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Why is cultural change the key factor in corporate success?

16 Jul 2018

Why is cultural change the key factor in corporate success?

Corporate culture is the sum total of all the values expressed in the workplace, along with the systems and behaviours that are present. It’s something you can’t touch or feel, yet it permeates every aspect of a business and defines the experience of those working within it. It can result in employees who spend every second trying to help make the business a success - or employees who sue the business. So getting it right is essential. 

Corporate culture has been described as being, at its simplest, “the way we do things around here”. The discussion around culture tends to focus on words such as engagement, commitment and motivation. Companies today want to develop a culture that can compete with the highest performing companies. This is because they are convinced that the success of those outstanding companies - the Apples and Googles - is fuelled by their culture. 

Cultural change tops the corporate agenda

So cultural change has risen to the top of the corporate agenda. Organisations have been held back by cultures in which individuals built empires by withholding information and competing with others in the company. The new corporate culture aims to do away with this waste of energy by building teams of people who will work across organisational boundaries, are clear about what they need to do and flexible about how they achieve it. CEOs don’t want to replace a risk-averse “jobsworth” culture in which everyone knows the rules, with a free-for-all. But they do want to encourage proportionate risk-taking to achieve goals.

In part, this is because the pace of change, driven by new technologies, is now so great, that the old model of corporate structure and operation is breaking down, and failing to deliver. More enlightened executive teams can see that technology also presents opportunities to provide the kind of mix between home and workplace working that younger staff increasingly demand. Flexible, remote and home working also enable those in the workplace who are parents, carers, or have a disability, to participate fully, thus contributing to a more diverse and representative workforce. 

Technology has changed workplace relationships

In addition to providing ways of working that keep the workforce more engaged, these technologically-enabled work methods have changed organisational relationships and operations. Old-style managers who only know whether someone is working because they can see them sitting close by using a computer aren’t going to hack it in this new results-driven world. 

These managers don’t know how long a job should take or what people are actually doing. They are deeply suspicious that home workers aren’t doing anything. Whereas frankly - if the home workers are achieving what they’ve been asked to achieve and find they can watch TV in the afternoon, the organisation is at fault for not understanding what people are capable of. 

Respectful workplaces

One of the hardest concepts for some managers to grasp is that workplaces have become much more respectful places. That doesn’t rule out humour, but it does mean that banter that verges on the upsetting is completely out. Making fun or even making a point out of, anyone’s gender, age, disability, sexuality, ethnicity or religion is wholly unacceptable. It’s sometimes thought that older managers have a problem with this. Actually, many of them will have been brought up in a more respectful and more rules-based environment and will take naturally to cultural norms about how to behave, once these are explained. 

Mill
enials get a pretty hard time for being picky, over-emotional and self-centred. But organisations have to stop thinking of them in this way because it stereotypes them. This is the current generation of young workers, and organisations have to adapt to welcome them. Otherwise, they’ll migrate to the tech company down the road where they’ll willingly work harder because the culture is more welcoming.

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