Too often businesses get caught up in the process of change, rather than considering and planning for what happens after the process is complete and the impact this can have on employees.
‘Culture’ by definition is frequently linked to high level theoretical models, concepts and academic narratives, rather than being viewed more practically as ‘the heart and soul of a business’, driving through at every level the values, beliefs and ethos of what it is about.
Changes in any working environment can create uncertainty and this can lead to negativity, reducing employee engagement and ultimately disruption. It is important therefore that businesses think about change before it happens and consider the best communications approach possible, so that employees at all levels within the organisation understand and buy-in to the strategy and direction of travel before, during and after any change process.
Collaborative leadership programmes that have been commissioned by public sector organisations around the UK, show the importance of creating the right kind of cultural environment for working across organisational boundaries. When this is evident this has a direct impact on employee engagement and productivity.
When Police and Crime Commissioners and Fire and Rescue Authorities are considering their readiness for collaborative arrangements, whether for local initiative programmes of local or full mergers, they should ensure that these cultural people aspects are assessed, developed and factored into implementation plans.
How do you measure culture?
Even though academics and consultants have devised various theoretical models to help define and analyse what culture is, it can still seem like a nebulous concept - a complex web of human attitudes, motivations, behaviours and opinions. How can you really understand whether ‘the way things are done around here’ matches expectations and will support wider strategic objectives? There is no simple answer, although culture in any organisation should represent the ‘core’ of what the business is about, it’s very being.
In the context of assessing how collaborative an existing culture is, an off-the-shelf cultural audit would provide some clues, but it wouldn’t test for the specific attitudes and behaviours that are demonstrated, or required to make a practical difference. The best way of measuring this is to get feedback from those who have experienced it first hand:
- the employees;
- the public;
- collaborating organisations; and
Direct feedback can be collated from a range of sources including internal and external surveys, focus groups, people related information held within HR, service user compliments and complaints and supplier evaluations.
To generate meaningful and actionable results the aim should be to understand the presence of both enabling and hindering cultural characteristics to identify those which can be leveraged, those that need to be developed, and those that need to be phased out.