What does good look like from a cultural point of view?

Clinton Poore our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 29 November 2021

Thanks to the many political and cultural movements that have taken place over the past few years, we are reaching a new level of public consciousness and the emerging generations of talent have made one thing clear - you need to actually care to count. 

In fact, 45% of Gen Zers want to work for a company that makes a positive difference to the world (and actually does make a difference, not just says it can make a difference).

So, what does this mean for company culture? In short, it means the time to implement effective ESG, DE&I, and CSR practices (combined) is here. 

If you’re seeking growth, stability, and you want to retain your top-level talent as well as attract that type of talent in the future, you’ll need to ensure that your company culture is much more than a fleeting phrase or passing thought. 

How to incorporate ESG, DE&I & CSR into your company culture

Incorporating ESG, DE&I, and CSR into your culture forms your values and helps employees become ‘culture carriers’, in turn reinforcing the message you strive to communicate. 

People also stick with cultures that work well for them, and having a strong sense of culture that employees can enjoy will also bolster other aspects of your operations. The inclusion of these three key ingredients into your culture shows what good looks like for the business both internally and externally. 

But how do you incorporate it and make it work on all fronts, and has any company successfully done so?

In many ways, culture can be seen as something entirely intangible. It’s ultimately driven by the number of people within any organisation and a collective of those behaviours. The expectations of ‘good’ culture will continue to grow and evolve, making it difficult to specify a precise end goal and even more difficult to quantify success, which is why routine surveys and feedback are of paramount importance. You can also look at how low your attrition rates are (and how good your recruitment is) as indicators of strong company culture.

Many of the large shifts in culture we have seen in the last 18 months across financial services are partly driven by new regulations. Aiming to ensure more “rapid and substantive progress across the financial sector”, these regulations seek to create a more resilient industry with a collective commitment to faster change. But then there’s the question - do strict regulations actually drive the right cultural behaviour? We shall see.

An essential on any boardroom agenda, implementing these important aspects into company culture will ultimately be down to excellent leadership and a strong internal infrastructure. 

How does transformation and change shape and drive company culture?

Transformation and change can only really be implemented after a period of assessment. This can work by obtaining rich insights into the current behaviours and experiences of leaders and their teams via surveys, interviews, and workshops. Only then can you begin to identify your current position versus the desired one, and to work out how to bridge that gap. 

Cultural transformation works most effectively from the top down, avoiding any disconnection in the middle by taking an integrated approach to making change a reality. Companies can implement strong transformation with things like workshops, change champions, and surveys, eventually leading to an aligned vision, confidence, and competency across the board. 

Company culture can be further shaped by the implementation of key roles within this field. New titles emerging include Chief Sustainability Officer, Chief Culture Officer, Chief People Officer and Head of Responsible Investing. 

Research carried out in 2018 actually revealed that having a Chief Culture Officer and Chief People Officer was a “winning combination” for continued success. While the Chief Culture Officer cultivates a strong culture throughout the company, the Chief People Officer can go about ensuring an unrivalled experience for both employees and (critically) customers, actively seeking and reviewing data to ensure positive outcomes. 

Every year Glassdoor release a top 100 list for CEOs. For 2021, three companies stood out for having a 99% CEO approval rate, including Boston Consulting Group. Rich Lesser has held this executive position since 2013 and the 24 years prior to this, Lesser maintained a chairman role at the global management consultancy firm. His long-standing commitment to the company and its people cannot be overlooked as a contributing factor,

What good looks like

When it comes to a ‘good’ culture, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. What drives positive change for one organisation may not achieve the same success in another. 

Just one of the financial services firms striving to implement what a ‘good’ company culture is for them is Hanover client, Dudley Building Society. We worked with Dudley on culture and strategy and what good looks like at a leadership level, and since then we have seen how behavioural changes have filtered through the organisation, positively impacting both employees and customers.

Megan Price, Head of Strategy & Culture, says that, “We engaged with Hanover to benchmark our leadership ability. We wanted to understand that if we wanted our culture to look a certain way, and our customer experience to be a certain way, how do our leaders need to behave?”

As a mutual owned by their members, a critical component is putting members first and finding the human element in each service Dudley provides. Megan says, “While our products are mortgages and savings, the people purchasing these products have dreams, hopes, and wishes, whether that’s someone finally being able to buy their own home, or parents sending their child to university.” Knowing who the people behind the purchases are is important because it helps to serve their members much more effectively, and means that employees are actively demonstrating behaviours towards this aim.

On the other side, there have also been conversations around the employees’ human experience, with individuals explaining why they’re proud to work at Dudley and what’s special. Megan says, “We mapped these stories into what our purpose, core values, and visions are.” These stories have now been integrated into the corporate voice and are part of Dudley’s narrative.

How do you get to ‘good’?

For an organisation to get to ‘good’, they must work from the top down, filtering through each individual along the way. This, of course, begins with looking at the leadership objectives and examining what role they play within the culture itself. 

While discussing desirable company culture with employees is insightful and can add real value to your processes, it might also lead to a set of objectives that don’t really achieve your end goal. Ultimately, your process should seek to:

  • Set the benchmark for strong leadership
  • Create a tailored development plan for all leaders
  • Have a measurable output
  • Create strength in the entire team - not just in individual leaders

This process involves conducting a series of interviews and engagement surveys with stakeholders at various levels. From this, you can extract key leadership qualities that can act as the spine to support your organisation and set the tone for future success.

Measuring success

One of the best ways to measure cultural success is by conducting employee surveys at a minimum of every six months, but ideally every quarter. A regular check-in of employee experience and behaviour is essential for measuring culture and the successes of those cultures. Collecting and reviewing feedback from both employees and consumers is also a valuable insight in terms of what comes next. 

Another method for measuring the successes of company culture is to examine the direct correlation between behaviours and culture by implementing a rewards scheme.

However, measuring culture isn’t easy (no matter how many regulations are put in place). There’s also the opportunity to tie results into an individual’s KPIs, but does this incentivise the right behaviour for the right reasons? It’s a little early to tell, as this type of incentivisation isn’t yet widely adopted.

If you’d like to talk about how Hanover can support your business with leadership solutions and driving positive cultural change, schedule a call with me.

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