“Culture is king.” “Culture eats strategy for lunch.” We’ve heard these phrases, and others like them, said over and over again, and, by and large, we believe them to be true. Yet even though business leaders and their HR support teams agree that establishing a strong culture is important, many fail to make that happen. Why? We believe there are several key reasons—and understanding and taking steps to overcome them can help you achieve your culture goals in 2022.
Reason #1: Company culture plans never make it out of the boardroom
Many companies put significant time and energy into identifying their desired culture and establishing goals and core values to support them. Too often, though, this work never really makes it out of the boardroom in a meaningful way. Sure, these statements may be framed and hung on conference room walls or displayed on corporate websites, but nothing happens beyond that.
What needs to happen? The desired culture and supporting goals and core values need to make their way out of the C-suite and become embedded in the organization at all levels. Like any plan or goal, there needs to be action items, clear communication across the entire organization, and a cross-section of people supporting the initiatives. Communication needs to be strategic, ongoing, and across multiple channels to ensure that all employees are reached. This might include both one-way (e.g., newsletters, email, posts to shared online channels, etc.), and two-way (one-on-ones, town hall meetings, etc.). But that’s just the starting point. Another reason culture goals can be so hard to achieve is that there is a failure to establish accountability.
Reason #2: It’s not clear who’s responsible for achieving company culture goals
Accountability is critical for achieving goals of any kind—cultural goals are no different. Senior leaders need to clarify which team or individual is directly responsible for attaining culture goals. In many organizations, this falls to HR, but not always. Whoever the task falls to, it needs to be clear to them and others where this accountability lies. They’re the go-to person or group for communicating the goals; and tracking, monitoring, and reporting on progress toward meeting the goals.
The HR leaders in any organization need support from senior leaders in their efforts to shift the culture. It’s not an easy task and not one that HR can take on alone. It takes support from the top to help drive change. The pandemic has caused increased awareness of the critical role of HR leaders, especially in light of the “great resignation.” In fact, Fortune tells us:
“Board leaders have prioritized workforce strategy, a change from the more finance and operations matters they previously prioritized.”
But HR leaders need support to achieve these strategies.
Reason #3: Nobody has the soft skills needed to achieve company culture goals
Culture shifts don’t just happen. They take individual effort and action at all levels. It’s often the case that leaders, managers, and employees are committed to the goals, but they don’t have the knowledge, skills, or competencies to achieve them.
That’s particularly critical for leaders and managers because they’re the ones working and having day-to-day interactions with team members. They also have the greatest impact on the day-to-day employee experience, so don't overlook the need to ensure they have the training to optimize these interactions.
Generational issues come into play here as well. Younger generations in the workplace may come in wholeheartedly committed to achieving culture goals, but they may not have the experience, confidence, or change management skills to make this happen with their teams. While older generations may have the skills needed to drive and impact change but need to be upskilled around topics often related to culture goals, such as diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging and employee mental health.
Planning and support specific to all the types of leaders you have will help ensure their success.
Reason #4: Budget hasn’t been allocated to support company culture goals
Culture-driven organizations often say "no money, no mission,"—which is particularly true in not-for-profit organizations but still applies to any organization focused on achieving a desired culture. Without money—budget dollars—added to these initiatives, it's not likely that anything will happen. Money—and the metrics and KPIs to measure success—helps culture goal attainment achieve alignment and focus and other strategic organizational initiatives.
The bottom line: people are the key to achieving culture shifts. Everybody in the organization needs to know the culture goals and the team or individual responsible for achieving culture goals. They also need to train in the soft skills required to achieve these goals—and have the financial or budget support to make things happen.
Plan to succeed with your company culture goals
What training topics need to be incorporated into your 2022 training catalog to ensure your company culture goals will be attained?