Organizational Culture & The Game of Change

Posted in Human Resources Articles, Total Reads: 1325 , Published on 04 March 2016

Change everyone accepts is an inevitable reality of any business environment. Change in leadership, change in microenvironment in which an organization operates, change in external forces like competition are all very common, however recent times have seen a paradigm shift in organizational culture that views employees as the most important resource for gaining competitive advantage.

Moreover, in this ever dynamic business scenario, having a great organizational culture is no longer just an option; rather it has become a necessity. The biggest challenge faced by most of the organizations these days is the growing rate of attrition due to the lack of cultural fit and employee engagement. This further gets aggravated by the conventional rigid norms and practices within an organization that don’t encourage innovation and creative approach. Thus, providing an employee conducive environment wherein they are free to contribute to the organization’s growth through their individual as well as collective innovations, becomes all the more significant.

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The notion that the corporate culture is a very important ingredient of organizational success is not new. What actually needs to be understood is that this concept has been in existence for quite some time, there has just been a shift in the emphasis laid upon developing and sustaining a healthy and growth oriented culture within the organization. In a recent research carried out by Deloitte, ‘culture and engagement’ has emerged as the top trend in terms of importance. The main focus of organizations today is on learning, innovation and employee development.

Once Edward O.Wilson said that every human brain is born not as a blank tablet (a tabula rasa) to be filled in by experience but as an exposed negative waiting to be slipped into a developer fluid. The cultural climate that HR personnel today try to develop in an organization falls in line with this; transforming their roles from just being organization focused recruiters to being employee focused innovators and integrators. For instance, the disruption brought about by Mr Vineet Nayar during his tenure at HCL technologies totally goes against the conventional wisdom that companies must put customers first, turning the hierarchical pyramid upside down and making the organization’s management accountable to the employees, which ultimately produced big results. The employees not only got a say in the overall decision making process but were also provided with ample opportunities to showcase their innovative skills. The development of such a culture led to an overall transformation of HCL and also catapulted other organizations to work upon redefing their work culture, though some succeeded in this endeavor while others failed miserably. And here comes the concept of sustenance of such an employee driven culture.

Sustaining a newly developed culture requires active involvement of employees at all levels in the organization. It is completely dependent on how actually the employees perceive the new culture and how readily they accept it and collaborate to perform better.

Culture is a soft concept, but it comprises some hard disciplines, including organization structure, rights to decision making, talent management, and measures and incentives. For any significant culture change to occur, these elements must be aligned with the new direction.

Also, the organization’s overall strategy needs to be in sync with the embedded practices and attitudes of its culture. Many times we come across organizations that present us with a long list of cultural traits: collaboration, meritocracy, risk taking, and many more but ultimately providing nothing in the way of differentiation. On the other hand, we also have organizations with only a few cultural traits that truly match and support their strategy. For example, if a company wants to introduce speed into its culture, excessive layers of management that sort information will resist such a culture that values speed. Clarifying accountabilities for key jobs becomes crucial, and so does building performance metrics that reward desired behaviors.

Last but not the least, it is the duty of the leader to reinforce and propagate the new culture. The employees then need to redefine what they do at work and create organizations that are designed to succeed regardless of what the ever changing future produces.

The latest statistics collected by various agencies show the effect of employee reviews about a company’s culture on social media and other corporate platforms like LinkedIn and Glassdoor. The organizations which fare well in the reviews and have an outright positive culture and organizational environment cohesive enough are the ones which are preferred by new prospective employees to join and work for. The companies which have topped on any one of the lists have topped on the other list driven by employee ratings as well.

This precisely shows how significant it is to develop a healthy organizational culture valuing employee aspirations, development, creativity and emphasizing on managing the corporate as well as personal life of employees by means of introduction of innovative concepts like work from home, leave donation, company sponsored vacations, extended fully paid maternity leave, etc. All these practices make a company more attractive to the budding talents and the experienced lot alike.

The traditional discourse on a sensitive issue like organizational culture has often relied on abstract descriptions and fuzzy logic which can’t be easily translated into understandable, pragmatic and timely solutions. Bringing about a change in organizational culture is often seen as a daunting task, but if managed well, it is not that difficult.

Today we can’t manage change; change manages us. The organizations will either embrace change or fade away. It would surely fail if it makes an effort to control something that’s entirely out of control. The need is to build a company that permits change to occur instead of fighting it. A company that attracts people who want to move fast and one that changes itself according to the needs of its people will thus excel in the long run.

This article has been authored by Anirudh Mittal & Chandan Kumar Mishra from IMI, New Delhi





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