Workplace Culture is the way in which we do things around here – and it creates a sense that impacts on business performance, compliance, reputation and staff engagement.
I recall across the turn of the century I was doing a briefing (as a consultant) for a tiny team of executives from a professional firm. We were debating building fantastic workplace culture what really is workplace bullying. Most of the senior team were getting passionately mixed up in discussion. Women executive who had been not so passionately involved and obviously quite annoyed about the time it absolutely was taking to go over such a’ineffectual’matter stood up and blurted’Actually all I do want to know is how far I can go before we call it bullying ‘. Not an unreasonable question but perhaps it absolutely was the possible lack of thought and sarcastic tone in the delivery that drove me to react (and quite unprofessionally I might add)’Well how far do you want to go?’ I replied. Unsurprisingly she responded:’Well that’s what we are paying you to tell us Stephen Bell-HR Expert!’ Suddenly I was caught in the battle. There were some smirks, giggles and’oh yeahs’from one or two of the ten executives which were sitting across the table. All a sudden I was being hit head on by’the way in which we do things around here.’
This is, in fact, an chance for the Regional Director to stand up and point to the organisational values. This is an chance for the HR executive to create a speech about causeing the an engaging workplace for individuals and the lines should really be drawn by the worth of our values. And then I, Stephen Bell (HR Expert!) could recite the definitions outlined in local OH&S guidelines. None with this happened. I did lamely recite the values probably with a quarter the conviction the Regional Director might have and encouraged them to turn to page 20 inside their manuals where they might find the area definition of workplace bullying.
The Regional Director and HR Director remained relatively silent; the discussion lasted another 20 minutes before most of us cordially shook hands and splintered off inside our different directions to lead our very different lives. I left with a certain feeling about that organisation -‘Arrogant, undefined about behaviour and culture, aggressive and rudderless, lacking leadership.’ Perhaps unfair judgements, but real and powerful feelings for me. And if’that moment’was indicative of the leadership behaviours,’arrogant, undefined about behaviour and culture, aggressive and lacking leadership’become justifiable descriptions of the workplace culture. And in’that moment’it was really what wasn’t said by the Regional Director and HR Director which was stronger than what was really spoken by the woman executive.
I also left that session with a resolve to never walk into a training session about workplace bullying and culture without’my actors ‘. Yes those actor friends of mine ensure people could see what we mean by’over the line’rather than discussing it. It had been also then that I decided that iHR Australia and iHR Asia would start emphasizing assisting organisations to properly define their workplace cultures to ensure that leaders could properly articulate the thing that was meant with a desirable, compliant and productive workplace culture that attracts the type of people we want. Most importantly my actors will give them the ability to see how they act every day features a direct affect culture and subsequently on performance, compliance, reputation and staff engagement.
Defining workplace culture or the way in which we do things around here’s a fascinating process. It is all about creating statements that align to organisational values but tend to be more active. The workplace culture statement can be an indicator of the pattern of behaviours we should see. For instance a workplace culture statement arising from the often articulated workplace value’Respect’may be’We pay attention to and analyse the professional views of others ‘,’We pay attention to ideas and views from those around us or’We do not personally attack individuals when giving them professional feedback ‘. When developing’culture statements’you may not cover every behaviour for every probable situation, but you leave leaders and employees within the organisation in without doubt what the’indicative behaviours’of the organisations workplace culture are.
In general, organisations which are taking the time to clearly articulate what the workplace culture should appear to be are now actually becoming strategic about workplace culture. Meaning recognising that workplace culture can be a driving factor in achieving organisational goals. They realise that culture can drive a variety of important elements of the organisation. In order to explain the’business’impacts of a great, bad or indifferent workplace culture I have identified three key workplace culture areas of impact. Simply I am saying that workplace culture impacts on:
Organisation, team and individual performance;
Brand perception for current and future employees, customers, stakeholders and business partners;
Compliance, specifically the organisations capability to adhere to policies and regulations.
Within my forthcoming articles I’ll explain exactly why I believe workplace culture should really be area of the strategic agenda for organisations aiming for sustainable success.
In 2009 even as we start to emerge from the economic recession brought upon predominantly by an industry, and subsequently, workplace cultures where in fact the unacceptable often became acceptable it is interesting to ask ourselves where business cultures will discover themselves in 2010.
Excited the danger is that leaders will feel compelled to immerse their organisations in practices that reduce risk and drive a conservative rigour that, will consequently, stifle workplace cultures once labelled innovative, responsive and entrepreneurial.
Founding director and CEO of iHR Australia and iHR Asia, Stephen Bell can be an entrepreneur, business leader and renowned facilitator. Under his leadership, iHR Australia has established a varied client base including government to more than 2000 multi nationals, large corporates, Start Ups/Greenfields and Not-for-Profit organisations across Australia and Asia.