Article (June-2018)


A matter of collective mindset

Jaydeep H Goswami

Designation : -   Director

Organization : -  Indian Institute of Psychometry, Kolkata


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How do you define culture of excellence in today's business world, where it seems to be captured and governed by digital technology?
JH Organisation culture can be defined as the values and behaviours that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organisation, and it shows up typically in the following four ways :
a. The ways the organisation conducts its business, treats its employees, customers and the wider community.
b. The extent to which freedom is allowed in decision making, in developing new ideas and personal expression.
c. How power and information flow through its hierarchy.
d. How committed employees are towards collective objectives.
However at the base of it all, it is a question of "collective mindset" of the employees. How the organisation behaves is the sum-total of how the individual team member behaves. And therefore, when we are focussed on building a culture of excellence in today's world, we need to understand two additional parameters (which till a few years back were not so crucial) :
  • Social media and digital technology - which has far reaching impact in information flow - both within and outside the organisation.
  • Mindset of the younger generation - which puts a premium on instant gratification - thereby posing a challenge when it comes to long term loyalty.
What are the key characteristics of the new age culture of excellence at workplace?
JH Key characteristics of a culture of excellence broadly remains the same through the last few decades, the difference only being in matters of recording (keeping progresses of technology in mind).
Following in my mind are the common characteristics :
a. The organisational vision is clearly communicated and understood individually and collectively throughout the organisation.
b. There is a clear purpose and meaning in what the employees do and what the organisation collectively does, leading to a supreme sense of belongingness and highly engaged employees.
c. Talent is recognised and encouraged throughout the organisation leading to mastery of roles and focus on high performers.
d. Resilience in the face of change and challenges both at individual and organisational level.
e. High collaboration amongst teams, and the elimination of the "silo mentality".
f. Organisational focus on continuous growth through a mentality of pioneering and innovation - not settling for the mediocre.
How managers should manage the change and instil culture of excellence in approach and attitude of new age workforce?
JH Before anything else, the manager must have clear "buy in" of the desired vision and be in a position to lead by example.
A pre-requisite for managers today is to be a Leader/Coach/Mentor for the team members and be available for guidance on short notice. This is one of the biggest challenges when dealing with the new-age workforce, especially millennials, who have short attention spans and are used to instant gratification. To manage the change and instil a culture of excellence therefore, "presence" is one of the initial pre-requisites.
The manager should create active engagement of employees - in planning and execution of change. They must learn to lead and communicate via forums; engagement teams etc., to discuss "WHY" the change is needed and then look for ways for employees to come to terms with it.
The manager should try to avoid surprises and conflicting initiatives and strive to always align all initiatives with the organisational vision.
Managers must be tech savvy and use the correct mode of communication to be most effective. Currently using social media platforms (of course with due monitoring) is a rage and a successful mode of showcasing company culture.
Using digital dashboards is another way of instilling a culture of excellence. The same also is often uploaded by the young team members on social media, highlighting their achievements and in an oblique way showcasing the organisation.
What are the challenges likely to be encountered in developing and sustaining the culture of excellence?
JH I think the biggest challenges today are twofold; however we can be proactive and focus on the beneficial aspects of these challenges :
  • Prevailing mindsets of the millennials.
  • The proliferation of social media and digital technology.
The younger team members of the organisation, especially the millennials have significant different mindsets from the earlier age groups. Instant gratification happens to be one of the basic requirements of this group. As a result of the consequent "short attention span" of the younger team members, organisations nowadays have an extremely short window to communicate successes, advisories and other information, beyond which its effectiveness is lost or reduced. This young group also has high threshold for risk, as a result retention in one organisation becomes an issue, and therefore with high employee turnover, the communication of the key elements of organisational culture becomes mandatorily repetitive - you are back to square one every time there is a resignation. Third, the millennials have an inherent and never - ending requirement for leadership/mentoring/coaching, so therefore it is essential that reporting managers are equipped to handle this role.
