Developing an effective organisational culture

HARARE - Many business leaders do not take time to assess the impact that an effective culture has on the financials of their organisations.

As a result they have let the opportunity to improve the bottom line of their companies pass by.

Culture, being a way of life, has a say on how organisations fulfil their mandate of providing products and services to the market. Production efficiencies, product quality, customer service, profitability and internal brand loyalty are all driven to a great extent by culture.    

Studies have shown that culture has a significant impact on a company’s long-term economic well-being. Surveys conducted by different research institutes in the west showed that culture can account for between a third and half of the financial performance of a company.

This significant influence that organisational culture has on the results calls for leaders to take it seriously.

They must come up with strategies to tap into this important resource.
 
What initiatives can managers explore in order to benefit from culture and ensure their organisations’ survival?

- Leadership — managers must set the vision. They must define the kind of culture they want in the company. As they say, if you do not know where you are going any road will lead you there. Crafting a vision of the desired culture is a responsibility far too important to be delegated to lower levels.

Leaders must know that if they do not take the initiative, culture will develop anyway but it will not be the one they desire. Taking corrective action at that stage will be costly. Visions must be clear, understandable and inspirational.

- Management commitment — so many brilliant plans and programmes put together by leaders have gathered dust in the offices due to non-implementation.

The reason is that managers consider it a ritual coming up with such plans.
 
If managers are not committed to ensuring the vision they have set comes to see the light of day then nothing will work. It will remain a paper dream.

For an effective culture to take root managers must work diligently round the clock.

- Set performance milestones — leaders must define the acceptable standards and how the organisation will get there.

Setting standards without monitoring if they are being met will be a drain on precious resources.
 
Managers must enforce adherence to the set standards all the time.

Habitual non-performance is a cancer that will eat away the fabric of the organisation and as such leaders must deal with it expeditiously.

Coaching and training are options to explore.

- Education is the yeast that raises the dough. Sell the advantages and benefits of adopting the desired culture.

Leaders must not keep information to themselves.

They must share it with employees. When staff know details of the vision they are likely to buy into it.
 
Resistance can be a sign that not enough information has been given for people to visualise the “promised land”.

Through education, leaders can receive valuable feedback that can better their plan.

Education empowers staff to cope with uncertainty during the development of the desired culture.

- Reward and recognition — staff that show a determination to embrace the culture that management desires must be noticed and appreciated.

Recognition and reward can come in various ways. Just saying ‘‘thank you’’ can be enough.

Other options are cash vouchers, trophies and even promotions.

Appreciation motivates others to adopt the desired culture so that they have an opportunity of being recognised.

Reinforce the kind of culture that is desirable.

- Consistency — there is nothing that is toxic to the development of an effective culture than lack of consistency. When standards have been established they must be followed.

Having the same rules being applied differently sends the wrong message.

Managers must see to it that similar cases are handled the same regardless of who is involved. Humans are said to be creatures of habit.

Consistency builds habits which will be unconsciously absorbed in the person’s system becoming their way of life.  

- Involvement of staff — managers must desist from running the show on their own and treating staff as pawns in a game.

Leaders do not have a duty to inform staff only but to get them involved as well in putting together details of the new culture.

By their participation they assume ownership of the project.

Instead of them finding reasons why it cannot be done they will explore opportunities for it to succeed as they have a stake.   

- Recruitment — This is the door through which people get into the organisation and as such screening must be thorough.

When hiring have specifications and select people who will fit well into the desired culture and possibly strengthen it. Many leaders pay half-hearted attention to this important process resulting in the so-called ‘‘rotten apples’’ getting into the system and negatively affecting the culture.

Give staff an opportunity to refer competent people they know when hiring. Many times they will refer people who will fit well into the desired culture.

- Staff retention — for an effective culture to develop it needs consistency in terms of the people who implement it.

Constantly changing people affects the rhythm as the new people need time to settle down and appreciate where things are.

The impact is felt more at senior level as these are drivers of the process. The new executive may slow down progress. Worse still they may propose a different route which will confuse staff altogether.

Leaders must hold on to good stock by what ever means as these are the pillars they need to develop an effective culture.

- Celebrations — every step along the route to the desired destination should be considered important. Get staff to notice how you value every movement in the forward direction. Whenever you get to a milestone, pause and celebrate.

This will give staff new impetus to soldier on. Celebrations will renew morale and motivation which are key to getting where leaders want.

- Maintain discipline — there are times when managers must make the tough calls to move the process forward.

There are employees who will not voluntarily embrace the culture leaders want to build and may even go to the extent of influencing others not to as well.

In such instances managers must read the ‘‘riot act’’.

Even the holy book says, “spare the rod and spoil the child” meaning that corrective action must be instituted whenever the situation demands.

- Policies and procedures — some policies that managers put in place may be counter-productive to what they desire.

Systems must be audited for compliance with the vision.
 
Those that are at variance must be changed or discarded otherwise they will slow down progress or even reverse it.

CONCLUSION

Leaders who desire effective organisational cultures must take the initiative and not leave anything to chance.

However, an effective culture will take time and sustained effort to develop but the benefit is worth it.

The most important thing is for managers to start doing something now towards realisation of their coveted goal.

As the saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. The ball is in management’s court. - Atwell Mutsungi

Atwell Mutsungi is a senior consultant at future Human capital an hr consulting firm.

He can be contacted on emutsungi@gmail.com or http://www.facebook.com/pages/Human-Capital-Matters or on numbers 0773799936, 0772269785 and (04) 852996 or at no. 4 Camerroon road, Borrowdale, Harare.




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