Building Culture that Sticks

by Clémence JacqueriMember of the Business Culture Community, Former CHRO People & Culture, Lynk & Co and Former Director Talent – Emerging Markets, adidas

There is a lot of talk about company culture, how important it is, how we all want a positive company culture, how potential employees rate company culture and just how much ‘nicer’ it is to work for a company that has it. Yet, the realtime ability to build it remains elusive for many.

As I see it, based on some years of observation and experience (not that I’m calling myself old), there are two fundamental components of building a positive organisational culture that sticks;

    1. Consistent everyday behaviours from the Leadership Team
    2. Alignment of all people systems & processes

Leadership Behaviours
Although we know that the most effective way to fully land cultural transformation is to have a high level of collective ownership, fundamentally no culture (good or bad) will stick until the senior leaders within the organisation consistently demonstrate the company cultural values and priorities. Their everyday behaviours are what role-model and reinforce company values and build company culture. It’s a little like parenting, if you parent in a way that is inconsistent, your children will quickly learn that ‘no means yes’ and boundaries are flexible if pushed hard enough. Whether an adult or a child, human nature is such that people rapidly emulate actual behaviours observed, not what is written or told. The single most important factor in ensuring positive company culture sticks, is the every day behaviours of senior leaders.

People Systems & Processes
The second most critical component of company culture lies in the hands of the People Function. Let’s be clear that company culture is not the responsibility of HR departments, however it is the responsibility of the People Function to ensure that the complete Employee Journey is consistent with the values and cultural priorities of the organisation. This is where the ice cream sundae comes in! I see the People Function as the glass vessel holding the ice cream (people leaders) and toppings (outward demonstration of culture). HR is the function that builds the foundation of everything you do as a company for and with your people.

“No matter what your company does – it needs people to succeed”

For company culture to stick, it is critical to ensure that all of your people policies, processes and frameworks are fully aligned and consistent. Each step of the Employee Journey, from onboarding to exit, must be aligned with your company values and cultural priorities. This consistency needs to be fully transparent and visible to all of your people so that they can easily draw the line between the daily behaviours of the leadership team, and the systems and processes which support organisational decision making. This includes recruitment, promotion, remuneration, succession, development – everything that proactively demonstrates who progresses in the company and why.

In Summary
If people truly are your most valued asset as a company, the environment you provide as their employer is critical. More than bricks and mortar, the culture you build as an organisation drives how engaged and able your people are to give their best. The combination of consistent leadership behaviours and fully aligned people processes, will ensure your cultural transformation endeavours sticks.