Every established group of people, be it a country, a sports team, or a company, will eventually develop its own distinctive culture and certain ‘way of how things are done around here’, whether this is actively managed or not.
But just as not every person from the same cultural background is the same, not every employee working for the same company will necessarily have the same attitude and values relating to their work.
So how do companies create that sense of common purpose and a shared understanding of what behaviours are encouraged, accepted, or prohibited? And how can they balance the positive drive for more diverse and innovative thinking with the need to be clear on where certain boundaries are?
On a day to day basis, companies will trust their employees to work independently and to apply reasonable judgement when making decisions. But for a shared culture to be properly embedded, the behaviours, values, and parameters must be clear to everyone in the business.
‘The customer always comes first’ is a common shared value, but clear and practical examples will have to bring the culture to life. If the company’s ethos is to put the customer first, employees need to feel incentivised to behave in accordance. If values are only treated as a ‘nice to have’ that sit at the bottom of a list it shouldn’t come as a surprise if these behaviours are not applied across the business.
So if a company is serious about being responsible and having a good relationship with its stakeholders – including its customers, employees, and suppliers – every single person in the business needs to understand what this looks like and that acting in this way is non-negotiable.
This will likely encompass a very wide range of behaviours – from the attitude taken towards customer service, to the way in which constructive challengers and even whistle-blowers are treated, to fairness in the way that employees are treated and rewarded at all levels.
What is needed is a sense of accountability. Does it really matter if these behaviours are demonstrated or not? And are the executives practising what they are preaching? And how can business leaders measure and manage culture?
These are questions the CBI is keen to explore over the coming months. Let us know what you think in the comments below or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org