Five steps to a shared culture
A shared culture seems a no-brainer. Why wouldn’t you want to have a shared culture across your organisation? Why wouldn’t you want to create a consistent and unified employee experience, whether it’s in one location or hundreds?
But the truth is that a shared culture is not always as common as people think – and here are some scenarios that are quite telling.
- Organisations that have just come through a merger or acquisition, and there is a need to bring the culture together for the benefit of the people and organisation…
- Despite best efforts, there’s no sense of a shared culture across locations and functions – in truth, it’s been like that a while, but now it’s becoming a problem…
- The organisation has grown quickly and some of the locations and teams are starting to create their own micro cultures, which is leading to inconsistent behaviours, experiences and expectations…
So how do organisations start to put in the foundations of a shared culture – and by that, we are focusing on the values, behaviours, purpose and employer brand, rather than other factors such as environment. Fundamentally, we believe that if we get these factors right, the rest will follow. These provide the platform for a consistent employee experience and a shared organisational culture.
We start (thank you, Simon Sinek) with WHY.
A shared culture is important to so many organisations, but it’s important to understand why you need one.
- A shared culture helps people collaborate more effectively
- A shared culture ensures a consistency of client service and delivery
- A shared culture shows people they are part of something bigger
- A shared culture opens up opportunities for your people
- A shared culture grows advocacy and reputation
Sometimes you might not need one – for example, sub brands or separate operating companies where they are left to their own devices, with no need to integrate.
But if you decide you do, establish what you see as the key benefits and outcomes – and fix on those throughout. For example, you might want to take the approach of focusing on what makes your organisation be its best – and how the culture can support that.
Normally, with projects of this scale (and it should be one of the most important projects in your business), the organisation normally demands a Project Sponsor – someone on the Board or Senior Leadership Team.
We’d challenge that – in two ways. First, if this is so important to the business, the CEO should be involved from the outset; and second, they shouldn’t simply be a ‘Sponsor’ that you meet with three times during the project, they should be actively and passionately involved.
For example, when we supported the Bally’s team, the CEO made time to attend the Steering Group meetings (where we had over 20 people from locations across Europe, Asia and North America), as well as come along to the end of our project workshops – to understand the outputs, listen to the approach and make his contribution, without ever saying ‘do it my way’. This involvement inspired the team, reassured colleagues and endorsed the work to the rest of the management team. He saw it not as a project, but a key part of his job.
Of course, it’s not just about the CEO; it’s also about having representation from locations and functions across the business – a Steering Group who are not making decisions but supporting and guiding your progress. For example, we had one strong challenge on the Bally’s project about the use of ‘unapologetic’ as a value or theme – it’s just something that would never resonate in Asia.
The most important principle here is to take people on the journey with you. To do this well, we would always suggest a more qualitative approach, than simply surveying the whole organisation. You may want to use a survey at some stage to verify your approach; but make it qualitative and engaging throughout. Why?
- Because you build greater advocacy this way
- Because you uncover more rich stories about the colleague experience
- Because it is much more involving and engaging for everyone
For Bally’s, we conducted over 17 focus groups from Singapore to Sweden, from Malta to Atlantic City. We could potentially have done far fewer and uncovered the same cultural themes; but in light of a merger, it made this approach important to engage colleagues and show how much the company valued their contribution.
When you’ve done all your research, gathered together the key themes, how do you turn this into something authentic, inspiring and sustainable. Far too often, creating a set of values or building an employer brand seems to run out of steam here – and we are left with banalities about Integrity and One Team that try to speak to everyone but has little resonance on an everyday basis.
Working with an international law firm, we’ve been keen to benchmark our work against competitors throughout the process – to create some clear space between this firm and its competitors for talent, and show that culture can be a differentiator rather than simply a hygiene factors.
We were particularly proud about how the Bally’s DNA and purpose came together, and how great design is important to showcase something so fundamental as your values and purpose. Remember, we are visual animals – putting time, effort and resource into creating stand-out materials does make a difference, rather than leaning on lazy icons and clichéd images.
So we’ve developed, designed, launched. Now comes the hard yards to make our values, purpose, behaviours and employer brand sustainable and ingrained into the everyday.
This is always a work in progress, as you prioritise different parts of your colleague experience. Often a quick win can be the onboarding process, to ensure that any new colleagues are made to feel like they belong. Set out a plan over the next 6 to 12 months to bring the values, purpose and employer brand into all aspects – starting with those that might be easy to do but have maximum impact.
Building values and behaviours into an assessment and performance review process is invariably more complex and require greater stakeholder engagement.
And then comes measurement. I applaud Bally’s for doing an annual survey that measures the strength of the DNA and the purpose – and normally the DNA over-indexes with colleagues.
Hopefully this gives you a clear idea of the steps involved in creating a shared culture. If you’d like more insight and specific examples, do get in touch. We always love talking culture over coffee and cake!!