Why Company Culture Matters: Empowering Employees with Process and Technology

April 16, 2018 Sebastian Barnes

It’s no secret, organizations want to drive value for their constituents and customers. For either a non-profit organization or a for-profit company, goods and services are exchanged for the opportunity to grow. Growth means many things, but let’s not assume it’s only defined by dollars. True growth is the number of customers and constituents whose lives are improved by the impact of an organization’s vision. For some companies, their vision may produce cool lifestyle gadgets that generate revenue, but for others, such as academic institutions, it offers the opportunity for a better life — and for healthcare institutions, it literally saves lives.

Why does company culture matter? 

How can culture be the most influencing factor that drives value for an organization? 

Well, it begins with people. A person has a personality, a group of people have a culture. It’s the muscles and minds of all employees that power a company’s metaphorical engine to produce. Without people, there would be no company. So the better question is, how couldn’t culture be the most influencing factor to drive a company’s value?

What defines a company’s culture?

Culture is the fluid relationship an employee has with his/her employing organization. It is the bond that makes individuals, teams, and groups of teams united in a common vision. 

At the core, people are united by principles — such as honesty, behaving ethically, giving back to the community and treating everyone with respect. But people are also united by how they work together, and by how they learn from one another. An example of this is when a new employee joins a team. When this happens, the individual and the team will grow, both through how the team’s practices influence the new employee, and how the new employee’s previous experience strengthens the team. Neither will stay the same, nor change completely. They both adapt and become something new. And as an organization grows, depending on how its culture is nurtured, it will either mature or wither.

But don’t take my word for it...

As a Technology Strategist, I help executives define programs that fuel their next wave of business transformation. All too often, these efforts flounder because of a lack of vision, or the unwillingness to evolve an existing vision to meet future needs. 

Too much attention on the what and the how that needs to get done (the process and the technology), rather than the why it should be done. This why should be every executive’s ultimate business transformation goal — their vision.

But to accomplish their vision, companies must also invest in culture — just like people recruitment or skill development for sustainable growth. Just like process efficiency for operational agility. Just like digital, customer, and worker experiences for brand differentiation. And just like the technology that will enable the next wave of change.

How do companies invest in culture? 

Companies invest in culture by empowering people, defining processes, and investing in technology. Culture must embrace the Worker Experience — it must not block change.

1. It begins with knowing every worker’s worth. Workers must know their efforts add value. Workers must know that their individual activities contribute to their company’s objectives. We talk about this with the Engaged Outcome of the Worker Experience. Leveraging industry practices such as publishing a company V2MOM, or departmental-specific goals, or sharing objectives for transformation programs can have profound, intangible impacts. But that’s half of the equation. In response to leadership directing their vision to workers, workers must also know that their feedback will be heard.

Be mindful of the company culture killer — risk aversion. When workers don’t have a clear understanding of the value of their work, they are not empowered to take risks or innovate, which could improve how work gets done. The fear of failure will always trump the confidence to try something different. When this blocker of change occurs, it hinders worker engagement.

2. It continues with fluid design — by how you architect your processes to support business needs, and how those processes are supported by technology. There will always be a balance between optimizing efficiency, and the cost-benefits of making functional or technical investments. We talk about this with the Agile Outcome of the Worker Experience. The ultimate goal is to make your processes and technology work for the worker (for it to work by design), and not because it was the most cost-effective way to implement a solution. If how a worker gets work done is convoluted and antiquated, any company-enriching “go the extra mile” activities will likely be ignored.

Be mindful of the company culture killer: group consensus. The due diligence to gather all relevant data in order to make an informed decision is important. But when solution approaches have been defined and impacted teams have been consulted, it is equally important to not let over-socialization stop a decision from moving forward. When this blocker of change occurs, it hinders worker agility.

3. Finally, don’t let work get in the way of work. It should be easy for your workers to get ramped up on new knowledge areas, to work with each other and to drive decisions based off of data intrinsic to your business. If there are significant steps a worker must take to do any of these things, they will be fatigued even before they start the work which will actually drive real value for their company. We talk about this in detail with the Productive Outcome of the Worker Experience. This is why it is so critical to be reasonable and pragmatic with process and technology investments. Efficiency must be invested with the end user in mind. 

Be mindful of the company culture killer: the status quo. When workers are forced to follow a convoluted process or operate from an antiquated system, workers will also become inefficient. Healthy, constructive conversation must be embraced if these old ways are challenged. The answer should never be, “because it’s always been that way.” When this blocker of change occurs, it hinders worker productivity.

What’s next?

If you want to learn more about how technology and culture intersect, you might be interested in Appirio Experience18 Tour. If you’d like to do some more light reading on improving your Worker Experience through technology and culture, please visit our Appirio Experience18 resource hub page.

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