Ever wondered why some organisations don’t actually meet their own standards of customer service or change management? It may be due to an unhelpful culture.
Culture is “the way we do things around here”; that is, it drives strategy. At its best, culture is characterised by clear expectations, shared goals and common values. How does your organisation measure up?
Observe the culture and feel the climate
If you were ask your people, would they be able to describe the values that drive the workplace culture? If not, it’s unlikely that your culture is particularly helpful. But the good news is that organisational culture responds well to careful cultivation by leaders of good intent. When the culture is clear and strategic, employees are more able to weather short term storms or periods of leadership drought because they know what to expect from each other. It also helps when policy signposts are clear and when faulty navigation is corrected early and openly.
Climate, on the other hand, reacts to shocks and interference. It is reflected in unexplained absenteeism and the highs and lows of interpersonal relationships that, when unchecked, can take any strategy off track.
So there we have it:
- culture guides both long term strategy and innovative responses, whereas
- climate is usually considered temporary and reactive to internal and external disturbances.
What’s going on here?
Without an explicit agreement on culture to guide organisational strategy, short term shocks can affect employee attitudes and engagement and, ultimately, the cultural life of the organisation. This may prove costly in reputational, financial and human terms. A healthy culture can protect your organisation from routine shocks. And a healthy culture needs to be cultivated.
Evidence tells us that by cultivating a wellness culture organisations can reduce unplanned leave, improve employee engagement and resilience, and in turn improve productivity overall.
What comes next?
When we Australians tackle a public health problem with education, regulation and communications we invariably take great strides towards population health improvement. We are known internationally for our success in reducing the road toll by promoting seat belt regulation, and lowering the rate of lung cancer by reducing smoking rates. These were not simple one-trick policy ponies. They produced results because they were developed and applied to complex environments using multiple strategies in a coordinated manner.
Similarly, organisational health requires a comprehensive response, which includes building a strong policy and strategic framework, giving staff the tools to help them respond more effectively to routine stressors, and intervening with a helpful alternative when necessary. A comprehensive response does need to be complicated. It’s a matter of putting the right building blocks in place, including intentional leadership, regular staff consultation, skilled and experienced project managers, and a receptive communications team.
Building a healthy organisation with a wellness culture is not only possible, it’s rewarding.
Measure the return on investment created by a healthy and helpful culture and feel the interpersonal climate change for the better.