How to create an employee-led culture

Many organisations have a gap between the culture they want and the culture they have

How to create an employee-led culture

Most organisations know the culture they want. What they are less clear on is the culture that they have currently got, according to Aaron McEwan, HR advisory leader of CEB, now Gartner.

“According to our research, a lot of organisations have a gap between where they wanted to be and the degree in which they understood the culture that they currently have,” he told HRD.

“This meant that employees were not clear on what was expected of them.

“They didn’t necessarily believe that their culture was right for them and they did not feel empowered, enabled or equipped to actually behave in a way that is consistent with the culture.”

McEwan added that it’s important to help employees manage the inevitable tensions that come up.

An example of that might involve the organisation pushing a customer-centric culture where customers come first.

Most employees will inevitably come across a tension in how they deliver that, added McEwan.

They might think ‘I know what is right for my customer, but I do not have the authority to act on what is right’ or ‘I have to go through levels of approval to do the right thing’.

It’s vital for organisations to be very clear in terms of looking at how you manage those tensions. For example, in this sort of situation, do this – not this. That helps employees navigate those tensions, said McEwan.

“We have also got to actually get leaders focusing more on structuring the business and their teams and the processes, policies and procedures that will empower employees to behave the right way,” he said.

So how can employers transform into an employee-led culture business?

Organisations have to actually ask employees to what degree they understand the culture, believe in it and feel empowered to act on it, said McEwan.

“So you can’t set the culture at the top and expect that a bunch of role –modelling leaders are going to somehow make it come to life,” he added.

“I think the answer is that you have to measure how employees are living that culture and you have to engage them in helping you to manage the culture at the ground level.

“It’s almost like going to the employees to help them bring the culture to life.

“So, for example, this is how we want you to behave - what are the ways in which the organisation is getting in your way to do that?”

McEwan added that it’s critical to build processes that will help employees understand how the culture applies to their day-to-day work.

“So less motherhood statements and more ‘this is how you will bring the culture to life in the work that you day-to-day’,” he said.



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