Large shipping tanker

Organisational culture change: Trendsetter or tanker?

Just as we as individuals have our own personalities, every organisation has a unique culture and often sub-cultures too. This encompasses everything from cultural values, beliefs and practices to ways of working and reward systems. And, as you’d expect of something this wide-ranging, your organisational culture has a huge influence impacting upon almost every business metric, from employee engagement and retention to productivity, customer service and performance. It is absolutely integral to the employee experience you’re offering.

Risk or reward?

Industries and workplaces are changing quickly, and dramatically, due to globalisation, technology advances and political changes. It’s therefore crucial that organisations foster a culture that enables them to keep pace or, better still, get ahead of the curve and shape the future for their industry. In doing so, they can expect rich reward.

Conversely, the risks of not adapting are potentially damaging. We already know from engagement survey data that future leaders and high performing employees in particular are frustrated by slow decision-making, decision-making by committee and ‘blame culture’. These all contribute to organisations losing valued employees and getting left behind by competitors.

Trendsetter or tanker?

We think that companies broadly fit into one of three categories in relation to their organisational culture and future readiness. These are:

1. ‘Trendsetters’ – forward-thinking companies with leaders that are very aware of their industry, are always looking ahead and don’t put too much red tape around decision-making. Such organisations foster a culture of learning, challenge, entrepreneurial spirit and innovation. They make decisions quickly and set the standards for their industry.

2. ‘Bandwagon jumpers’ – usually more established companies that have effective leaders in place. Their leaders typically recognise the need to keep up with their industry and they are prepared to make bold decisions to do so. They put the right leaders in the right places, make decisions quickly and implement change swiftly and effectively. They see a changing marketplace as an opportunity and not a threat.

3. ‘Large tankers’ – often more traditional companies that once were, and maybe still, are… but probably only just. These are companies that have enjoyed success in the past and, quite possibly, are still successful but are starting to feel the need to change to keep pace. They may well know what steps they need to take but struggle to make decisions quickly because of red tape, complex processes and/or their ‘decision by committee’ culture.

Is your organisational culture future-ready?

To get a better idea of whereabouts your organisational culture is, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the future of our industry and how confident are we that we know what to do to offer that?
  • Do we have the capability now to do this? Do we have a strategy that looks ahead? Are we able to make decisions and implement them quickly?
  • How far away are we from being at the forefront of our industry? How far away are we from ‘keeping up’?
  • How quickly is our industry changing?
  • What is the impact to us of not changing quickly enough?
  • What do we need to do to get there?

Guidance for ‘large tankers’

If you think your organisation is more large tanker than trendsetter, consider the following actions:

Get external support, especially for your top leadership team. What are their capability gaps preventing them setting a culture that fosters learning, innovation and fast-paced change?

Define your strategy and make it flexible. Of course, set out your long term strategy but also ensure that it is flexible to changes in the market place. Who is responsible for looking ahead in your organisation to share knowledge of your changing customer needs and how are they doing this?

Outline the culture you need to meet your changing customer demands. When you spot a change, what is your response plan? Do you have one?

List your biggest cultural gaps. Which ones can you develop in your current people and which gaps are you going to need to fill with new talent?

Decide how to measure your culture. This could be achieved through engagement surveys as well as culture or leadership surveys. This prompts your leaders to regularly address questions such as:

  • Are we thinking ahead enough?
  • Are we setting the right culture? One that allows us to think ahead.
  • Is our culture supporting our strategy?
  • What is holding us back?
  • Are our future leaders engaged and on-board with the future?
  • Are our high performers intending to stay? If not why?

And finally, if answering any of these questions is taking you too long, consider that an early warning sign!

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