Best Practices in HR

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Russ Elliot
  March 22, 2018

The Culture Factor: Why Employee Experience Is More Important Than You Think

Everyone’s talking about the culture factor, including the Harvard Business Review.

I was excited to see the cover of their most recent publication entitled “The Culture Factor – Employee attitudes can make or break your business.” Culture is receiving more and more attention, and now this important topic made it as the cover article in a highly reputable business magazine.

I was particularly curious about whether the article would emulate a core belief of the Conscious Culture Group: that the employee experience drives and, in many ways, defines the culture. When I was asked to define culture in 10 words or less for a conference presentation, my short definition was “The simplest definition of culture is the employee experience.”

The authors use two dimensions – people interactions and response to change – that lead to eight culture styles: caring, purpose, learning, enjoyment, results, authority, safety, and order.

In the HBR video, they share the percentage of companies that have a strong tendency to a style. The top two styles were quite prevailing: 89% of the companies ranked “results” in their top two, while 63% ranked “caring” in their top two. From there the ranking was “order” (15%), “purpose” (9%), “safety” (8%), “learning” (7%), “authority” (4%) and “enjoyment” (2%).

I was saddened that enjoyment was at the bottom of the list.

I support many of the ideas shared in the article:

  • Culture and leadership are inextricably linked
  • Over time, organizational leaders can shape culture
  • Culture can, in fact, be managed
  • Culture can unleash tremendous amounts of energy toward a shared purpose
  • Culture can fluidly blend the intentions of the top leaders with the knowledge and experience of the frontline employees

In my experience as a former HR practitioner and currently as a culture consultant, most culture models are overly simplistic. I found that to be true in this model as well. I understand that a simple model helps an organization to declare “this is who we are”. And the truth is that culture is more complex than simple, more unique than common, and more evolving than static. Simple models do not allow for this complexity.

The Culture Factor HBR model

Unfortunately, the simplicity of this model is its downfall.

It is mentioned that “[…] it is common to find organizations with cultures that emphasize both results and caring, but this combination can be confusing to employees.” Organizations can, in fact, be caring, have a purpose, value learning, create fun at work, and get results.

SalesforceSalesforce is one of many examples of organizations that have created conscious intentional cultures by attaining all of the components just mentioned. They are purpose driven, list professional growth as a value, are quite profitable, donate 1% of employee’s time to causes, and consistently make Fortune’s Best Places to Work list.

On a recent trip to a Salesforce office, I noticed they proudly display their well-earned recognition.

Organizational leaders have the opportunity to craft the conscious culture they desire after, and only after, the leaders have clarity on what they desire. Cultures can be both fun and purpose driven, profitable and joyful, and caring with safety. Once the culture is defined, the next key step is to identify and eliminate gaps between that vision and the employee experience.

Another concern of this work is the precipitous drop in the culture ratings. The top two ratings are 89% (“results”) and 63% (“care”) while the third comes in at 15% (“order”). This indicates that the categories are not accurately describing actual styles of cultures.

I was pleased to see the article and do hope it creates dialogue among organizational leaders. Culture is linked to leadership, can be shaped and managed, and is tied to the employee experience. I would love to see more leaders discuss their culture intention and determine if it aligns with the employee experience.

Having the leadership team take our 60 second culture survey and receive the summary report will create important dialogue on building the culture leaders desire for the organization.

The Conscious Culture Group would love to partner with you and your staff to build a great place to work that attracts, retains and motivates the best possible staff.

Contact us today to get started on building an effective culture within your organization.