With social media on the other hand and the proliferation of digital technology, every kind of information is not only available, but actually "in the face" at any point of time. Digital technology can therefore be used very effectively in not only sharing information about the company's vision, it can also be used to showcase company culture by propagating "behind the scenes" about how the organisation is and how employees enjoy being in the organisation. With digital technology, "Digital Scorecards" summarising KPIs and achievements can be made good use of. Similarly "Productivity Softwares" and "Timekeeping Softwares" are very useful tools in making the organisation forward looking and appreciated by the new generation.
In the current scenario how do you suggest to develop a culture of excellence?
JH Building a culture of excellence is not a short term effort. It requires a clear vision of the top management and its unstinted support to the efforts and interventions applied to develop this culture. Building a culture starts and ends with the human mind. Once the idea is instilled in the mind, and periodic reinforcements are incorporated to encourage compatible behaviour in line with the vision, a culture of excellence would start to develop.
The following steps or phases may be considered :
a. Top management understanding and "buy-in" of the Vision - Top Management should first sit down and decide what excellence means and looks like. They should then create a master document to spell out what excellence means. This document should be as detailed as possible and include timelines and benchmarks.
b. Building a mindset of excellence - Communicating the vision. This would require regular and strategic communication commencing from the top and percolated down the system with adequate feedback mechanism to monitor the effectiveness of the communication and recording the progressive acceptance of the vision and the subsequent improvement in behaviour. Employees should be given anonymous surveys, which if handled properly would create a climate where employees can give constructive feedback.
c. Developing and implementing strategies of excellence - This would require establishment of best practices focussed on building skills and competencies. The focus here is on developing, nurturing and recognising Talent - the natural predispositions that make each of us particularly effective. My own experience too tells me that it is more sensible to AMPLIFY ONE'S STRENGTHS, because that's where EXCELLENCE comes from, rather than simply focussing on and fixing weaknesses, which most organisations have been doing all these years in the name of performance management. Keep in mind that for this generation, time and flexibility are extremely important so it is recommended that any interventions that are introduced gels with the new-age mindset. Some of the things that can be implemented for positive reinforcement are :
  • Acknowledge good work - whether face to face, by email or other means
  • Reward productivity - not long hours
  • Promote good health
  • Promote a strong work - life balance
  • Explain every single change - this will alleviate fear and resistance
  • Encourage bonding and camaraderie when introducing new systems.
d. Sustaining the mindset of excellence - Here the focus should be on developing a strong leadership. Because this leadership would take the organisation forward and sustain the mindset of excellence. Some of the key areas that would need to be addressed on a regular basis are :
  • To provide a high level of communication to team members about - "The goals that have been achieved", "Any goals that still need to be achieved", "How to achieve these goals" and "Where the team members can go for support."
  • To recognise the developmental requirements of the team members.
  • To set goals and motivate the team to achieve them, all the while keeping the Vision in mind - use of digital dashboards is highly recommended.
  • Provide enthusiastic and creative encouragement.
  • Model acceptable behaviour.
What is the role of HR in setting organisation expectations for excellence?
JH HR has a tremendous role in setting organisation expectations for excellence. Some of the things that HR can do to build and manage a strong culture of excellence are :
  • Being a role model for the organisation's beliefs.
  • Reinforcing organisational values.
  • Ensuring that organisational ethics are defined, understood and practiced.
  • Enabling two-way communication and feedback channels.
  • Defining roles, responsibilities and accountabilities.
  • Providing and facilitating continuous learning and training.
  • Sustaining reward and recognition systems.
  • Encouraging empowerment and team focus.
  • Promoting a customer - supplier work environment.
  • Recognising and solving individual and organisational problems and issues.
  • Celebrate successes of the individual and the organisation.
  • Facilitating a fun workplace to attract the new generation.
  • Gainfully utilising the Social Media and latest technology to reach out to the target audience of present and future employees.
  • Using Social Media for networking.
  • Implementing easy to use dashboards, apps and productivity software
  • And above all - Being always available for team members.