#culture is a hash tag trending topic on Twitter. I see some great thought leaders on this subject post idea after idea. I enjoy reading them and sometimes find myself drifting into “Thought World” and losing track of time. I have to pay the bills somehow so back to work!
While at #shrm13 in Chicago last week, I couldn’t help but be bombarded with some more ideas and considerations by the fleet of speakers on hand. So, as someone who looks to culture often to help with any organizational diagnosis I am asked to do, have my thoughts changed or expanded?
Simply, no, but largely, yes (Uh oh, am I having a moment here?). Company’s are to ask themselves a very simple question – What are we going to be about? That is the basic question that has to be asked and answered. Talent is interested in knowing the answer to this question. Interviewing is not just about the company finding out about the candidate, but the reverse as well. The candidate wants to see if you know what your company is all about. Failure happens quickly here.
Organizations who do not know who they are fall apart. They don’t know what initiatives to start and stick with rather than start and know an end to it (it’s okay to do this, by the way). Some companies float aimlessly hoping that whatever they throw against the wall will leave a residue of something that works. Culture is now defined. People recognize that their intrinsic worth for the organization is only about “what can you do for me?”
Listen, I know that our employees are there to be productive and to increase the profitability of the company as a result. That’s not a secret to an employee. However, when it’s all that there is, then the culture is established as only being about that. Depth is lost. Knowledge investment and the capitalization of it is not a priority. Organizational attractiveness and vibrancy doesn’t exist; the mechanic of the company is all that there is.
So, again, what do you want to be about? Let me ask this: what difference would it make to your organization if you had employees who were emotionally bought in to the mission of the company? What if they understood that, while their skills are important to the success of the organization, they were to bring their creativity, passion and openness to work everyday? And, what if they knew that the company valued those aspects and would take action in light of them? You see, saying you want an honest dialogue with everyone means very little if nothing ever comes from those discussions.
I have walked into organizations that encourage open discussion and sharing. After the meeting is held and heads nod in agreement, it’s right back to the same old same old. Culture is then defined. The actions of the organization win out every time over pithy slogans in the lobby or a letterhead with the mission statement on it. If I tell my kids I love them but most of what I do sends a different message, then will they believe me?
Learning new components as to how to deliver messaging around culture or how to consider culture in light of the competitive climate today is fun. I enjoy it. However, it builds upon the foundational question that companies need to ask themselves. When we ask talent to sign on the dotted line of the offer letter, we have to be prepared to honor that commitment in return. It’s our duty to establish what we want to be about and to lead our talent accordingly. We are the ones who invisibly sign such a contract.
The new employee should not be looked at to fix it for the company. “Well, if we hire Jennifer then she will get this all fixed” is not fair to Jennifer. It’s a company with lots of people and decision-makers. We’re not spectators. We, too, are signed and sealed to the health of the organization which includes culture definition. If organizations take the time to think deeply and act upon this commitment, I believe that there would be a strengthening of market share and global positioning.
It’s time to deliver on this commitment.