On Sept 11th 2015, I hoped for an honest, down-to-earth discussion about why some organisations appear to have a cultural advantage over their peers. This cultural advantage provides an edge in several areas of organisational performance such as innovation, employee engagement and digital adoption to name a few.
An honest conversation is what I got when I interviewed Enda Logan, CEO of The Fifth Business and Visiting Professor at Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen. The interview forms one of four case studies in my book, The Smart Sceptic’s Guide to Social Media in Organisations (Rethink Press, 2016), launched on Feb 16th 2016. The book is based on research and real life case studies from companies like GE, SAS and Block Imaging International.
As part of Enda’s interview with me, he emphasises that change always starts at the top when it comes to sustainable company culture, whether it is digital change such as the use of social media for business or other strategic initiatives. I couldn’t agree more. Culture eats strategy for breakfast any day. A 2014 Forbes article even goes as far as to say that your company culture is every bit as important as your paycheque.
Here are 7 ways a company can ensure that its culture allows for sustainable change:
1. Cross-functional ownership
An organisational culture that supports effective change does not allow its business consequences and power to reside in one department as this can make it difficult to change quickly. Instead, smart companies ensure there is shared ownership across the organisation through aligned goals and cross-functional leadership.
2. Continuous improvement
Spend time reflecting on what’s working and what’s not, by observing and sharing lessons learnt and through tools such as root cause analysis. Identifying success and failure causes is not enough. When causes are discovered, companies must implement plans to replicate what is working and eradicate what is not working.
3. Honest feedback
I was particularly fascinated by Enda’s story of a man he once met whose job title was Corporate Jester. This man’s job was to sit in his employer’s board meetings and say the unsayable. He was paid to challenge ideas from senior executives. This was clearly an enlightened board that actively sought honest feedback, considering different perspectives to encourage a questioning mentality – starting at the very top.
4. Employee engagement
The culture of an organisation must be one where employees can challenge and share ideas without fear of being penalised or fired. Engaging employees requires them to believe in your purpose and to share their knowledge, knowledge that they regard as power. If your employees don’t feel trusted and empowered by the organisation, you need to revive your company’s culture quickly.
5. Lead by example
It’s not lip-service nor is it a matter of sending memos to announce new initiatives in the organisation. Senior leaders should be the first seen to live the values they want their employees to adopt. The traditional model of top-down is dead. Such models consisted of a manager telling his staff what to do and think without much responsibility for acting out those desired behaviours himself. It is crucial that change begins at the top to ensure lasting results.
6. Employee empowerment
The future of work is that employees will spend more and more time on social media, using their networks to share knowledge with colleagues, customers and stakeholders. Shama Hyder, author of The Zen of Social Media Marketing notes in a recent Forbes article, “People are now media… how organisations leverage people as media in a smart way is here to stay.” Companies can leverage the power and engagement derived from having their employees share relevant content online that is beneficial to the business. This could lead to increased brand awareness, effective recruiting, more sales leads and enhanced customer engagement.
7. Future-proof strategies
Companies need to be able to change repeatedly and rapidly to survive the marketplace. There is therefore, a delicate balance between sustainable change and being agile enough to change again. Companies must become good storytellers, internally and externally to ensure that people are aware of the good things happening as a result of the changes. At the same time, there needs to be operational processes that help to monitor the progress of change and flag when things need to be reviewed, and changed again.
Whether you are introducing a digital initiative, introducing a new e-learning system or making changes to your company strategy, these seven lessons can help companies develop an engaging company culture to support lasting change.
- Yekemi Otaru, Managing Director at YO! Marketing.
About the Author:
With 11 years of experience in engineering, business development and marketing roles, Yekemi provides a unique perspective on social media use in knowledge-intensive industries. She is passionate about employee social media advocacy and personal branding. In addition to being a published author, she blogs about life’s observations, challenging her readers to think differently through her writing. Find out more here - http://yomarketing.co
She lives in Aberdeenshire with her husband and two children.
Her book is available on all Amazon sites and through UK book shops. Follow her on Twitter @SmartSceptic and connect to her on LinkedIn.