19. 10. 2021 Corporate responsibility

What can you do so that a responsible corporate culture is not just a concept on paper?

Despite its significance, corporate culture is often something abstract and difficult to grasp for employees. Although it has no tangible contours, it is important for any organisation that wants to achieve good results. Where should companies start if they want to build a responsible corporate culture that brings satisfied and committed employees?

Even though we encounter it daily, it is difficult for many to explain what corporate culture truly means. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as the views and ideas of a company and the way they affect how the company does its business and how its employees behave. McKinsey, in turn, sees culture as a common set of behaviours, hidden attitudes, and beliefs that shape how people work and communicate every day. So, to put it very simply, corporate culture is the way we do things in a company.

Culture vs. strategy

Whatwas here first, and what is more important for the operation of a company? The strategy should be defined at the beginning and in as much detail as possible. It serves as a guide on how to make decisions. On the other hand, a company can have any well-defined strategy, but if it is not supported by a culture shared by its employees, its effectiveness decreases.

While the strategy provides a clear direction of the organisation and decision-making based on plans, the culture is based on unspoken patterns of social behaviour, attitudes and opinions. The Katzenbach Center Global Survey of 2018 states that up to 65% of leaders consider corporate culture to be more important to a company’s successful operation than corporate strategy. It is confirmed by the experience of Vladimíra Neuschlová, business coach at Uplift Consulting: “Leaders should think about what they can do to start investing in corporate culture development tools as boldly as they invest in their business strategy.”

Recommendations for a responsible corporate culture:

Measure the health of your corporate culture

The data helps the company to advance and achieve the set results. So why not measure your corporate culture? You can take a look at the so-called Barrett’s model, inspired by Maslow’s pyramid of needs, which emphasises more the need for self-realisation and fulfilment in life. The model has seven levels, and we can assign values to each of them. Using this method, you can determine the personal values of your employees and then help them further develop these values through their work.

Bring your business values to your people

Values are the foundation for the corporate culture. They make employees feel that they belong somewhere and are part of a group that shares similar or the same values. Unilever can be an inspiration in getting the company’s values closer to its people. Its employees attend a 2-day workshop as part of their onboarding. There, they define their mission and then project it into their working lives.

At the same time, the employees can become brand ambassadors with a mission selected from the company’s portfolio. A good example here is the Dove brand with its Self-Confidence Project. As a part of it, employees talk to young people about the importance of healthy self-esteem and the negative effects of social networks.

Involve leaders

The CEO and HR department are no longer the only stakeholders involved in the process of creating a corporate culture. Managers and executives who are in daily contact with employees play a crucial role. Gallup, which has been researching corporate culture for over 40 years, claims that up to 70% of the difference between poor, good and great culture lies in the knowledge, skills and talent of the leader.

So what can leaders do to build a better relationship with their employees? More and more often, we hear about the so-called empathic leadership, which is built on the ability to understand and perceive the needs, emotions and feelings of others. A modern employer should be aware that people are the most important asset of a company. Therefore, they should take into account that besides the professional side, the personal side also affects employees’ performance, commitment and overall motivation.

Introduce inclusive benefits

Respecting the needs of diverse groups of employees is also an important part of a responsible culture. The introduction of the so-called inclusive benefits, which increase job satisfaction and thus impact productivity and work ethic and help reduce turnover, significantly helps improve working conditions. In setting such benefits, the employer should keep in mind respect for diversity while maintaining the principle of non-discrimination and inclusion.

Pay attention to openness and dialogue

A responsible corporate culture is defined by an open and transparent dialogue that naturally takes place between managers and employees. People have the opportunity to express their opinion and, at the same time, understand how the company works, what its goals are and how their work contributes to its operation. However, when building an open corporate culture, we must remember that this is a long-term process that requires time, effort and willingness to learn how to implement this approach together with employees.

Respond to the current situation

The pandemic tested the ability of companies to respond flexibly to events. Almost the entire world of work has moved into the online environment, and employees, as well as employers, have had to get used to the new way of working. It is in such crises that corporate culture and the willingness of companies to meet the needs of their employees play a key role.

Deloitte serves as an example of such an approach. During the pandemic, the company focused not only on providing employees with up-to-date information and promoting team cooperation but also on promoting belonging. For example, they organised webinars focused on well-being, as well as informal virtual events and online teambuilding.

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