Jo Geraghty


Culture is people

Date added: 28th Jul 2016
Category: Employee Engagement

When you lose sight of the people aspect of your business then is it surprising that productivity and employee engagement are low.

What is a great organisational culture? Contrary to popular belief it’s not shiny words on the office wall or a quick paragraph in the annual report, or at least not unless those words are backed by actions.

Culture is not what we do, but rather the way in which we do it. It’s not saying I care but it is demonstrating care through every action and decision. It’s not starting your sentences ‘with respect’ but it is respecting people as individuals. And it’s certainly not saying ‘don’t do as I do’ but it is leading by example, demonstrating values every day through actions and interactions.

Regardless of the outcome the Brexit vote was always going to highlight differences across the country but perhaps more shocking is the level of inequality within organisations as demonstrated by two recent Parliamentary enquiries into Sports Direct and BHS. Commenting on the reports the chairman of the Business Innovation and Skills Select Committee, Iain Wright, said that they revealed “common themes about a dominant individual who’s grown a business, or certainly controls a business, and really doesn’t listen to any advice” adding that the question was now “how do we use corporate governance, to make sure that companies are better run in the interests not just of these dominant personalities but for the good of the entire company.”

It’s a question which sits at the heart of organisational culture and employee engagement as well as the current drive to create innovative businesses which will deliver real solutions for the benefit of all. When the productivity puzzle remains unsolved, when analysts are surprised at continuing low levels of employee engagement; the blame has at one time or another been directed to a range of factors including the education system and unusual conditions following the recession.

But perhaps we should be looking for a simpler solution, one which places the responsibility squarely in the hands of the organisations themselves and the relationship which they have with their employees. When corporate governance is weak, when employees are simply seen as a means to a profitable end, when leadership is dictatorship and fear rules the middle orders, then can it be surprising that productivity and engagement are less than ideal.

Of course there are organisations which are run in a very different manner; one in which self managed engagement programs drive development and people are seen as intrapreneurs, responsible for creating innovative and market leading solutions. These are the organisations of the future, driving differentiated and inclusive development to such an extent that sooner or later more toxic models will be confined to history.

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