Edges | Human Resources’ Compelling Capacity to Impact Culture
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Human Resources’ Compelling Capacity to Impact Culture

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Culture is formed largely by people’s observations which answer the question, “What is rewarded around here?” Rewards are important because they support employee behavior at all levels and in all departments.


When a company talks about the importance of service, but promotes people who do not demonstrate a commitment to service, nobody believes that it is really important.  When a company talks about the importance of respect and dignity, but leaders are harsh, overly demanding and do not make people feel valued, the organization’s employees will not believe the company is serious.


When the things an organization rewards are not consistent with what is talked about as important, people are not actually experiencing what is promised.  In this scenario, two things can happen.  Some people will join into the less favorable behavior, but talented people will leave.


If an organization’s leaders talk about the importance of service, but service is not rewarded, some employees may feel relieved that they don’t have to focus on service, and they may overlook service concerns.  When culture discussions promise that inclusion and respect are important, but leaders and employees do not demonstrate those values, some employees will take that as permission to treat people with a lack of dignity. Consequently, talented people will leave shortly after they realize that the company is all talk and no action.


There are several steps to secure a healthy culture that embodies the values, quality and commitment necessary to have a healthy business.  You have to plan for it.  You have to talk about it so there is collaboration about what the culture deliverables and expectations actually are.  Then, you have to put the teeth in it.


Human Resources plays a critical foundational role in ensuring that culture develops to become what is desired. They set expectations and develop the policies by which people are managed. Job Descriptions and related key performance indicators are an important way to define what is expected of a person regarding culture, values and behavior.


Many organizations have inadequate Job Descriptions or none at all. Most organizations have generic Performance Reviews, if they do them at all. This type of HR management will dilute your efforts to shape culture. Acceptance of mediocre performance management practices will not only erode the way HR is valued in the organization, but will also render the leaders of the company without tools to really shift cultures.

Instead, HR Leaders must seek to implement, or influence the implementation of the right type of performance management system. This will enable leaders to effectively do what is needed to hold people within the organization accountable for their actions. Doing so should be done in tandem with an organization’s work in talent training, employee development and hiring/placement.


In addition to performance management, Job Descriptions are key and must be tied to the performance review process. Consider these things when creating Job Descriptions:


*Jobs are made up of tasks. These are the tasks the position actually does, on a day-to-day basis; the work that the person in this position is responsible to complete or accomplish.
*Jobs exist to produce results, meet expectations and uphold culture and values. Usually, the results are outcomes that are measured and part of the person’s regular performance achievement.


*Jobs can only be done well with fulfillment of the desired outcomes when the person in the position has the skills or competencies required to do the job and uphold the culture.


*Therefore, the process to determine what competencies person needs for a particular position is as follows:

  1. Identify the process to be followed and the behaviors to be exhibited by the person in the position to support culture. 
  2. Identify the tasks that make up the process, and determine which tasks are the responsibility of the person in the position.
  3. Identify the expected outcomes of the person in the position.
  4. Determine which skills are needed by the person in the position 
    to meet behavioral expectations that produce the required results. Additionally, be sure to include skills/competencies necessary to uphold corporate values and instill healthy culture. 
  5. Be sure to use this information to select and train the right person for the position.

It is critical that the organization connects the Job Description with the Performance Management process so that employee can be held fully accountable for their required job functions and expected results. This will ensure the metrics necessary to measure success, intentionally reward the right behavior and coach individuals who are not meeting expectations.


If your organization wants to make a higher level of commitment to a change culture or strengthen desired values, the HR group and the processes they oversee with respect to setting the expectations of the employee cannot be underestimated as a powerful and foundational tool. There are many other elements within the scope of HR that can contribute.


As you embark on this effort to align your tools with your goals, keep an eye on the people who choose to leave your organization.  When the culture begins to reject only those people who don’t support your culture and don’t demonstrate the values you desire to reside in the culture, you have successfully evolved your culture to be aligned with your goals.  Doing so will enable profitable growth strategies to be even more successful than you imagined.

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