Employee Relations, Human Resources, Leadership, Performance

Culture is Not an HR “Function”

Companies have more of a focus on their defined “culture” and, naturally, turn to their HR Department to lead the design and implementation of a culture program, but that does not make it a “function” of the HR department. 

First things first: What do we mean by “Culture”?

Culture is a combination of behaviors and values that create how employees feel while carrying out their daily duties.  It encompasses things such as dress code, core values, office layout, and perks/rewards.  Having a positive workplace culture helps attract top talent, drives employee engagement and affects the success of overall work performance.

Makes sense that company executives are focusing on their company’s culture, especially with the job market the way it is.  Companies that aren’t embracing the changes in employee priorities since the pandemic will find attracting and retaining talent even more difficult.

Culture is not a function, it is a mindset

It makes sense that the HR department is involved in designing and executing a culture plan since their main focus is People.  Sadly, too many executives have wrongly labeled “culture” as an HR function, putting full ownership on the department and holding them accountable for the success or failure of the plan.  HR is definitely in the right position to develop a company’s new culture plan as they usually have the best pulse of the employee wants/needs/concerns, but leaders stepping aside thinking anything “culture” related is HR’s responsibility is only going to lead to a non-start of failure of the plan.  Putting it all down on paper is great but its useless without participation and execution of the plan by ALL company leaders, from Supervisors to Executive leadership.

How can you then successfully change a company’s culture? It starts with you.

One of the first things most companies created when thinking about culture in their workplace was: Core Values.  You usually find these in the Employee Handbook but what about posting in your work areas so employees are reminded on a daily basis?  Okay, sure, HR can do that but you then have to set the example to your employees about these core values and recognize them when they incorporate them into their daily duties or even a specific project.  How do most leaders think this happens – oh, HR should create a Rewards Program to recognize these employees.  Okay, again HR can do that, but YOU have to execute it by making public announcements and applying rewards to those particular employees…yet most leaders up and down the chain claim “I don’t have time to do that.”  Well, then how to you expect your employees to continue to carry out their core values with some sort of recognition?  You are the one person they really want to hear these praises from because it acknowledges for them that you really do pay attention to their work product and dedication.

Let’s touch on that Rewards and Recognition Program now.  Again, HR can find the right software or plan to create and execute a Rewards and Recognition Program but if YOU don’t use it for your employees, then who will?  Sadly, most leaders go right to “oh the program doesn’t work” instead of admitting that they aren’t taking the time to use it.  Or, they try to breeze through the steps to reward an employee because they are “busy doing more important things” that the end product comes across as insincere to the employee. 

The worst thing a leader can do is NOT set the right example or participate in such resources.  You don’t claim to have an open door policy and then berate the employee for speaking their mind, do you?  Some do and you have seen what it does to the company.  You want, no you demand, honesty and integrity from your employees, yet what happens if you aren’t giving the same in return?  Employees are looking to their leaders for transparency more than ever now.  These are the types of things that can damage a change in culture that your company may be trying to implement.  Next thing you know, the employees are pulling back at giving 110% and looking for a new job.

Your employees need to be one of your priorities

The best culture design will need input from all departments as to what leaders feel will gain the employees’ attention and engagement.  HR can then take all the input, create a plan, setup needed resources to use and then roll out the announcement to all employees.  You, however, need to take the reigns from there in your department.  Remember, retention starts with building a relationship and rapport with your own employees. 

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