Blog: Reinventing culture

by Angela Atkins02 Sep 2014
We spend a third of our lives at work. More and more, employees are looking to work somewhere with a great culture and this is becoming more important than it being about the job itself, or money or perks. In fact many HR people I know, including myself, have turned down great jobs because they can see the company culture is toxic or broken and they don’t want to be part of it. 

From a business point of view we know that companies where employees enjoy going to work and are engaged in what they are doing, are more successful. 

As HR we’re often the ones that can see the problems or challenges with culture change, and have to provide the tools to help our companies change. It’s not about introducing values or competencies, or having perks (although all those things help), it’s about how a  company is structured, how goals are set and reviewed, how learning takes place, how things are discussed and how people treat each other.

The companies that have employees raving about them, and are highly successful are reinventing how to create a company culture that delivers for everyone.

How are they doing it? Have you heard about these game changers?

• Several large US companies including Zappo’s have got rid of managers and job titles. Team work on projects and have mentors rather than a hierarchical structure. They call it holocracy.

• Amazon offer people money to leave to make sure the people who stay really want to be there and aren’t just staying for financial reasons.

• Adobe have abandoned performance reviews. Instead managers discuss goals and performance when needed. They decide how often. HR doesn’t control it!

• Companies are changing how workspaces work. The new ASB building on Auckland’s waterfront looks and feels completely different. It’s light, bright and there are different spaces for different functions. It doesn’t feel like you’re coming into a boring office.

• Getting moving – a Chicago financial services company has introduced treadmill desk for people to use to get some exercise at the same time. Several silicon valley companies now use walking meetings to stimulate different and more effective thinking than what’s achieved in a stuffy meeting room.

• Dyson get every new employee to spend their first day making a vacuum cleaner so they see how the product is made first hand! Other technology companies have every new employee including senior managers spend a week as contact centre operators to hear what real customers are saying about the company.

• Flexible working and collaboration – companies are able to now bring global teams together and provide flexibility for working. US company Decision Toolbox have 100 employees, who all work remotely across the US! In 2002 when the company started they couldn’t afford an office. Now they have pods and regional on line hubs to build teamwork but still all work remotely.

If we really want to create workplaces where we love to spend time, we need to think differently and not just stick some values up on the wall (which still happens in many companies) or focus on perks.


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