Company culture is an important differentiator that makes a business stand out among competitors. Therefore, the process of changing and maintaining organisational culture is imperative for any business, the speakers of salariesinmalta.com’s first HR Network Series (HRNS) event in 2020 agreed unanimously.

Nurturing a strong culture comes with many benefits: employees enjoy the challenges of their jobs, they get along well with colleagues and they relish the work atmosphere.

Ardent employees also tend to be more productive. Meanwhile, their enthusiasm positively affects the customers, human resources professionals emphasised during the ‘Setting and changing the culture within your organisation’ event on March 6.

When planning organisational changes, companies often choose to carry out operational transformation. However, changing operations can only work if a cultural transformation precedes it, lean leadership advocate Edward Chetcuti, founder and CEO of start-up “theleanleaders”, said at the HRNS event. Outstanding company culture is the product of careful design, consistency and dedication across the corporate hierarchy without exceptions, he added.

Chetcuti, who has more than two decades of international experience as a general manager across several companies, believes that adopting the lean leadership paradigm can help businesses in changing and maintaining a distinctive culture. Lean leadership aims to balance cultural and operational transformation while establishing a robust and disciplined operational strategy supported by a standard organisational structure in line with the business management system, he explained. 

Setting a framework

The process of establishing and maintaining organisational culture matters because it creates a structure of how people act when nobody tells them what to do. It enables them to execute company strategy autonomously, Petya Sharrock, an HR change and organisational reshuffle specialist, said at the HR networking event.

When a company’s culture and strategy are consistent, employees execute business strategy not because they are required, but because they want to. Employees share the same motivation and values as the management and leaders, which results in faster task execution and higher standards, Sharrock added.

An organisation is not just a selection of people, however. It is defined by the way employees deal with customers, how they collaborate, what decisions they make and how fast they execute. Every time the management expects the staff to improve procedures, the culture needs changing first.

During their presentations, both Chetcuti and Sharrock advocated using Harvard Business School professor John Kotter’s eight-step methodology for change management, which they have adopted in their career when driving organisational change.

Kotter’s model follows three phases: a company has to set the climate for change, it has to engage and enable all its employees contributing to the process and it has to ensure that the change is implemented and sustained. “It all starts with culture, and it all ends with culture,” Chetcuti underlined. 

Playing an essential role

Culture plays an essential role in the success of a company. For example, customers like to feel a personal connection with the brand as it allows for a “signature experience” that helps to tell the proper story about an organisation, intercultural communications coach Valérie Cabay said during her presentation. If the corporate culture makes employees enthusiastic, they create an environment where customers can bond with the brand.

Robust corporate culture also supports attracting and retaining talent. Not only do skilled employees know other excellent professionals, which helps the attraction of candidates, but working as part of a like-minded team gives the staff a sense of community and belonging, which serves retention. Creating such an environment may have never been more convenient, as Malta’s low unemployment rate ‒ 3.4 per cent in January 2020, according to figures by the National Statistics Office ‒ poses difficulties for finding the right talent. 

Furthermore, promoting cognitive diversity at the workplace (differences in how people think and process information) can have immense effects on corporate culture, Cabay added.

The ability to leverage diversity in experiences, culture and background is a reliable driver of creativity, innovation and global success in the corporate world. Although working in homogeneous teams may seem more comfortable, it can result in businesses settling for an average performance. On the contrary, diverse teams are more productive, happier and perform better, as diversity brings up challenges that motivate teams to achieve their best, Cabay concluded.

Salariesinmalta.com, Malta’s only research-based salary benchmarking tool, is organising this year’s second HR Networking Series event on May 8, 2020, focusing on the topic ‘Engage your managers: Experiences from practitioners’.

Analise Germani is project leader of salariesinmalta.com

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