Workplace culture is often a non-issue until some event upsets the status quo and people discover how these unseen, unwritten rules impact the situation. One of the larger trends in society and business alike has been the shift to constructing more visible, planned cultures.
What’s more, there’s a sense that the rising role of culture is becoming more important – evident in the debates around if people should be forced to come and work in an office, how to maintain and build culture when remote working or what changes to make to attract hot talent. Wider societal issues around DE&I have also transformed the people function into a very conscious culture setter, responding to important changes.
And, of course, in addition to ethical matters, it is also psychologically and socially positive for purely business reasons to provide colleagues with more meaningful motivations. In this age of remote working, challenging economic circumstances, and explosive geopolitics: meaning, stability, and community matters.
Leaders must consciously put purpose into employees’ days so that all parties spend less time managing or being managed and more time achieving the successes and growth that fuel further intrinsic motivation and morale growth.
Beware the counter-revolutionaries of culture
Despite a conscientiously planned culture, resistance emerges from predictable places, notably poor leadership and micro-management. Understanding and controlling for the shortcomings of such leaders will become a vital part of culture planning. It is impossible to create a highly motivated, productive, creative workforce when those with responsibility and accountability for team success and happiness aren’t equipped with the right tools to fulfil the role. The impact of poor leadership compounds.
One cultural behaviour to encourage, playing into the theme of meaningful motivation, is intrapreneurship: The art of being an entrepreneur on behalf of and whilst working within a bigger organisation. An intrapreneurial mindset has several benefits, chiefly encouraging colleagues to focus on problem-solving and achievement, which are both massively important if an organisation suffers from poor leadership.
There’s some academic literature on the topic, but it seems fair to state that, like entrepreneurship, the intra-company version hinges on levels of accountability and responsibility. Where assisted with clear and safe procedures to guide proper behaviour, this is the recipe for personal and organisational action leading to success.
Budding intrapreneurs should believe, and be backed by managers and leaders, that if they show the right behaviours and take the right action per the company culture, the outcome of their action shouldn’t be the measurement of success. Failure enables learning; the key is that the right behaviours are not quashed from fearfulness.
As an illustration, elite sportspeople focus on refining their techniques on what is within their control: Their action. The results are not up to them – other factors come into play, the action of the other team, the weather, the wind, and so on. This spirit should guide frontline teams. They have their goals to meet, but their actions are what will be measured to support and refine their performance in pursuit of their targets.
- Collaborative culture-setting programmes will encourage shared ownership and buy-in.
- Clear descriptions of appropriate behaviours, with managers tasked with rewarding the right behaviours (even if they don’t result in immediate success), will reward the right employee activities.
- Appropriate employee feedback mechanisms will identify leaders who require support and training.
Stay focused: culture is built from action
Following creating a well-written mission statement and a few good, or even great, HR programmes, building a culture isn’t once and done. A great culture in the post-COVID, the pro-working-from-anywhere world will come from seeking a balance between meaningful work and sustainability.
Employment seeks to create physically and mentally well, engaged colleagues. It’s important that resiliency and creativity are developed and believed in so that top talent will remain engaged and contribute to the ongoing re-creation of this culture as times, programmes, and needs change.
Setting a culture that seeks to be open, flexible, and transparent will be key to raising morale and keeping colleagues communicative and nimble in whatever situations arise. What’s crucial is that those who can communicate the right cultural norms act as ambassadors to new joiners and that cultural expectations are demonstrated and rewarded in daily behaviours.
- Low-cost, higher-impact activities include mentoring and reverse mentoring.
- Reward the right behaviours and explicitly link them to the higher mission and business goals.
- Feedback should focus on behaviours as well as outcomes.
Ensure employees see their role in a greater mission
Motivation is a crucial component of productivity and organisational success. Remote workers must feel fulfilled and eager to hit their goals. Micromanagement won’t help people thrive when they are working remotely; there must be better ways to motivate and track their progress that add to the employee experience.
Most organisations can align themselves with big goals. Whether raising internal representation rates, supporting climate change initiatives, or simply picking charities and matching donations, there are routes to making a working environment feel more collaborative and meaningful.
- Ensure all colleagues, particularly those in the back office, see a through-line from their actions to customer, team, and company success.
- Create goals that match team successes with social missions.
- Solicit honest feedback on programmes and goals. Colleagues must be brought along, and sometimes messages don’t filter through quickly. Check the message has been heard.
A final thought – it’s crucial that the people function isn’t giving lip service to programmes that the company leadership aren’t really backing. Talk is cheap, but insincerity gets sniffed out when the rubber hits the road. There’s a clear line from mission to individual morale, and it’s up to HR leaders to ensure that lifeline isn’t cut. Intrapreneurship distils the behaviours and attitudes that add to real business impact AND employee growth, morale, and engagement.