Turning the tanker: When strategy meets culture

Cornerstone OnDemand's Christine Chenneour on how to develop company culture to transform your business.

This year’s digital business global executive study revealed that 90 per cent of organisations expect their business to be totally disrupted by digital trends. Companies are facing unprecedented changes and they consequently need to revolutionise the way they work.

But it is not as simple as just introducing a new company strategy. To fully implement new business values and procedures, this also requires a major shift in company culture; the only thing that can truly change a business is its people. Not so simple.

So how can you best develop your company culture to aid new business strategies and transform your business?

Revolutionise HR

If the way to revamp your business is through your people, it makes sense that you will first need to transform your HR department. Far beyond administrative tasks, HR’s job description needs to be altered to reflect and incorporate its new role for enabling cultural change. The value of HR needs to be re-directed, along with its position in the business, making HR a true business partner, as an instigator and facilitator of business transformation.

Don’t have all the answers

When your company has a vast portfolio and employees who possess deep expertise and specialist skills, there can be a temptation to always offer clients a ready-made solution. Make sure to take a step back and discuss what your client truly needs, not what you think they need. Be curious. Stimulate and embrace new, different conversations with them.

Rather than having to come up with full solutions, encourage employees to create quick ideas. This all enables flexibility to adapt to different projects and client wishes, ensuring you respond to their actual needs and, more importantly, can stay ahead of the curve.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

If a vital element of your new company strategy is business development, it will never happen if you don’t risk dipping your toe in the water.  A lot of businesses traditionally have a company culture that is risk averse, but to survive digital disruption employees will to need to be prepared to jump in, head first.

We all know the phrase ‘learn from your mistakes,’ but you need to make them first to do that. No-one is expected to have all the right answers, all the time. This kind of mindset can in fact hinder creativity and innovation. Help employees embrace the ‘fail fast culture’ through leading by example.  Try out new ideas, enter new areas of activity or simply try something new. Be bold. Sometimes it can work, but often it doesn’t. The key is to accept it and move on quickly, taking your new-found knowledge with you.

Learn to share, share to learn

One way to help employees broaden and expand their horizons and go beyond their usual remit is through knowledge. If you wish to transform your company culture, you will need to develop your employees’ knowledge and skills. Not to mention the way they learn.

This can easily be done through making the most of the great specialist knowledge and expertise already available in your company. It just needs to be shared with other employees. You can develop a tech hub to store and accumulate this knowledge, making it visible to all, exchanging skills and building a new shared company consciousness.  Employees will be encouraged to seek out new knowledge from others for themselves and more importantly, if this learning is tracked, employees can be made easily accountable for their professional development. This sharing of skills also fuels greater collaboration between employees, which our research with IDC revealed helps with employee retention.

See the bigger picture

Too great a focus on individual projects, rather than the work overall can also lead to closed, siloed thinking and even company skills gaps, hindering progress and business potential.

Introduce consistent standards and processes for all employees. For instance, for employee performance, outlining what performance is and how it is measured. Standardisation will enable you to show what constitutes high performance, encouraging similar behaviour globally and to create and leverage high-potential talent across the globe.

From the employees’ perspective, this greater transparency will also help stop employees only viewing projects or solutions through a local lens. Instead of having a culture of optionality, employees will have a greater sense of unity and working as ‘one’ company.

Communicate more

Facilitate more employee feedback, encouraging better communication and conversations between managers and employees. It is about creating an environment where staff feel comfortable enough to express ideas and opinions. Again, you can lead the way, asking for and encouraging opinions. Rather than allowing feedback to just be accepted or rejected, develop a dialogue. Ensure to also set and agree on tangible actions to follow up on afterwards.  Establish what needs to happen to make sure conversations are productive and add value, from both the perspective of an employee and a manager. Go beyond simple box ticking.

Do remember, transforming your business constitutes a major overhaul in working practices and employees’ mind sets.  It cannot simply happen overnight and it probably will not happen smoothly either. The key is resilience; it will all be worth it in the end.

Christine Chenneour, HR and Talent Director EMEA at Cornerstone OnDemand.

Praseeda Nair

Kellen Rempel

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.

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