One of the most difficult parts in a culture shift is aligning the human systems around the organization’s values. This is the portion of the program where the values are pushed from being pithy phrases on paper to being the sinew that binds the organization together. Many well-intentioned leaders and HR groups skip this step, because, well, it’s difficult and time-consuming. It’s anything but a quick win, but it’s an essential step in the shift if you’d like to see your group’s values embraced in any meaningful and lasting way by the employees.
Everything leaders do, and everything organizations do, in some way either affirms or denies your stated values. For example, if a leader says she’d like the workplace to be “fun,” but scolds the first person that tosses a Nerf ball over their cubicle wall to their colleague on the other side, we could safely say that her actions were denying the values in some way.
The same principle applies to the larger-scale human processes and systems within organizations. Those, too, must affirm cultural values. Here are four big areas leaders and HR folks should keep an eye on to be sure they jive with the larger, organizational identity.
1. Recruiting and Hiring: How and whom an organization hires becomes increasingly critical as an organization tries to reinforce and sustain its core values. In some ways, hiring becomes more challenging, as you’re not only hiring for a bullet-list of technical competencies, but also for culture fit. You’re looking for folks whose workplace values line up with yours. This means your recruiting process should look different than just the typical recruiting process since you’re recruiting folks who are a fit for the culture of the organization, not just a technical fit for their position.
2. Orientation: Why are many orientations so…what’s the word…awful? If your orientation consists only of employees signing policies and watching compliance videos, you’re missing the point entirely. I don’t know many people who would think that sort of orientation didn’t suck. You’re probably expecting me to say that orientation should be an employee’s introduction to your culture, but you’re wrong. That should have happened under #1 above. It should be the next link in the chain though, the next chapter in the story. You should be talking more about your culture, your history, your vision, etc. And make it not lame.
3. Training and Development: Another area where culture and values should be reinforced is training and development. Development can’t be reduced to simply training corporate cogs on the specific actions they need to perform within their specific role. That’s certainly part of the deal, but can’t be all of it. There has to be something more. You need to find ways to develop whole humans. Your culture should be woven into your development, and may even need whole initiatives dedicated to it.
4. Promotions: This can be a little tricky, but only because of the philosophy that many organizations seem to have embraced on promotions. In a lot of instances, it’s assumed that promotions should always go to those with either the most experience in a position or the largest amount of perceived technical competence in a position. While those could and should certainly be part of the equation, they shouldn’t be all of it. Making decisions based solely on technical competence increases the likelihood that you’ll promote someone who’s, well, technically competent and nothing else (or technically competent but a jackass). Promotions should reflect the degree to which both the employer and employee are committed to shared values, and the degree to which your organization believes someone can lead the charge in regards to the values. So you’re looking for not just technical skill, but someone who’s championing the culture.
So how’s it going with this stuff? Does your recruitment introduce prospective employees to your culture? Is your hiring process built in a way that makes it more likely that you’ll hire people whose values jive with yours? Does your orientation continue telling your organization’s story? How about promotions? How’s your organization think and work through those? I’d love to hear your stories…