Article (June-2018)


Establish the values that resonate with everybody

Rajesh Padmanabhan

Designation : -   Director and Group CHRO,

Organization : -  Welspun Group, Mumbai


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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?
RP Leaders always aim for excellence as they want to utilize full potential, hunt for growth, build an effective organization, and produce long lasting change. The fact of the matter is that :
'Many interventions in the organization aimed at leadership, culture, training & development lead to only short - term gains which fade away as teams go back to their old habits.'
In today's time the main challenge for any leader is to build a lasting culture of excellence throughout the entire organization. The key to moving an organization from the conventional way of working to having an expectation of excellence is the corporate culture. While building a culture of excellence, one concentrated on building the organizational capacity and an environment that empowers and engages employees.
What are the key characteristics of the new-age culture of excellence at work place?
RP 1) Meaningful purpose - Employees attach a real purpose and meaning to their job in a culture of excellence. They feel safe because there is a sense of trust, and also an understanding of being a part of something bigger than themselves. It is integral to have a larger purpose and a sense of belonging to the organization. In addition, when employees feel that their contribution matters than they would want to give their best and aim for excellence.
2) Understanding the vision - Every employee must be aware of the company's vision, and also know their own roles, responsibilities and the specific actions they need to take in order to help achieve this vision.
3) Spotlight on high productivity - High performance needs to be given due importance, because it is often seen that companies focus on solving random problems instead of attending to long - term vision. The danger is that by doing this you shift focus from what is really important to ad-hoc stuff. An organization that is able to build a culture of excellence sets an expectation of high performance organization - wide. Every employee is expected and encouraged to grow in their position and expertise. High performers are nurtured, rewarded, mentored and recognized, and average performers are coached to move into the high - performance category.
4) Collaboration - A key feature of a Culture of Excellence is highly collaborative teams - both internal and external. Because every employee and all teams are working together toward a common organizational vision, they feel they are on the same side. And because this collaboration is encouraged and rewarded from the top down, there is no more reason to protect individual roles, projects or expertise.
5) Innovative mindset - It's about encouraging on creating something new, something that has never been made before, breaking records and achieving extraordinary results. Employees and teams are motivated to think unconventional, support, and co-create to achieve common goals.
How managers should manage the change and instill culture of excellence in approach and attitude of new-age workforce?
RP The companies that embrace change and challenges are the ones that can achieve excellence. Change and daily progress are highly critical to thrive in today's digital world. In a culture of excellence, employees develop flexibility and resilience to deal with challenges, change, and uncertainty.
It should aptly be communicated by the Managers to all their employees why adopting a culture of excellence is essential for the success of the company. Of course, this requires that they truly believe it themselves, and that they personally demonstrate the new behaviors they expect to see. Furthermore, they should ask employees to point out when their behaviors aren't consistent with expected decorum. It is found that case studies can be a very effective tool for creating the case for change. Specifically, case studies that discuss the role leadership and culture played in major incidents can be very powerful illustrations of the need for Operational Discipline. Incorporating activities that challenge employees to reflect on their own behaviors, relative to the behaviors of leaders in the case study, can help them recognize the positive aspects attached to the culture shift/change.
What are the challenges likely to be encountered in developing and sustaining the culture of excellence?
RP Talks of change are generally dipped in 'Hypocrisy'. Everyone talks about change, but only few people make a genuine effort in participating towards regime of change. This is fundamentally the biggest challenge to change. Because change is chaotic, frustrating, and taxing. This is why most organizations are cautious towards advocating/implementing change initiatives and its related challenges. Whether it's at work or in our day-to-day lives, the desire to avoid problems and instability overrides nearly everything else. That is why effectively managing organizational change is the biggest challenge for most organizations. While companies want the best for their teams, and hence encourage them to focus on organizational goals, employees are more motivated to avoid change, fear and uncertainty. In order to keep their teams focused, many companies resort to a problem - solving style of response. Unfortunately, this type of response ricochets and drifts companies even further away from their desired results. In fact, organizations should put more energy towards achieving the vision of the organization instead of being reactive in approach. The only way to keep teams focused on your organizational goals during times of change is to create a culture where every individual genuinely feels that focusing on the highest aspirations and meaningful goals of the company is more important than the uncomfortable feelings created by change.
In the current scenario how do you suggest to develop a culture of excellence?
RP To develop a Culture, you need to define what cultural "excellence" means to you and outline behaviors and key performance indicators that reflect those values. Here are some key steps:
1. Being aware of your current system : An anonymous survey to the employees can be sent. There are lots of questions that can help understand what the current culture is, but what you want to uncover are the values driving organizational behavior. What are your employees' perceptions of those values? Behaviors reflect values. Think of the saying, "What gets measured, gets done."
2. Establish the values that resonate with everybody : Shortlist all the resonating values according to you and ask your employees (anonymously) to rank the top five most important to them. You do the same. What you seeking to learn here is the degree of alignment between the two. If there's a significant mismatch, changing the culture is going to be an uphill task and would require lot of effort, but keep in mind that you model the behaviors that reflect your values.
3. Focus on what really matters : We all hear about the fun, fantastic places to work where employees get a weekly massage, can play foosball in the halls, have no office walls, and have napping pods open to everyone. None of these perks would matter if the culture is cutthroat, excessively competitive, and disrespectful of others.
What counts to most people are openness, authenticity, trust, and commitment to everyone's development. These are what align people to organizational goals and gain their commitment to the organization.  efining and developing culture is not something that can be handed off to anyone other than a leader. It's not quick and it's not easy. You should be committed to leading towards excellence from core values and to getting employees aligned with those values.
What is the role of HR in setting organisational expectations for excellence?
RP While personal interactions between leaders and employees are critical for initiating the culture change, integrating the values into the company's existing processes is essential for ensuring the culture change is sustained. The following are some examples of how HR team can help sustain it :
Hiring - Interview questions for new employees should include scenario - based questions that require the interviewee to demonstrate how they apply the company values in their daily work. This will ensure that new employees will behave consistent with the desired culture.
New hire orientation - Having senior leaders talk about the values during new hire orientation reinforces the expected behaviors for both new employees, and the leaders who deliver the training.
Incident Management - All incident investigations are required to be identified and recorded in the systems, especially that failed and caused the incident. Post which they are required to be analyzed against the values. This reinforces the values for those participating in and learning from the investigation and exposing opportunities for focusing culture change efforts.
Performance Management - The values should be incorporated into 360-degree feedback processes, requiring employees to comment on how they have seen their peers demonstrate the culture in their daily work. One mistake that companies often make is trying to identify ways to objectively measure cultural behaviors. Although there are some methods for doing this, and they should be considered, leaders must understand that the most meaningful feedback that can be provided to employees is peer observations of behaviors during specific actual events.