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Connecting With The Hidden Culture In Your Company

There remains a significant gulf between the kind of organisation many companies espouse and what their employees say they actually are.

Even inside some of the most successful global business enterprises, there is a hidden culture and social identity and energy that either:

  • complements the party line about the company’s missions and values, or
  • recognises it to be disconnected from the day-to-day operating realities of their work forces.

This misalignment of people and priorities is both a threat and an opportunity for global leaders.

The management view – and that of the marketers, human resources and corporate social responsibility promoters responsible for effectively messaging corporate culture to create a unique business identity and attract top talent from the outside – is usually far out ahead of the reality known amongst those who occupy your office’s cubicle workstations. You can probably relate to this condition, either in your current role, or with a past employer. You’ve seen the rolling of eyes when the Chief Executive takes the stage at a company meeting. Perhaps you’ve heard the sighs when another commitment to innovation is rolled out without a convincing story about how performance will be measured and rewarded. Or maybe you have been approached by someone you know and trust who has serious doubts about the company’s strategy and leadership.

Whatever your own experience with the senses of positivity or frustration that may exist within your company’s culture, it would be wise to learn what you can in order to direct the right focus, resources and people toward change that is lasting and productive for the bottom line. The next time your company makes a major announcement, go to the manufacturing line or the customer-facing front line and ask employees what they think. You may well be surprised by what you hear, and they will likely be surprised that you even asked.

Too often, during the development of global companies, the management team commits to a critical investment or strategy and assumes the new direction alone will be enough to engage their teams. Yet, sometimes, just the opposite is true. If employees don’t feel engaged and don’t understand how changes in their behaviour will pay off for them in the end, they may not commit and may simply decide to float and ride the waves of change without contributing to the effort. In such cases, the critical few – those so-called “A players” who have been counted on for years to deliver top performance and whom others go to for support with execution of plans – could be overwhelmed because they are getting the desired results from perhaps only a slight portion of their people.

It is vital for global leaders to recognise that the direction their management teams might be heading may not be the same destination the company’s employees are committed to reaching.

To bridge the gap, one must engage with people differently. If you work to connect with people you don’t already know, you will not only send a powerful message about your desire to learn from them, but also enlist their support and help them see the benefits of committing to the company’s plans.

If you understand the levers to engaging employees up and down and all across your business unit, you can reconcile how to engage and reward them to produce the results you need. But it takes work, it takes time and it requires a willingness to listen and hear what you may not want to hear to do just that.

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