Derek Bishop


They won’t be told

Date added: 15th Jul 2013
Category: Employee Engagement

A friend’s teenage son is thinking of getting a dog.  As part of his campaign to persuade his parents that this would be a good idea he has undertaken vast amounts of research into the right type of dog for the family, how to introduce the dog into a cat-lead household and the right methods of training.  In the process our friends have learnt far more about dog and people psychology than they ever thought possible.

Now whilst this particular teenager may be unusual in his approach, the fact is that he has probably put more care into this project than many businesses do into appointing employees or in inculcating them into the company culture.  And whilst the tide is turning and hiring for cultural fit is becoming more acceptable there is still a belief among some organisations that as long as the references and qualifications match up then the person must be alright.

To return to our dog analogy, that is like saying that just because it has four legs and barks the dog will be right for the household.  No matter that different dog breeds need different regimes, different amounts of exercise and different training approaches; if you choose a dog simply because it is a dog then you may be in for a trying time and if you choose an employee based solely on qualifications the same may be true.

The result is that many very highly qualified square pegs finish up in round holes where they and their colleagues become miserable.  And even if the misfit is diagnosed early and they depart for pastures new then the ripple effects of their passing can be felt for some time to come.  But whether or not you have hired for cultural fit, there may well come a time when the culture of the organisation needs to change and that means re-engaging employees in a fresh set of values and beliefs.

And this is where organisations can come badly unstuck.  Just because the CEO and the leadership team have spent a lot of time and energy in constructing the new values it doesn’t mean that gathering employees together and simply telling them how it will be in future will have any effect.  As the recent PWC report “Insurance 2020” found, communication and training alone won’t drive change.  In fact the report concluded that many insurers who are seeking to remodel their culture are failing to translate their high level intentions into real changes in the way their people behave and make decisions.

Changing people’s behaviours and attitudes requires a fundamental understanding of the drivers and values which shape their being.  It means giving them a reason to change and re-engaging them in the new values of the organisation.  It means leading by example and reinforcing positive behaviour.  Yes as part of this there may be meetings, yes there may be training but there will also be example, changed processes and attitudes, measurement and rewards.

The organisation which announces that it is to embrace a culture of innovation and empowerment; but then goes on to set unrealistic targets which curtail the amount of time available for customer service personnel to solve problems won’t succeed.  The business which announces an end to silos as part of a reorganisation but then sets one department against another won’t succeed.  The leader who gaily announces a move towards a better work/life balance and then demands his team works unpaid overtime won’t succeed.

If you want the dog to stop eating your slippers, words are not enough; you have to encourage it towards an alternate behaviour.  If you want to change the culture of your business, then it is actions and consistency and example set hand in hand with an understanding of psychology and people that will make the difference.

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