Wednesday, May 20, 2015

How can HR Make Impact on Business Culture

The common definition of culture is, “How we think and do things around here.”

Most top managers are simply unaware of both the culture they are creating and the power of that culture. Many see discussions of culture as “Fuzzy” and “Touchy-Feely” stuff they want to avoid. However, corporate culture is the most invisible, but a powerful element to decide business’s long-term success. Which role can HR play in assessing, revitalizing and measuring business culture?

Cultural Assessment is a must. With continuous disruption and exponential changes, companies that have sailed through many storms with the credo “That’s the way things have always been done” may find themselves clinging to antiquated “best practices” that might not suitable to today’s rapidly changing digital dynamic. Metaphorically, you can compare the importance of organizational culture assessment to a soil analysis. You wouldn't plant seeds of a new species without checking whether they are adapt to the soil and climate conditions. But when creating a strategy for an organization, often the "soil analysis" is forgotten. Traditional assessments, unfortunately, are not very good in dealing with it: they generally describe the "behavior" rather than an underlying (and in most cases unconscious) mind behind it. There are ways of finding it out, but since few practitioners are aware of it, they are rarely used.

The organizational culture typically stems from the top, but HR's role is critical. The culture comes from the collective thoughts and beliefs of all employees from the ground up, but the collective mindsets and behaviors of the top management group have an amplified influence on culture. Culture becomes so visible that people at lower levels start following. The basic logic of defining the connection between HR and Organizational Behavior offers a reasonable explanation here: The logic says organizational behavior can be summed as “the proper way to think, behave, and act in an organization.” When the principal goal of any HR department is to achieve a productive workforce, HR has a definite impact on corporate culture. Leadership sets the direction, tone, and values. HR can contribute strongly by advising leaders about the potential outcomes and choosing one path over another. HR can remind leadership that how things are done the first time will set the precedent for every next time. Long-term thinking is a must. For example, on analyzing HR discipline like employee relations, the main goal of such a discipline is to strengthen the employer-employee relationship. Hence the way the HR manages employee relations will surely contribute to a positive or negative organizational culture!

The cultural fit is a key factor in attracting and retaining the right talent. HR's role is to tap into the collective power of this and assist in the articulation of such. It should also investigate ways to enhance and empower the positive aspects of the culture so that it becomes self - actualized. HR has a big role. It can support in analyzing the culture as it exists and understood by the employees. It can enable culture change along with the other senior leaders. It can, of course, influence the thinking on what culture would give best results for the company. It can help create a vocabulary around the culture and get employees to understand. It can come with programs that can reinforce the culture. HR has a responsibility for understanding how its operating processes reinforce or conflict with the organizational culture. They need to be in lock step with CXOs and viewed as a culture evangelist. Anyone in a leadership role is responsible for one or another aspect of company culture. HR can ensure unity and cohesiveness in how the culture is being expressed - coaching those at the top on how to lead, raising the red flag when issues are occurring in the ranks. The area where HR can have the most impact on culture is in hiring. Hiring the right people for the job and for the culture is a very significant contribution to the culture of an organization.

HR acts as a steward for organizational culture by aligning incentives to reinforce expected or desired behaviors. HR Leadership, specifically, has a role in influencing senior leadership in defining exactly what those behaviors are. HR professionals, at least those that understand some of the artifacts of culture – collective mindset, sanctions, linguistic symbols, unarticulated powerful behavior shaping values, can be exceptionally helpful to managers by simply making them aware of these things. There is the importance of HR's role in listening to and understanding the culture and its level of engagement. That includes working to get agreement on the metrics you would use to measure that. HR can help business leaders frame the culture conversation constructively and realistically. Generally speaking, HR has to be Role Model for culture and values of the organization and have to lead by example along with management.


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