Culture is often a set of unwritten rules between managers and employees. What this means in practice is that when employees are engaged and feel able to bring their best selves to work, the culture is good. People are happy, feel empowered to do their jobs, recognise that they’re part of a team trying to achieve a goal and continually build relationships with each other to make that achievement easier. Managers ensure that the strategy and goals are clear, that decisions are made and that people feel motivated and inspired to deliver.
The organisations that do this consistently invest time and effort into their culture. It’s really no surprise that they’re high achieving. They build the conditions to make this happen, and I get to see it and be part of it on a weekly basis with my clients.
However, there are some organisations that don’t see the value in this investment. For them culture is something that’s talked about but never invested in. I’ve spoken to many exasperated People and Culture/HR managers who are desperate to start an organisation-wide initiative, but continually face ‘brick walls’ from members of the executive who don’t see the importance of doing so.
There’s always another pack that has to be written to justify their request, another person to influence or budget that has to be scraped from departments across the organisation. It’s no wonder HR is often seen as adding little value, when their constant requests to do so are dismissed as superfluous activity alongside seemingly more important technical work.
In these instances, it’s often helpful to present the risks of not working on culture to the executive. Neglecting to invest in the day-to-day conditions can have significant risks and negative impacts on both employees and the organisation as a whole. Some of the key risks associated with not prioritising workplace culture include:
- Poor employee engagement: When employees do not feel valued or supported, they are less likely to care about their work or their contribution as part of a team. This can lead to decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and higher turnover rates.
- Low morale: A stagnant workplace culture can quickly lead to low employee morale. This can manifest in a number of ways, such as reduced motivation, decreased job satisfaction, and increased conflict among team members.
- Increased stress: A lack of investment in culture increases the chances of a toxic work environment which can be incredibly stressful for employees, leading to a range of negative health outcomes, such as anxiety, depression, and burnout. All of which impact the quantity and quality of work that needs to be done.
- Decreased innovation: Organisations need creativity in order to continually grow to meet the demands of customers or the community. When employees do not feel comfortable sharing their ideas or feel that they’d be blamed for taking risks, it can stifle innovation and creativity within the organisation and lead to stagnation.
- Damage to reputation: A lack of investment in culture can also damage a company’s reputation, both internally and externally. Culture is no longer a ‘black box’ that isn’t visible to the outside world. Thanks to websites like Glassdoor, culture is more transparent than ever and if an organisation scores poorly then this can make it harder to attract and retain top talent, as well as impact its relationships with clients, partners, and other stakeholders.
Overall, neglecting to work on culture can have serious consequences for the organisation’s success and long-term viability. But at its base level, we’re talking about the happiness of employees, the achievement of results, the buzz of creativity and the removal of fear, stress and anxiety. Ignoring a culture problem won’t make it go away, it’ll just make things worse, for everyone.