and you can only do that with measurement.

Ultimately, as leaders with a duty of care to people, we have to remind ourselves of our purpose and ask what are we here for? Purpose is delivered through culture and through people – actually, it’s everything we do, that critical North Star, fixed and reliable – and it remains there until you move onto the next big strategy. It’s not a solid-state solution, culture needs dialling up and down, so that it is honed, learned, practiced and led.

Petra Watkinson:
For me, this whole question comes back to the challenge of measurement. Unless you are able to assess how you are driving culture change and how the organisation absorbs it, then it’s incredibly difficult to answer the question of whether culture is driving success, or where indeed a company may have challenges.

I think companies are still wrestling with how to link their various strands of data – for example across colleagues and customers – because it is incredibly complicated, massively multifaceted and very difficult to assess and measure. That is probably why organisations tend to focus on things such as employee engagement, because it is a little more tangible – and you can measure it and try to influence it positively – rather than trying to factor in all of the other things which impact how colleagues feel, behave, engage and perform.

Connie Ristic:
It is the linking of organisational culture to organisational results that is key, because they can go in different directions and then you end up with a problem. Also, each organisation will have a different way of measuring that and I absolutely think you have to have metrics to manage it. One useful thing is if your business is being watched over by regulators, a part of their reach will be looking at culture, so you can build a metric that can show the impact that the culture has on the business, in line with what the regulators will expect.

Kerry Walker:
I think from this debate we can all agree that culture can have such positive impacts on customer and business outcomes. I have also seen that where we have that strong culture, it can help businesses pull through challenging periods in trading. The importance of being open and transparent is very clear as you can bring employees onboard to go the extra mile and that comes from organisational trust.

Alix Bolton:
When a business has a culture identity crisis, the causes can be fairly intangible, but a model that allows you to tweak and nudge certain things along the way is crucial from a people strategy perspective. I sometimes think we mix people strategy and various elements of the people agenda and use culture interchangeably.

It’s clear that, where there is a strong culture there is the opportunity to support business growth and performance, whereas a poor culture will put stress on engagement and performance, with inevitable outcomes being dwindling competitiveness. These elements are clearly intrinsically linked.

Siân Ferguson:
I’m really struck by two things, firstly, the dynamics across the organisation – around who plays what part in the cultural makeup – and secondly, whether the rogues will direct the way and what are the most influencing factors. The approach of deliberately bringing entrepreneurs in and seeing the shifting nature of culture as an emergent concern, gives fascinating insight into the way businesses are having to change to remain competitive.

Cathie Donaldson:
The biggest challenges around culture are, how do you put your arms around it and how do you define it? Because culture means different things, we very often hear culture and values being confused and we talk about them as interchangeable. There’s some work there to be done and we need to help C-suites appreciate these challenges around culture.

The typical approach to culture is that it’s leader-led and HR-enabled, but that detracts from the importance that everybody in an organisation is responsible for it. The C-suite needs to look at this through a different lens, that it is not just given to the HR function to do, it has to be embedded in every stakeholder, to have responsibility and accountability, not just something for HR to own.

Sian Ferguson:
I’m excited by how this debate has revealed the enormous opportunity we have to purposefully “repattern” organisational culture. To create that fertile business landscape in which systems and processes enable people to flourish, performance to be optimised and real value to be created for customers and stakeholders.

We’ve highlighted some of the elements that will assist and they are; confidence in our identity and purpose, clarity and alignment in our language and ways of working with each other and clients – with an irrepressible desire to learn and grow – all steered by a collective sense of leadership and lived by all.

Cathie Donaldson:
It is refreshing to hear that this group are on their own organisational culture journeys. This debate has highlighted some of the challenges that many companies are facing right now. Recent research suggests that while employees are clear on their organisation’s value and culture, they are concerned that they do not see this reflected in leadership behaviours or how decisions are made. To fully understand the reason for this, leaders must deepen their understanding of how business is done within the context of their organisation. The terms used to describe what businesses are all about are often used interchangeably, but there is a distinct difference. Vision and objectives are about intent and aspirations. Purpose is the reason the company exists and culture is embedded in the values and behaviours of every employee, from the C-suite, right across the workforce.

FOR FURTHER INFO WWW.KINCENTRIC.COM

Read more

Latest News

Read More

Moving the HR function forward

21 April 2024

Newsletter

Receive the latest HR news and strategic content

Please note, as per the GDPR Legislation, we need to ensure you are ‘Opted In’ to receive updates from ‘theHRDIRECTOR’. We will NEVER sell, rent, share or give away your data to third parties. We only use it to send information about our products and updates within the HR space To see our Privacy Policy – click here

Latest HR Jobs

Full time (37 hours per week), full year*. SFCA Support Scale Points 27 – 29 (£41,257 – £43,289 per annum)*. The successful candidate will be

This is an exciting opportunity to support in the development and delivery of strategic projects and objectives.From Venn Group – Fri, 19 Apr 2024 13:32:50

A senior interim HR leader / Director is needed for at least three months and until the organisation can determine the best permanent solution. Role

A senior interim HR leader / Director is needed for at least three months and until the organisation can determine the best permanent solution. Role

Read the latest digital issue of theHRDIRECTOR for FREE

Read the latest digital issue of theHRDIRECTOR for FREE