Last week we ran the pilot for our new program on culture which we will be launching in the next couple of weeks.
The participants were a group of HR people from an organisation who has been doing good work on culture for a number of years. They loved the program and learned a lot. I was interested by which pieces they felt had the most impact for them. There were several. One was the crucial question that I believe creates the link between business drivers and culture. This is the question I ask when I am helping a client to see the value in investing in their culture. And when I train consultants, it is the question I recommend they ask their clients.
Here it is:
The answer to this question is the business case for working on the culture. If the behaviours required are different from the current behaviours, then there is work to be done. The organisation will need a culture which values these new behaviours. If the culture supports the current behaviours (which it almost certainly will) then these behaviours will remain, and the strategy will not be executed successfully. People behave in a way that they believe will enable them to fit in. Change the culture and you change the messages they receive about what is expected.
All of us who work in the culture arena need to be able to make this link between culture and business strategy in everything we do. Often I see good culture work started without this link being established clearly in the minds of the business leaders. And so, over time, the enthusiasm dies, because culture is seen as something not urgent, something separate from the job of driving the business forward. I have found that the link needs to be made over and over again. And the participants in our pilot program realised that they too could do more to really position their culture work in this way.
PS Positioning culture as a way to make people happy and increase employee engagement is not enough. It"s a great side benefit, but the real benefits lie directly in the answer to the crucial question above.