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HR and Company Culture: The Roles Human Resource Management Plays

hr best practices team management work culture Sep 18, 2023

The culture of an organization is king. Unfortunately, if it is not managed carefully, you may end up with a culture that is misaligned with the values and mission of the organization.

As the Chief People Officer, your role as human resource management is critical in order for this to work. Culture is all about people, how they behave and treat one another in the workplace. Just a few employees can subconsciously change a culture without even realizing it is happening.  And before you know it, you have a huge issue that is impacting bottom line success.

Which is why we need to talk about HR and company culture. What is the role you need to play and how do you strike that delicate balance between fostering the right company culture for employees and continuing to support your organization’s goals?  As the HR manager, you have two roles to play here. The first is as the advocate for the kind of company culture your employees seek. The second is as the supporter and implementer of your company’s goals.

Retention of top talent today is a key driver in most businesses. We know that employees have multiple choices for their careers, and what keeps them at your organization is the culture. Employee engagement studies consistently report that the key driver of employee engagement is co-workers and connection to managers.

Employees thrive in an environment of feedback and development. They want to learn from each other and be a part of a team. Most importantly, they want a place their ideas are valued and they can contribute as an integrated group.  They want to know you will teach them new things and invest in their success.  People that are not growing – walk!

As someone who is in the “people” business, it’s your job to be on the ground, watching as employees participate in and help shape the company culture. Take note of what you see and hear.  There will be subtle indicators when things are starting to go sideways.  Make sure break areas are teeming with people connecting, talking and sharing stories.  When you walk about, are people smiling or just watching the clock to get out?  Look for these non-verbal clues to see what might be really going on.

Employee attitude is critical, but at the same time, you must understand the drivers of your business in order to better understand how the culture can support the company’s goals.

Just last week, a client was considering moving from a high-touch HR resource to more of a self-serve model with a major payroll provider. They are a small (90 employees) family-owned business that prides themselves on knowing their employees at a personal level. They had struggles in 2010, but have come back and are now growing nicely with a very low turnover.

My recommendation was to move with caution. After all, how would employees feel if, instead of an HR resource, they now had to call a list of 800-numbers with a call center operator answering the questions? Likely, it wouldn’t sit well. This is just one example of culture alignment with organizational goals.

So, how can HR drive the type of culture that embraces employees and drives business results at the same time? In all honesty, it’s really not that hard. Consider these steps:

  • Have open conversations and training with managers on ways to connect with direct reports.
  • Take the performance management process to the next level with frequent feedback conversations instead of annual reviews that don’t add value.
  • Provide opportunities for cross-functional teams to work on mission-related projects.
  • Offer training in a variety of methods that speak to the way your teams want to learn.

Human Resources has to be the champion of company culture, but they can’t do it alone. Only by leadership walking the walk and talking the talk, will culture be embraced by employees and truly permeated throughout the organization.

Thanks for reading!

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