Companies – not just people – have their own personality
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Companies – not just people – have their own personality

Future of Work

Companies – not just people – have their own personality

September 25, 2017 Geoffroy De Lestrange

What does corporate personality mean and why should it matter? If there is low employee loyalty in your business then you should reflect on how your company's personality can affect employee engagement.

According to our recent study, “Future Business: Unleashing Your Talent”, conducted in collaboration with IDC, there is a direct correlation between business success and collaborative practices that aim to increase employee engagement. And these are only effective if embedded as an integral part of business culture.

Is your organisation a happy one?

By having a human view of organisations, we may be able to learn why it can be difficult to retain talent and then develop solutions that increase the chances of holding onto them. No one wants to be around angry people, because they are people who often see the glass half empty. Like people, a company may sometimes be "angry" and this happens when it is permeated by a culture of tiredness and sarcasm. Of course, no one can expect people to be happy in this kind of working environment. In fact, a company of this nature is in danger of losing some of its best employees. Resulting in a high turnover rate and a low level of engagement that is likely to affect the financial performance of the organisation.

So, let's do an exercise. How would you describe your organisation? What word can describe your company’s personality? Boring? Happy? Tense? Once you find the word that describes it best, think about why you chose that word and give some reasons to confirm your statement. Remember, your company has a personality and it is always possible to do something to improve the "personality traits" that prevent the company from advancing and improving.

It's a matter of culture

These "traits of personality" transcend the organisational culture. To have an organisational culture means your company follows a set of standards, beliefs and values ​​that remain at the heart of an organisation.

Edgar Schein, a US psychologist and great organisational culture expert, believes that there are three main components in the interpretation of organisational culture: artifacts, shared values, and basic assumptions.

• Artifacts: visible processes and organisational structures. They are the languages ​​and behaviours adopted by employees at a company, technology implemented in that company or the physical and social environment.

• Shared values:  These are the strategies, goals and philosophies of the organisation; That is, the justification for the actions taken by the company. These can be defined in documents, such as statutes and they aim to strengthen the sense of belonging to the organisation.

• Basic assumptions: These are unconscious beliefs. They correspond to our thoughts and feelings, the ultimate origin of our actions. They are rooted in organisational culture and are therefore difficult to modify.

In practice

Having a Learning Management System  artifact) does not necessarily make an organisation capable of improving its collaborative learning processes (shared value). Likewise, a performance appraisal process (shared value) does not automatically translate into a fair remuneration structure (basic assumption). However, we can learn from these processes.

For example, if we take a media company that wants to renew its performance appraisal process in order to bring about significant change, we know this can only happen if the shared values ​​and basic underlying assumptions are perfectly aligned.

Starting with the company’s current situation, we assume that the performance appraisal process includes all the necessary forms and assets (artifacts). Some improvement is always possible but what process cannot be improved? Let's say, for example, that the evaluation is done once a year and that the managers who conduct it are included in a hypothetical "list of bad guys". First of all, we all know that the list (shared value that leads to the underlying assumption "being on the list is not a good thing") is something everyone sees. In addition, we know that being on it indicates the fact that our boss highlights our insubordination in evaluation processes. The result is that many complete evaluations because they are motivated not by the benefits of a productive discussion with their collaborators (shared value,) but by wanting to remain off the list.

The process also has some undesirable consequences. Since managers do not intend to spend more time than what is strictly necessary, all ratings will be "neutral" because this is much simpler and faster than having to return punctual feedback. The consequences? Employees who work well do not have any recognition and, likewise, bad employees go completely under the radar. In doing so, good employees are first to leave the company, because they do not feel appreciated, while the latter remain and continue to work the same way, as their low or poor performance does not seem to be a noteworthy issue for managers.

Three steps to change the company's personality

• Identify your company's personality and behaviours. Perform the exercise described above. What is the word that describes the personality of your organisation? What behaviours do you see that confirm this impression? What are the policies, procedures and practices? Or rather the unwanted consequences of these?

• Map these behaviours over the three levels of organisational culture. Some of these behaviours will be mapped in relation to artifacts, such as people who leave soon (or later). Others will be mapped to shared values, such as not being included in the list above. Others will eventually be under appreciated. For example, receiving a pay increase of less than a specific percentage is perceived by the employee as a lack of recognition of their work by the company.

• Go back and change your hires. Often, it tends to start with artefacts, such as purchasing an LMS, assuming that we will be very good at training our employees. We must, however, understand the underlying assumptions and redefine them, in order to transform the underlying culture.

If the corporate personality needs a change, it is senior management that has to realise it first and act accordingly to put it into practice.

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