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Why HR can’t change company culture by itself

Strong company culture has been linked time and time again to organisational success. You only need to look at the decades worth of data to see the impact culture is having on organisations and the people that work within them.

In 2011, Forbes revealed data that showed companies with strong cultures saw four times an increase in revenue growth, compared to organisations without a strong company culture. Six years later, a study by Deloitte discovered that 88 percent of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is important to business success.

HR company culture

And now in 2019, organisations cite company culture and engagement as one of their top challenges.

Company culture has never played such a vital role in the success of a business, yet when many leaders think about culture change they see it as a project that falls into the hands of the HR department.

But the truth is, while HR can project manage company culture, the department cannot be solely responsible for ensuring the culture shift has a wider impact.

Because leaders need to drive it

No true company culture can be driven in the organisation without it coming from the top.

If the company culture is seen as just another box ticking HR exercise, people will quickly feel disillusioned by the change and won’t live and breath the culture. Instead, it will feel inauthentic.

Employees look to their leaders for guidance, which means if leaders cannot reflect the organisation’s values and behaviours, no one will.

While HR departments certainly play a key role in building the awareness of company culture and ensuring leadership understands the benefits, if there’s no real passion or purpose from the CEO or managing director, then the culture is not going to make any real difference to the organisation.

When HR comes to change policies or find tools to support the company culture, this can all be made or broken by the leadership team.

If they see it as a real investment they will champion decisions rather than question whether they’re worth it. Without realising it company culture can be delivered and reinforced by leadership teams, or it can be damaged and destroyed.

Because the team have to be engaged by it

Your people should be the brand ambassadors of the company culture you have within your organisation.

When a company culture is thriving, your people will feel fully engaged. And by this, we mean, enjoying the work they’re doing while feeling driven and motivated.

Your team are the ones who will make your culture come to life. They’re the ones who will adopt new policies or drop them like a hot potato. It all boils down to how they connect with the culture.

If your team are engaged with the culture you’ll find them going above and beyond their roles, living through the companies values, and shouting so much about the organisation that recruitment is easy.

Any HR department can work their socks off to create the foundations of good company culture, but if it fails at being adopted by the team it’s meant to support, it will never fully take off.

Because culture is more than box ticking

The culture encompasses everything your organisation does. Essentially the way it lives and breaths, because culture impacts the way people make decisions, the way their work is done, and how they interact with colleagues and customers.

Culture is not just about workplace benefits, bonuses or the office environment. It encompasses everything about the organisation.

When you realise this, you understand what a big task this is for any HR department to take on alone.

Fundamentally, any culture change requires the support and action of leaders and the people to make it work. 

By Lizzie Benton, Liberty Mind https://libertymind.co.uk