For any employee, their job involves much more than just completing their responsibilities and getting paid for it; the culture of their workplace is also an integral factor in job satisfaction and engagement. And, as more employees and employers alike focus on culture, it has become a significant differentiator in attracting and retaining talent. But, it is important to note that culture is more than just offering free lunch on Fridays or having an annual holiday party; culture affects how work gets done, how colleagues interact across all levels and, ultimately, how engaged employers are with the company.
A company’s culture is a direct result of its leadership – the CEO is the one who sets the tone, for better or worse, for the rest of the company. How the person at the top behaves and interacts often funnels down through the rest of the team. If organizational leadership has a very passive-aggressive style of managing, for example, that passive-aggressive attitude will permeate throughout the entire corporate culture.
The results of such a culture can be disastrous. Without a strong vision and positive leadership, it will be difficult to instill and maintain these values in the rest of the staff and drive alignment around the common cause. If people don’t feel they are involved in something bigger than their daily job responsibilities, disengagement will follow. Moreover, if the company lacks a strong culture and leaders who can drive the company’s values, the company will be taken over by bureaucracy. The end result: people will come to work not because they want to, but because they have to. It is therefore incumbent upon leadership to give employees reasons to come to work beyond the paycheck.
It is impossible to manufacture or change culture overnight, but HR plays a key role in driving the culture of the company. HR can ensure the company understands employee concerns and act on them by conducting an ongoing feedback loop via engagement surveys or focus groups to give employees the chance to voice their opinions. Once this feedback is collected, HR can help to ensure unity across the leadership team, coaching those at the top and making them aware of negative behaviors and how these impact the company as a whole. In addition to encouraging leaders to drive the necessary changes, it is also HR’s responsibility to impact culture by working to remove those who are poor leaders and bringing in people who align with the company’s current or desired culture.
As culture continues to be a key determining factor in a company’s ability to attract new talent and retain its current employees, HR departments are under increasing pressure to manage and foster their company’s cultures. While HR might not always have the power to change the culture outright, it does have the ability to influence leadership to steer the culture in the right direction and nurture an environment where employees enjoy coming to work and performing their jobs.