We were thrilled to welcome Alison Minns as our guest speaker at a recent online forum for charity sector leaders. Alison is a professional culture change leader with 17 years’ Financial Services experience. She brings both in-house and consultancy experience leading and delivering complex culture change programmes.
Alison’s discussion focused on organisational development, employee engagement and change management techniques, particularly in relation to sustaining and strengthening organisational cultures when working remotely and dealing with the impact of COVID-19.
The key points covered were:
- Decide what you believe – do the research and base it on your organisation’s unique history, aims and leadership. The following guiding principles for culture can be helpful to keep you true:
- Culture is an outcome…. but can also be an enabler if actively managed
- Its clearest expression is in how we behave - which is driven by the environment we create, based on our experiences and underlying values and beliefs
- Accept that sometimes sub-cultures exist - and these can be dominant
- Break it down – what are the outcomes you are looking to drive? Why? What would success look like? Observable behaviours such as Accountability, Decisiveness and Empathy can be a useful way to target action.
- Align your processes – Deciding what a great culture looks like is the easy part…. Think about how your culture outcomes appear in how you hire? As a minimum, they should feature in your onboarding, training, promotion and performance management.
- Leaders create the environment for people to thrive. Leaders should do something personally different themselves to sponsor a culture change programme. Whilst it is important that leaders step up and recognise that they need to do something differently, it is crucial not to forget middle managers as a valid stakeholder group. Empowering them to have their say will make the change initiative a success.
- Listen to and involve people – including your beneficiaries/service users, sector peers and industry contacts. Do think about dissenters/detractors, the ‘silent’ majority and join the dots. Once you’ve gathered all views, it is important to feed back the changes you are making as a result of the information you have received.
The discussion then moved onto the tools available for measuring culture. According to Alison, engagement surveys are a good starting point and still have a place in today’s world. However, there are others to consider too such as Pulse surveys, as well as some of the newer technologies and tools including the Jam platform run by HSM. This is used to address specific and complex organisational challenges by crowdsourcing ideas, opinions and actions from employees, apply cutting edge analytics software to the conversations and then presenting the employer with a report containing actionable results. However, some employee engagement software tools based on communications data need to be used with caution and considerations such as data privacy and security need to be taken into account.
We then touched on how to tailor employee engagement actions to make them applicable to small organisations when employee surveys are not appropriate. Alison talked about the challenge of loss of anonymity but went on to say that any organisation should have a culture where open dialogue is welcome and encouraged, so that employees don’t feel they have to hide behind what they believe to be the psychological safety of an anonymous survey.
Inevitably we also talked about ‘maintaining’ culture, particularly as we move into a post-pandemic world where we need to strike the right balance between flexible/home working with being in the office and experiencing some of the more ‘informal’ interactions, which we have been missing out on in recent times. Staying connected is key to this, however not every call needs to be a video call. We need to ensure we are engaging our five senses differently and allow ourselves time away from the screen.
Maintaining consistency in messages about culture, repeatedly articulating organisational values and displaying the right professional behaviours, regardless of whether you are working remotely or in an office, will sustain and strengthen organisational culture and bring people together.