Countless articles discuss the importance of organizational culture for employees around the world. I think we spend too much time talking about culture and not enough time doing anything to change the culture in our own organizations. HR plays an important role in organizational culture and its evolution. How it fulfills this role is the performance review of our profession.
If an organization has high turnover, poor management practices, a toxic culture, or unethical practices, HR needs to address the issue. Is this entirely HR’s problem? No. But the human resources department is the starting point of the organizational culture. As HR professionals, we should be fully engaged in driving the culture in our organizations.
The “culture” can be summed up in a statement I repeat in every undergraduate and graduate class I teach and in every management training I run: “Treat people the way you want to be treated.” It’s so simple. Why do we make things so complicated?
- Communicate openly. Designing a culture of support and buy-in starts with consistent and open communication channels. This means not only having an open door policy in the organization, but also spending countless hours engaging with individuals. My biggest HR successes have come from communication across the workplace and on the shop floor, talking to employees and union reps. (At times like these, when in-person engagement isn’t always possible, we can still talk to people via email, video conferencing apps, etc.) We need to make sure everyone sings at from the same partition. If an employee raises an issue or concern, follow up and close the loop. Your credibility will skyrocket. Design engaging communication strategies using the SHRM skills of Communication, Relationship Management, Critical Appraisal and HR expertise.
- Manage conflict resolution. Workplace conflict is inevitable; how we treat it is an option. Being prepared to resolve conflict means that you understand the needs of the workforce and the organization and are able to lead resolution and change throughout. Most people are afraid of conflict, but in HR we have no choice but to drive conflict resolution strategies, which includes having those crucial conversations. This is another opportunity to build credibility and engage the organization. Teach these skills to employees, supervisors and managers. Communication, Business acumen, relationship management and HR expertise are essential skills for the success of any conflict resolution process.
- Management of the commercial strategy. HR plays a role in understanding and driving business strategy at all levels. We must know our organization’s finance, operations, and supply chain better than anyone around the table, and we must be prepared to step into an operations or even CEO role should the need arise. By driving business strategy, HR can prove that it is the most important department in any organization. This will encompass all parts of the SHRM competency model.
Key performance indicators, metrics, and performance reviews measure success and opportunity across the organization. If your organizational culture is suffering, fix it. There is always room for improvement – no workplace is perfect. Just treat people the way you want to be treated.
Matthew W. Burr, SHRM-SCP, is a human resources consultant, assistant professor at Elmira College, on-call mediator and investigator for the New York State Board of Public Employment Relations.