Workplace Culture is the way we do things around here – and it makes an atmosphere that impacts on business performance, compliance, reputation and staff engagement.
From the around the turn of the century I was performing a briefing (as a consultant) for a small team of executives from an expert firm. We were debating building fantastic workplace culture what really is workplace bullying. All the senior team were getting passionately active in the discussion. Women executive who was simply not too passionately involved and obviously quite annoyed about enough time it was taking to discuss such a’ineffectual’matter stood up and blurted’Actually all I do want to know is how far I could go before we call it bullying ‘. No unreasonable question but perhaps it 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 wish to go?’ I replied. Not surprisingly she responded:’Well that’s what we are paying you to inform us Stephen Bell-HR Expert!’ Suddenly I was caught in the battle. There have been some smirks, giggles and’oh yeahs’from one or two of the ten executives which were sitting around the table. All a sudden I had been hit directly by’the way we do things around here.’
This is, in fact, an opportunity for the Regional Director to stand up and indicate the organisational values. This is an opportunity for the HR executive to make a speech about making this an engaging workplace for people and the lines must certanly be drawn by the value of our values. And then I, Stephen Bell (HR Expert!) could recite the definitions outlined in local OH&S guidelines. None of the happened. I did lamely recite the values probably with a quarter the conviction the Regional Director might have and encouraged them to show to page 20 within their manuals where they may find the local definition of workplace bullying.
The Regional Director and HR Director remained relatively silent; the discussion lasted another 20 minutes before all of us cordially shook hands and splintered off within our different directions to lead our completely different lives. I left with a specific feeling concerning this 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 was not said by the Regional Director and HR Director that was more powerful than what was really spoken by the lady executive.
I also left that session with a resolve to never enter an exercise session about workplace bullying and culture without’my actors ‘. Yes those actor friends of mine ensure people can see what we mean by’over the line’rather than just discussing it. It was also then that I decided that iHR Australia and iHR Asia would start concentrating on assisting organisations to properly define their workplace cultures so that leaders could properly articulate what was meant by way of a desirable, compliant and productive workplace culture that attracts the kind of people we want. Moreover my actors would give them the opportunity to see how they act every day includes a direct affect culture and subsequently on performance, compliance, reputation and staff engagement.
Defining workplace culture or the way we do things around here is a fascinating process. It is about creating statements that align to organisational values but are more active. The workplace culture statement is definitely an indicator of the pattern of behaviours we should see. For instance a workplace culture statement arising from the often articulated workplace value’Respect’might be’We tune in to and analyse the professional views of others ‘,’We tune in to ideas and views from those around us or’We don’t personally attack individuals when providing them with professional feedback ‘. When developing’culture statements’you might not cover every behaviour for each probable situation, however you leave leaders and employees within the organisation in undoubtedly what the’indicative behaviours’of the organisations workplace culture are.
Generally, organisations which can be making the effort to clearly articulate what the workplace culture should seem like are now becoming strategic about workplace culture. That means recognising that workplace culture can be quite a driving element in achieving organisational goals. They realise that culture can drive a range of important components of the organisation. In order to explain the’business’impacts of a great, bad or indifferent workplace culture I’ve identified three key workplace culture regions of impact. Simply I’m 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 power to conform to policies and regulations.
In my forthcoming articles I will explain precisely why I believe workplace culture must certanly be part of the strategic agenda for organisations aiming for sustainable success.
In 2009 once we begin 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 find themselves in 2010.
Anticipating the danger is that leaders will feel compelled to immerse their organisations in practices that reduce risk and drive a conservative rigour that, will subsequently, stifle workplace cultures once labelled innovative, responsive and entrepreneurial.
Founding director and CEO of iHR Australia and iHR Asia, Stephen Bell is definitely an entrepreneur, business leader and renowned facilitator. Under his leadership, iHR Australia has established a varied client base ranging from government to more than 2000 multi nationals, large corporates, Start Ups/Greenfields and Not-for-Profit organisations across Australia and Asia.