By Judy M. McCutcheon
There’s a big buzz now around culture and strategy as companies in our region are finally recognizing the importance of having a strategic plan to drive success. However, I think that there’s a missing link as many fail to understand the strong connection between culture and strategy. A strategic plan should be an actionable document that is easily readable, simple to communicate, and easy to implement. Some companies engage in a strategic planning exercise and the document is so big and complicated, that it never comes off the shelf. Your plan should not be filled with pages and pages of complicated stuff. If it is, then it becomes a prime target as a dust collector. It appears that there is a full understanding of the why, but the how is still an illusion. I think we fail at the how because we fear change; we are afraid of technology, we are afraid that robots will take our jobs, we are afraid to hire skilled persons and outside consultants to help close the gaps. We fear the very things that can propel our organisations forward, instead, we remain stuck, very much like the “veteran” team member in Brigette Hyacinth’s book – The Purpose Driven Leader, reminiscing and wishing for the same ole.
In a recent article, the Harvard Business Review (HBR) said that AI (Artificial Intelligence) is not the issue, but rather, culture is. We should not be afraid of robots; I think we should be most afraid of what our organisational culture can do to the robots. Culture is the way we do things. It defines how we treat each other; how we treat our customers and how it affects the economic position of the organisation. We recently conducted a series of interviews for a client and discovered that there are many talented and well-educated unemployed young people languishing at home. What was shocking and rather disappointing is the way the candidates said they were treated in their search for jobs. I understand that managers and HR managers are busy and have many things to deal with, however, disrespecting people who are unemployed by not acknowledging and replying to their applications only helps to lower their self-esteem. What’s worse is that after being interviewed and being told that they will be contacted, they never heard back from the companies. Such disrespectful behaviour speaks directly to the culture of the organisation and specifically to the way they view human resources. In our Caribbean context, human resources are viewed more as personnel rather than as a strategic partner. How many companies have HR as an executive function? Most of these positions are at best mid-level. Your people are who will take your organisation to the next level, so you need to have a culture that speaks directly to that – your culture must demonstrate that you value your employees. So many of our organisations still practice this top-down approach to management that it becomes difficult for them to listen downwards. You must begin to pay attention to your people who are closest to your customers.
Another practice I find highly inappropriate, is that of advertising a job without stating the company – applywithus@….com or officehand@….com. What are you hiding? Is it that you want to release those in the position currently and don’t want them to know? Even so, this says that your culture is probably one that is built on mistrust. So many organisations operate within a toxic culture, a culture that adversely affects productivity and at the end of their financial year, throws their hands up in frustration at their financial results. I once worked for a company that was characterised by deception from the top-down. The leader was divisive and was a purveyor of gossip. This showed in their results every year and put them at the bottom in their industry. For an organisation to effectively execute its strategic objectives, its culture must be in line with those objectives. It makes no sense to have a strategic plan that talks about valuing employees, equal pay for equal work, and diversity, and you do not respect candidates enough to get back to them, even if they didn’t get the job. Leaders, if you want your organisation to be an employer of choice, if you want your customers to recommend you (which is the highest praise you can get), then there are some important steps you need to take, and it begins with your culture. Start valuing your employees and demonstrate that value.
Judy McCutcheon is a partner in the firm Go Blue Consulting, a Human Development Company. www.goblueinc.net