It's not just about digital transformation, technologies, new business models or useful tools. It is much more about people and changing the work culture.
There is a lot of talk about corporate culture in management circles, because it reflects the spirit of time. But just by talking about it, you don't change a culture. And certainly not if it is to be implemented top-down. Even individual initiatives that focus on the topic for a limited period of time and get employees through a few workshops will not lead to the desired result. Namely to establish an employee-oriented corporate culture.
For all those who still think culture is just an overrated soft skill, here are a few hard facts:
The consulting firm Gallup publishes the Engagement Index every year - the last one in autumn 2019 - with alarming figures: Around six million employees, or 16 percent, have actively disengaged, and around 69 percent are disengaged. This results in economic damage of a good 122 billion euros. So much for the importance of corporate culture. It is both a prerequisite and the key to success.
But how to change corporate culture?
There are a number of key factors on which a company should work.
1. Making work structures flexible
Rigid structures must become flexible constructs, and time-consuming planning and decision-making rounds must become dynamic and transparent processes with, if necessary, high implementation speed.
2. Change directive leadership into supportive leadership
Leading at eye level and no more pushing decisions down the chain of command will increase the engagement of employees, who are closest to the customer, and no longer ignore the wisdom of the crowd. The most inspiring leaders craft a mission, walk the talk and inspire to act. Authority is no longer linked to hierarchical positions, but by the ability to lead by example and by building and guiding teams that flourish.
3. Fostering an innovative mindset
Many companies are still characterized by sticking to the old as far as possible instead of taking risks to create something new. But if you want to stay competitive in the future, you urgently need a culture that promotes bold ideas and allows experimentation. This also means saying goodbye to perfectionism and making room for a culture of learning.
4. Firmly anchoring collaboration in the corporate strategy
The time of isolated departmental work is over. Instead, collaborative and networked work fires not only a culture of togetherness, but also one of knowledge multiplication. The smarter an organization is as a whole - also in cooperation with other partners - the more fruitful the results will naturally be.
5. Redefine leadership
We need diverse leadership personalities, and those who critically reflect themselves and their role. They must not see themselves as the main actors in the existing system. Rather, they draw their strength and motivation from encouraging the team like a coach, asking more questions than giving answers. The profit that a changed system brings for all is in the foreground and not the loss of privileges.
Leaders need to regularly check in with their team, and listen to their ideas and feedback, and be transparent about the firm’s financial health. Any changes that affect workers must be thoroughly explained and managed with care and sensitivity. Avoid secrecy by applying an ‘open by default’ policy, and an ‘ask me anything’ mentality. Make data available in real-time, and provide people with the right information at the right moment in order to increase decision making speed and accuracy.
7. Train and recognize self-responsibility
Get rid of the old-fashioned command-and-control structures, allow people to work autonomously and trust that they will act in the company’s best interest. While some companies are still managed according to the principle "knowledge is power", the innovators have long followed the approach "sharing knowledge is power". This is because it enables greater self-responsibility and participation of the team, and shows appreciation. In the best case, this increases the sense of purpose for everyone on the job and creates closeness between managers and the team.
If you work seriously and, above all, continuously on these factors, you are already a long way towards an open and self-effective corporate culture. It is a lot of work that never stops and you need patience. The change in corporate culture does not happen overnight. Try and fail, but don't fail to try!
If you want to learn more about how we could support you and your corporate culture, don't hesitate to contact us.