As business owners, we all like to think that we have a positive organisational culture. Ideally, we want the people who work for us to be happy and see the organisation as positive and supportive.
If our employees work well together and collaborate with each other, we will see increased profitability and growth.
In previous articles, I have talked about sharing your vision so that everyone is working towards the same goal and can understand their own part in that journey. Where people are trusted and appreciated, they have the impetus and the freedom to be innovative and creative.
Where communications are clear and leadership is strong and collaborative, then the climate is right for people to develop and grow.
So how can a blame culture creep into our organisation? However much we work on sharing our vision and values and communicating our goals, organisational culture is defined by the people who work for us and their interactions with each other.
It is critical, therefore, that we learn to recognise the signs of a less than positive organisational culture and that we act to change the direction before there is a downward spiral.
Benefits of a positive organisational culture
Harvard Business School professors John Kotter and James Heskett did some research in the 1990s over a 10 year period. Their findings showed that positive organisational cultures were linked to financial growth (a four fold increase).
A positive culture aids recruitment and retention of employees . It can have an impact on customer service and it gives public credibility to your business.
Reviewing the situation
You may think your company culture is positive, but it is always helpful to review the situation. Even if your employees are happy and motivated, you may find underlying trends which are less than positive. If there is no conflict at all in your business, that could be a warning sign. This can indicate complacency or a lack of confidence in suggesting a change to the status quo. If you have a lack of diversity in your workplace, you might find this will lead to stagnation.
On the other end of the scale, what happens when people cannot work well together? This can lead to bad decision-making, loss of confidence, financial loss – even public embarrassment (remember the recent Ted Baker scandal?).
Many business problems are down to people issues. You may be concerned about financial slowdown, governance and legislative difficulties or other business-related difficulties. But when you drill down into these, they are often rooted in difficulties with employees.
If you struggle to get new products to market, the fault may not be the organisational processes. There might be a human aversion to risk which is at the bottom of the problem. If you are finding it difficult to comply with governance or legislative imperatives, have a second look at your employees. There is likely to be a problem with decision-making, ownership or understanding.
You may be proud of the fact that you collaborate with your employees, and allow them to collaborate with each other. But have you given any thought to your consultation processes? The real problem might be that people are spending hours of their time in large, unwieldy and unproductive meetings.
Alternatively, you may be very clear that you do not have a culture of blame in your organisation. But have you listened to what people are saying to each other? There might be implied criticism, even where it is not explicit. This can have a really detrimental impact on the confidence and abilities of the person on the receiving end – especially where there is a difference in position within the company.
Putting it Right
It is a fact that most of the problems in business are “people problems”. We all have our own ways of doing things, our own unpredictability. We are complex and we are all different. This can make it difficult to resolve problems, but where you are able to create a positive organisational culture, you will reap the rewards.
The key to successfully changing your organisational culture is based on the same principles I have been writing about recently. If you can engage with your employees, you will be well on the way to a positive culture.
As a reminder, those principles are:
Have a strong vision which you share with your employees and they can understand their part in helping to achieve the vision;
Give your employees a voice, so they can be confident in giving opinions and making suggestions in a blame-free culture, where they know they will be heard.
Show appreciation of your employees and recognise their skills and achievements, so they are encouraged to give their utmost.
Build an environment of trust and integrity as a two-way street so that your employees feel confident in your leadership.
Achieving a positive organisational culture
The dictionary definition of culture is as follows: the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society. In business – your business – culture is based on your values and behaviours. When those align with your business strategy, then your employees will be engaged and your customers will be happy to buy.
A positive organisational culture allows each person to take responsibility for their own work, their own achievements and successes, their own mistakes. It allows others to recognise that we all do things differently and the only “right way” to do something is the way that works for the individual and the organisation. Where people make mistakes (as we all do), there is no blame.
So it is in your hands to create a positive culture within your business and to ensure that it stays that way. If you can achieve that, then you will find it easier to deal with those business problems and difficulties and you will achieve productivity and growth.
If you think this article is useful and you would like any strategic HR support or information on dealing with this – or any other people-related issue in your business – please join our mailing list, or contact us for further guidance.
Jill Aburrow runs an HR strategic consultancy business – JMA HR . She provides strategic HR advice and support to businesses who want to improve loyalty, growth and profit. Jill has been a professional strategic HR advisor for over two decades. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (FCIPD) and has a Post Graduate Certificate in Employment Law.