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Cultural view can be profitable

COMPANIES that understand their own culture and can mould it to suit what the organisation needs can make profitable gains.

Understanding a company’s culture is a key element in successfully changing that culture, while other vital components are leadership and clear communication.

Simpson Norris International CEO Nick Norris said most organisations did not understand their culture.

“Most people are unaware of their organisation’s culture. They just know that’s the way things happen around here,” he said.

“If you want people to become aware of the change in culture you first have to give them a language to talk about the company’s culture.

“You then, if you want things to change, put some action down to back up the words.”

Equal Consulting Group group manager Leon Michailidis said he believed leadership was the key to changing a company’s culture.

“The values of those that lead the organisation become engendered in the organisation,” he said.

“If the culture is not changed from the top then it doesn’t work.

“I think the other aspect is the reason for the company’s existence. Is the company there for profits and shareholder returns or is it there for the customers and the profits come from that?

“If your company is geared up for profit then say it. Don’t try and sell anything different to the staff because they will see through it.”

Mr Norris said Wholonics Leadership Group founding partner Robert Quinn had researched company cultural change and come up with a quadrant to describe a company’s cultural values.

The four values are stability, a people focus, productivity and change.

“Obviously the stability and change values conflict and the people-focused and productivity values can conflict,” Mr Norris said.

“If you have a company too focused on people you end up with what we call a ‘golf club’ culture, where nothing gets done. If your company is too productivity focused you end up with a sweatshop.

“The thing about these four cultural values is that a company will need all of them but at different times in its development.”

Mr Norris said the best way to approach cultural change was to do it through little stages – not try and change a number of things at once – and to reward those who were early adopters of the change. 

He said companies should also find the leaders within the organisation and get their assistance to help put the changes through.

Robert Walters director Bruce Henderson said organisations were starting to realise that there was a connection between a positive company culture and the bottom line.

Mr Henderson said it was important to consult with staff about how to improve the company’s culture or the company could run the risk of losing good workers.

“A balance between leadership and management must be struck in order to successfully ensure that the new culture is embraced by each and every employee,” he said.

“Rewards, meaningful benefits and entitlements must be chosen to encourage the adoption of the new culture and the new objectives of the organisation.

“Time must be allowed for the new culture to permeate the organisation.

“The challenge is to stop the rhetoric and demonstrate the company’s real commitment to its people with definitive plans and actions.

“For example, a company may promote the fact that it values its staff, however, it doesn’t recognise when staff may be working increased hours by offering benefits such as time in lieu or flexible working hours.

“Employees may be offered responsibilities but lack the authority to make real decisions or take any action or enact initiatives as this needs to be rubber-stamped from above.”

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