By Jane Sunley, best-selling business author and Founder & Chairman at Purple Cubed
When organisations set out to improve their ‘people stuff’, the tendency is to dive into the tactical; some learning and development, a roadshow, a survey. However since all successful journeys start with a clear goal in mind, the place to start should be in determining, simply and with great clarity, what the destination is. Then define the culture, vision and values to guide this journey every day, across every aspect of what you do. That’s 10% of the job; embedding them is the other 90%.
Maintaining a healthy culture is key if you’re looking for discretionary effort from your people (and you should be). Every single team member (and potential team member) must easily understand what you stand for and where you’re going. And this message has to be consistent throughout the organisation.
Long mission and / or vision statements that no one, not even the CEO, can remember are a really bad idea. I favour a ‘tweet sized’ approach eg Google’s ‘To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.’
Getting this down to a clear and simple message is challenging, even if your board’s thinking is aligned to start with. If you’re struggling with making it simple, bring in some expertise to help you work through the options, though give them a 140-character limit (because some experts overcomplicate the process too).
Values should be simple enough to remember since they are the thread that runs through everything you do. Acronyms are useful eg childcare provider Bright Horizons uses HEART – honesty, excellence, accountability, respect and teamwork.
The best way to embed a culture is to get people to work out what behaviours they (in the context of their role) will deliver. Failing to do this is where companies often go wrong.Involving people builds trust, opening up honest, two-way dialogue in order to drive the business towards cultural success.
Leaders (at all levels) are key in that they must learn to role model the organisation’s culture, communicating it constantly with their people; understanding the way they work as individuals and how they interpret the values. And helping them get it right through high standards and support. It’s then a matter of delivering it, over and over (and over) again…
Next time we’ll take a closer look at the role of leadership in winning the war for talent…