Company culture: the imperative for HR in summary:

  • Well-defined and positive company cultures are a vital part of successful and thriving businesses. s a result, they need to be a priority for HR.
  • If you want to protect and improve your company’s culture, make your company values visible, listen to your employees and be honest about the culture of your business.
  • In addition, look to hire the right people who’ll complement and improve your culture, and be the facilitator of change within the business.

With a bit of luck, your organisation already has a positive and well-defined company culture; one that permeates your whole organisation and fits the context and environment you operate in.

But what happens when your company goes through a period of change? Growth, mergers and acquisitions, downsizing or shifts in your business model can all have an impact. Not to mention the wide-reaching impacts on the role of HR thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s important not to assume that your company culture will look after itself.

Company culture: the imperative for HR Cezanne HR blog

So, here are five ways you can protect what’s best about your culture.

1. Make your company values visible

Gone are the days where culture is simply created from the top down. As we’ve seen during the pandemic, remote- or hybrid-working has given rise to micro-cultures. But leaders and HR can still encourage a positive culture beneficial to the business by ensuring that these micro-cultures align with the company’s beliefs and values.

If you’ve not already done so, work with a group of employees from across your business to describe your organisation’s values and how they affect your culture. Get into the details and ask what’s best about the business, what could be improved, and what you absolutely want to avoid.

With the chance that employees are unaware of what the company’s core values are, it’s important to communicate them across the business. Share and embed your values into everyday HR activities. Communicate them on all your platforms: through your company website, employee handbook, HR portal in your HR software and even through the company’s social media accounts.

Not only does that ensure employees know the core beliefs and values of the business, but clients and potential job applicants can then see them, too.

2. Listen to your employees (all the time!)

Your people are your culture, so the best way to gauge its health is by listening to them. Work with leaders and line managers to encourage culture-focused conversations into employee and management training and performance reviews.

Internal surveys, confidential exit interviews, or simply talking to employees face to face can also help you pick up on any worrying signals. Monitoring employer reviews on third party sites, like Glassdoor, is useful in getting an unfiltered view of past and current employees’ thoughts towards the company.

It’s important to act on this feedback and use it as a platform for improvement, whether that’s stepping in to address negative behaviour, or better aligning the way you reward and motivate employees with your cultural goals.

3. Be honest about your culture

People dislike false advertising and it’s the same when it comes to company culture. You need to practice what you preach and be upfront about all its aspects, even the negatives.

As examples:

  • What if a company emphasises the importance of a strong work-life balance but employees are having to work long hours and managers are contacting them outside of office hours?
  • Or, if management talks about a relaxed office culture but bans the use of mobile phones…
  • If an employer claims to care about their employees’ personal wellbeing, but encourages presenteeism, what kind of message does that send out to the rest of your staff?

Such scenarios will just cause employee resentment!

If expectations don’t meet reality, people won’t want to stick around for long. No organisation is perfect, but it’s important that you set the right expectations and follow through to avoid sending the wrong message to everyone.

4. Hire the right people

HR professionals tread a fine line when it comes to hiring staff that are a cultural fit.

  • When does hiring for fit become bias?
  • When might a new employee with a different approach influence the business in the right way?

In HR, you are perfectly positioned to improve the recruitment process and help managers identify candidates that will thrive in your business, having a positive impact on the overall culture.

To avoid potential bias, ensure any requirements for a successful candidate reflect the job specifications and company values, as opposed to one’s interpretation of ‘culture fit’. Such criteria should be agreed upon with the relevant parties and written down.

5. Facilitate change

While employees are the cultural drivers in your organisation, it’s important to step in when toxic traits crop up. Encouraging practical work arrangements for better work-life balance, or drilling down on bullying incidents, are important in ensuring everyone can work in a safe, healthy environment.

And it doesn’t have to be just the bad parts that change. As your company grows and develops, it’s likely your culture will shift, too. The goals and strategy for a company of 100 are unlikely to be the same when it grows to 1,000.

In some cases, senior management may be sceptical of the need for change, and it shouldn’t be assumed that they’ll know how to help your culture evolve. HR can play a big part in convincing leaders that change is necessary and help equip them with the skills to drive it.

If you’re looking for ways to support your culture, check out 4 ways your HR system can support your culture.

Author bio

Erika Lucas is a writer and communications consultant with a special interest in HR, leadership, management and personal development. Her career has spanned journalism and PR, with previous roles in regional press, BBC Radio, PR consultancy, charities and business schools.

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