Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Invest in Culture to Succeed

I have been surprised by the feedback following my article yesterday suggesting the real competition in business is that of the workplace culture.

While there has been a mix of views, the overwhelming sentiment is of employees feeling dis-engaged and not respected, while being expected to operate in a vacuum of limited information mixed with largely negative feedback leading to a fear of blame.

The most highly qualified executive is of diminished value if they cannot garner passion and belief within their team. All the qualifications in the world count for little if sustainable belief in the service or product being provided is not able to be backed by evidence.

A common decree of an organisation's leadership includes words similar to “our people are our most important asset”.

A gentleman and long term successful operator of a small business provided me with a long-held and distressing view. 

He suggested his very many years experience in business told him the organisation that most vehemently talks up the idea their “people are their most important asset” is always the organisation who least values and least engages their employees in the business.

I challenged his claim to this being ‘always” and he was very clear saying “not often, not usually, not regularly but always”. He suggested the other phrase or variation of phrase that next indicates forthcoming failure is an organisation promoting the idea “they partner with their clients”.

Other feedback referenced companies that are re-structuring but are not clear in their “all staff” communication  of the people impacts or who is being forced out and who is not.

A related comment suggested if an announcement is made, be it written or verbal and more time is spent talking up the benefits of the changes and they are opaque or less concise about the people impacts, you leave behind a large dose of mistrust you simply will never recover from.  

On a similar theme, organisational change inevitably follows changes in the competitive market place and if the “people” are not treated in a way viewed as equitable then failure in the market place is long and painful.

Also interesting were the comments from employees of small business who were largely positive about, and promoting of their products or services and their employer. 

There also appears to be a divide in the positive cultures of businesses that produce a tangible product and the negative cultures apparently present in business dealing in the intangible. 

This difference is interesting and perhaps the communications skills required within “intangibles” need to be far better than “tangibles”.

Ultimately, if you look at competing businesses, the products or services they provide are much the same. Bricks are well, bricks, same with pots, plates and even superannuation funds. It is the people who differentiate competitors and create the competitive edge. Why then is it the people who feel least valued and the asset least invested in, no matter what the mantra from leadership is?

And, when I say invested in, I do not mean ‘money’. 

The most valuable and the most important currencies of investment are those of trust, integrity and engagement. These cost time, honesty and belief and it appears all three are in short supply. They are also not a balance sheet item, but they sure have a huge impact of on what the balance sheet 'says'.

No comments: