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It is common knowledge in the HR industry that maintaining a positive company culture is vital

particularly in todays ever-changing world of work. One expert argues that HR cannot
facilitate change without establishing a culture to suit a diverse workforce.
Its difficult for organizations to implement change if they dont promote a collaborative
culture, Charles Ashworth, vice president of employee success at FinancialForce.com, told HC.
Working within a collaborative environment aids in removing barriers or walls within the
workplace.
So

what

does

HR

need

to

address

to

uphold

healthy

company

culture?

1. Inaccessibility
There is often a lack of visibility across teams including the HR department and this is a
hindrance
to
internal
communication
and
collaboration.
Ashworth advised employers who are struggling to establish a collaborative culture and consider
ways in which various levels of employees can come together working toward common goals,
and in a communal way, such as pop-up events and spontaneous activities.
It is important for leaders to encourage collaboration across different business departments,
Ashworth said. But this must be done under the right conditions virtual collaboration can
become an obstacle if the company culture doesnt promote collaboration. Transparency and
collaboration starts at executive level. The culture in the company should reflect the values and
ambitions
of
the
leadership
team
as
well
as
the
company.
He added that HR must invest in and support employee relationships, as well as encourage
consistent
interactions
between
leaders
and
colleagues.
Leaders need to work together across their own departments a collaborative nature trickles
down through the company. It also helps to support informal communications and purposeful
conversations
throughout
the
organisation.
2. The generation gap
Many HR practitioners have noticed the adverse effects that having a multi-generational
workplace
can
cause.
Bridging the generational gap is a big challenge for a lot of companies today, said Ashworth.
As many workforces hire increasing numbers of millennials this is leading to a much more
digitally diverse demographic. Its up to leaders in the company to embrace this changing
environment by promoting digital learning and communication the workforce needs to stay
connected in order to bridge any gaps. HR must find a way to relate to the new generation and
encourage the establishment of an environment that they can relate to.

He added that a problem in many workplaces is an intergenerational, unspoken sense of us


versus
them.
Balancing current multi generations is different companies should be celebrating this
difference. Leveraging all generations as mentors younger workers can educate older workers
in new technologies, while veteran workers can teach millennials about traditional business
models. Every worker brings value to the company, and there seems to be a common ground
amongst all generations of a desire to work in a collaborative environment.
Ashworth told HC that one issues HR needs to be wary of is the difference in how generations
deal
with
problems.
With older generations, issues have traditionally been resolved face to face or by telephone, he
said, whereas younger employees can sometimes struggle with face to face conflicts being so
digitally
connected.
He added that it is important that millennial workers are taught to deal with face to face
communication
in
order
to
bridge
the
gap.
3. Shifting away from traditional work patterns
In todays constantly connected world, HR departments are facing the reality that work is
always
on.
Theres definitely a shift from the traditional nine to five environment, which is being driven by
millennials new way of working and changing technology, Ashworth said. There is a blurred
line between what has traditionally been work life and personal life, as people are working
varying hours in order to gain satisfaction in both. I dont think that the traditional working hours
will completely disappear, but it will definitely reduce significantly for many industries.
He told HC that HR departments are finding that they need systems and tools that can support
the
management
of
a
diverse
workforce.
Were looking to our companys workers to define how we can do this and relate to them,
Ashworth said. Companies need to recognise what the workers need such as flexibility or
more access to leaders in order to achieve a collaborative environment.
He added that it is important to recognise that work is no longer about the length of hours that
someone spends in the workplace the most valuable thing is the quality of the work they
produce,
regardless
of
their
time
in
the
office.
Whenever the subject of large-scale organizational change is discussed, the challenge of shifting
the organization's culture to support the desired changes usually comes up as well. Many people
would like to give you the impression that significant shifts in company cultures are more

commonplace than not my opinion is that we are only supporting our Western cultural
tendency towards egoism when we make such claims. Culture change is both possible and
necessary to help improve performance, but the predominant mechanisms that are touted for
making this change happen rarely provide the desired results.
This failure is not as much due to the tools that are used as it is based in our misconceptions
about what it takes to shift culture. A given person's cultural roots extend much beyond the
walls of a given company, a given period of time, or a geographic location. These roots have
been developing since the onset of time, and for us to think that we can significantly shift
something in a year or so that took thousands, if not millions of years to develop, is well, a bit
egotistical.
Just as it is egotistical to expect someone from another country to begin thinking and acting like
an American (whatever that means) when they move here, we are only fooling ourselves if we
expect our people to begin thinking and acting differently (the true evidence of a culture shift)
simply as a result of participating in a training session or listening to a well-crafted sales pitch
about the need to change at the monthly employee meeting. For example, if you ever wondered
why your company's attempt to install quality circles or self-directed work teams failed, you
might want to look at the environment where your people spent thirty-nine hours a week on the
job, instead of focusing on the one hour a week that was spent in a team meeting.
The collective culture of a given group of people is a compilation of each person's existing
beliefs and mental models. These beliefs and mental models are reflected in our day-to-day
behaviors, but the behaviors are not necessarily accurate or complete representations of what we
each personally think and believe they are only rough, and often misleading, indicators. More
importantly, these beliefs and mental models are primarily forged by emotion as the emotional
intensity of a given event increases, the potential impact that the event will have on our belief
systems increases as well.
Culture is not created in the workplace instead, it is shaped and shifted. While it is true that we
spend the majority of our waking hours at work, it is also true that we normally spend our time at
work performing the same routines and behaving in similar manners as the days go by. With
each day, we reinforce the existing belief systems we currently have in the absence of any
compelling reason to change. Additionally, in most organizations, the potential for intense
negative emotional events far outweighs the potential for intensely positive ones. We are shaping
our company culture each day, whether we recognize that fact or not.
A manager might learn some great stuff in that two-day training session about creating a high
performance work culture, and he might even leave the session with a strong desire to try out
some of the new tools. All it takes however is one highly negative and emotional five-minute
encounter after returning to the workplace to wipe out most, if not all, of these good intentions.
Very few companies know how to create an intensely positive work event or experience, but they
have mastered the ability to bring out the negative emotions in people.
Significant emotional events are required to significantly shift an individual's belief system.
When a company goes through a significant downsizing, merger, or shutdown, culture shifts

occur, both at the organizational level and at the individual level. Properly managed, these events
can lead to significant culture shifts (for those people that remain). Unfortunately, these events
are rare. They also are not the type of experience that you want to intentionally create in order to
make your people change.
A few years ago, I came across the phrase To change a culture, you have to change the
conversations.When a member of management talks to a front-line employee, they are
making a cultural statement. Their words, behaviors, and emotional intensity send a message
to that employee about what the company expects and wants to be. Think of the number of
conversations that occur in your workplace each day are they representative of the culture that
is touted and desired? What would it take to shift the nature of these conversations? How can you
get all members of management to conduct conversations in a similar manner?
More often than not, people answer no' to the first question, because it is very difficult to
overcome years of traditional' management. This is why companies that start from scratch with
self-directed work teams or process control methodologies have a much higher probability of
sustaining their efforts that those who are trying to shift the culture towards teaming or process
improvement. That said, even the new companies have significant challenges before them,
because the predominant belief systems of the people they will have to hire are probably not
based on these concepts.
There is no one answer for the remaining two questions. I can say that things will not change if
you don't begin to explore and have regular dialogue about the nature of your conversations at
work with your peers and the people you represent. In those workplaces where I have personally
experienced a high performance work culture, I can easily say that culture was discussed at most,
if not all, leadership meetings. Additionally, each significant change in a key work system was
evaluated against the impact that it would have on the current culture.
To begin shifting cultural beliefs, we need to first understand and appreciate the roots of
those beliefs. If the beliefs and mental models (culture) that are in place differ drastically from
what we desire, then we need to find high leverage ways to begin shifting those beliefs. Sending
people to training or preaching to them about the culture we desire will create awareness, but
they will not shift beliefs. We have to change the way we think, the way we talk to all employees,
and the way we behave at work on a daily basis.
Keep improving!!