We’ve touched on culture in the previous section, referencing developing a culture of innovation, but this is only one component. Culture is the soul of the organization, and HR leaders are there to instill faith in the company by embedding ethics-driven values and rallying the workforce around a shared vision and mission. It’s no easy task, and it’s one that some HR leaders have not prioritized, often preferring to stay focused on HR policy and operational work. There is no doubt this is a high-profile job; failure could result in a workforce that opts out of the organization’s vision and mission, which can erode trust and transparency within the organization. This is where HR leaders must build relationships and a shared buy-in to create and foster a purpose-driven business.
At the London gathering, CHROs highlighted how purpose and culture in organizations go beyond hiring and retention and noted that the HR of the future needs to re-engineer itself to be business leaders in their own right (if they have not done so already), whose influence is felt throughout the enterprise. This type of role means going beyond being a subject-matter or a functional expert and beyond being a "culture shaper" and influencer in the organization. It’s a call to be the driver of broader organization change while being keenly aware of external influences, such as environmental, social and governance factors and technology and innovation. For example, as sustainability becomes a core part of business strategies, HR can help drive these types of practices throughout the organization—from embedding it in the company vision down to daily practice and processes.
Build trust and transparency within the organization.
The CHRO needs to ensure trust is embedded into the core of the organization and resonates in employee behavior internally and externally. Several CHROs at a recent gathering noted that transparency is the path to trust. Ensuring that employees have insight into the goals, strategy and decision-making processes in the organization are the building blocks of a transparent organization. It is also essential that there is transparency in how performance is measured and rewarded — especially when leaders achieve the desired business results but their behavior is problematic. This means leaders must shift from simply performance management to leadership management, holding leaders throughout the organization accountable for behavior and looking beyond just the business outcome.
Your purpose is not to increase the share price by a certain percentage. That’s not what everyone gets up every day to do.HR Leader, China
Crack the code on feedback.
Feedback is all too often seen as criticism instead of a means to boost development. Many managers sugarcoat feedback, offer explanations for undesired behaviors, or quite often, outsource feedback delivery to HR. Feedback is difficult, yet it remains critical to hold leaders accountable for giving effective developmental advice to their teams. One example of how to generate a feedback-centric culture is using inclusive and candid management assessments. Egon Zehnder worked with a company where the CEO insisted that he take part and be included in the management assessment of the senior leadership team. He encouraged the team to be candid and open about their feedback on his performance as CEO. This set the tone that every person in the organization was expected to be honest with each other and to find ways to grow together as individuals from suggestions for improvement. It also allowed employees to feel more relaxed about the process of receiving feedback, seeing it as a mechanism to move the organization from where it is today to where the organization wants to be. HR’s role is to encourage a similar mindset, advising senior leadership.
Ensure vision and purpose are aligned with where the organization is today.
As companies and the business environment evolve, sometimes the vision and purpose of an organization must change as well. “Your purpose is not to increase the share price by a certain percentage. That’s not what everyone gets up every day to do,” said one HR leader at a gathering in China.
Help managers understand culture.
At a Washington, D.C. event, some HR leaders noted that management at times misinterprets culture, relegating it to a metric or a dashboard. While you do want to establish clear metrics on culture, you will want management to understand its broader implications and context. HR is in the driver’s seat when it comes to defining and maintaining the corporate norms and values, and a key deliverable of the function today is to find ways to translate how culture affects different business functions and outputs.
Work with the CEO to create culture change from the top.
For change to begin—and stick—top leaders must model the expected behaviors. So if you want an open and transparent culture this must begin with the CEO. HR leaders can partner with the CEO to come up with a plan for how to engage throughout the company. While perhaps courageous, a leader who shows up with authenticity, vulnerability and humility will set the tone.