Anyone who has been paying attention to the media would notice that an increasing number of articles are making the case to concentrate on culture.
Indeed, an organisation’s culture can be considered a risk if it fails to prevent behaviours that do not align with its stated values or purpose, according to Jeremy Salter, account director at Blackhawk Network, home to Achievers.
These risks can be financial, legal, regulatory and reputational. Moreover, the levels of risk are amplified by social media and potential public backlash.
Salter told HRD that the consequences of having the wrong organisational culture can be far-reaching - no organisation or industry is immune.
Changing an organisation’s culture
Attempts to change an organisation’s culture often focus more on the symbolic than the structural, according to Salter.
“More on an organisation’s values and beliefs than other practical manifestations it’s culture - more on changing what employees think than what they do.”
Salter added that focusing more on the symbolic - on changing what employees think - is hard because it’s difficult to get into people’s heads.
“Also, for organisations of any size, a symbolic approach perhaps exaggerates the trickle down influence of leaders and internal communications on the everyday attitudes and behaviour of employees,” he said.
“Paying less attention to the underlying mechanics of an organisation’s culture may be one of the reasons why many cultural change programs fail. McKinsey state that 1/3 cultural change programs fail.”
For cultural change efforts to be effective, Salter said they must also consider the structures and associated systems, processes, procedures and workflows that directly influence the everyday behaviour of employees.
This includes how an employer’s people are organised, how their performance is measured and how they are rewarded.
The role of employee recognition
Employee recognition programs provide organisations with a symbolic and practical way to change organisational culture, said Salter.
“They can amplify leaders, communicate values and provide a practical way for employees to actively encourage, measure and align behaviours,” he added.
“Importantly, modern recognition programs can integrate into all aspects of work, reaching more deeply into areas of the organisation where employee behaviours might be less visible and harder to measure.”
Salter added that as more organisations understand the importance of culture, more organisations understand the value of recognition as a practical way to influence.
“Whilst compliance programs can mitigate the risk of the wrong culture by limiting the behaviors of the few, effective recognition programs can change culture by providing a practical way for organisations to encourage and measure the right behaviours in all.”