Article (March-2019)


It should also lead to employees growth

Jana Venkata Ramakrishna

Designation : -   Purchase Executive

Organization : -  Kochi Marriott Hotel


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Do you think that developing and maintaining a high performance culture is practically possible and easy in organisations or it is merely a buzzword far away from reality and difficult to achieve?
JV Culture in an organisation means how the work gets done. It is easy to achieve if the top management knows how well it can be crafted to the kind of organisation they work with.

A high performance culture is practically possible and easy to achieve. It will work when associates co-operate, share the information and work as a team. There should be Innovation in the process and the management should be able to accept the change which could bring in more productivity. What matters is the adaptability of the team and the time taken to move into the new system. The communication from top to bottom and across the levels should be positive and seamless. Wellness of associates should be well taken care of. Responsibilities given should come with authority to take necessary actions when required and they should be kept accountable for the outcomes as well. The management should ensure that there is focus on the work at hand and the practices goes well aligned with the vision and mission of the organization as well.

What should be the key initiatives for creating high performance culture in your view and how do you define them?
JV We view culture as the cumulative effect of what people does and how they do it - and it determines an organization's performance.

If culture is so vital, then how do you make an organization's culture as high-performing as possible? No one-size-fits-all formula exists, but our research and experience point to six elements that help organizations do just that.

To the journey in rigorous and associate centric ways : Too often, a call for culture change only moves from the top of an organization down through the ranks. Instead, take an "associate - back" view when designing change efforts.
Embrace change to produce opportunities for individuals : For organizations to change, associates must change. But that isn't easy, since everyone possesses a different level of willingness and ability to change. Design an approach that lets individuals dive deep to recognize what propels their behaviors so they can make conscious choices about how to change them.
Create associate experience : Four levers shift mindsets and behaviors : articulating a compelling change story; leadership role modeling; skill building; and formal changes to processes, systems, and incentives. Executing a program where each lever works in harmony forms a coherent experience for associates that minimizes confusion and accelerates the transition to a new culture.

Be a role model and reinforce the desired culture : People take their cues about organizational values from their leaders' signals. For a culture shift to take hold, spotlight the behaviors and mindsets that deliver the most business value. This becomes self-reinforcing. If the desired behaviors and attitudes deliver value, they generate a magnetic pull within the organization, leaders seeking to accelerate the momentum of what's succeeding.

Uncover root cause mindsets and reframe them : Mindsets people have about what they can and should do drive workplace behaviors. While those attitudes often originate away from work, the workplace has a profound effect on shaping the beliefs and values that underpin how people approach their work. Every cue from how performance reviews are conducted to how meetings are run sends a signal about the "right way" to think and behave. To shift to a new set of behaviors, organizations need to grasp the cues they send and the root cause mindsets they create. Then they can reframe and address those underlying mindsets to achieve new behaviors.

Define behavior changes that unlock business performance : Communicate these behaviors clearly so everyone understands what they look like in practice. This delivers a shared vocabulary to mobilize for change and provides a way to monitor progress in shifting the culture. These behaviors should be tailored to your business needs and context since no two organizations are the same.

In this complex process, what challenges and issues do you expect HR should be ready to address?
JV The HR function has been on the receiving end of criticism, bordering on an outright bashing over the past few years. But, as Libby Sartain writes, a proven method for elevating the profession's role is for it to become the change agent for creating a high-performance culture.

There can be lot of challenges as the process which is successful in one organisation won't exactly work with all. The way culture is driven should be specific for the kind of people which work there. To understand the right momentum required, measuring the progress and correct them while it moves away from the goal at hand is a challenge for the HR. 

Where HR can add the most value

Start the culture conversation at all levels. One way to accomplish this is to conduct a cultural assessment or audit of your organisation through associate engagement surveys, focus groups or interviews. Review your organisational history, leadership styles, and HR programming and industry practices to determine what currently drives and reinforces the culture. Finally, what is your guest experience? What cultural elements are obvious to customers? Is culture aligned with business strategy? Where are the disconnects? What needs to change? This can be the basis for healthy discussion at team department meetings and associate rap/chat sessions.

Work with the senior leadership team to determine the desired culture. Core values, desired behaviours and shared vision are essential for a positive culture change effort to succeed. Every leader must embrace the need to change, or it won't happen. Senior leaders must make new behaviours their way of life to reinforce desired change.

Develop an agenda or action plan for enhancing the culture or bringing about change. Start with the highest priorities and work on the toughest issues. For your culture to become self replicating, the way things are done will have to reinforce the core values and the culture.

Communicate what needs to change and why. Solicit input from people. Once the needed changes and process for change is defined, tell people what is expected. What are the rewards for changing, and the consequences for more of the same.

Acquire talent based on cultural fit. Identify the characteristics of people who exhibit those behaviours that you've identified as desirable. The people who fit and thrive in your culture will perpetuate that culture in everything they do. If you have to choose between the candidate who has better skills or knowledge but doesn't fit, and a candidate who is slightly less qualified but fits culturally, choose the slightly less qualified person and provide the necessary training or on-the-job experience. Get rid of those who don't fit in the culture.

Redesign your on-boarding process & create experiences. Make sure that every new hire knows what it will take to fit in, and understands the cultural imperatives. Talk about the ways of working that lead to success and those that will derail careers. Create legendary stories of successes and failures.

Create cultural messages. Be sure that every meeting, every department training program, every communication/daily packet to people includes cultural messaging and reinforces the values, mission, traditions and practices.

Involve everyone. Southwest Airlines has a culture committee, but there are many ways to get people involved. Try focus groups around topics. Form cross functional teams. Call random groups of associates together for monthly breakfast or lunch meetings. Engage the help and support of a group of passionate, committed people to identify cultural disconnects and recommend remedies.

Recognise and reward results. Your recognition and rewards should support the culture that you are working to reinforce.

Cultivate leaders who promote your culture. Develop excellent leaders who will propel the culture down the ranks. Identify high potential leaders and promote them. Invest in leadership development programs. Be sure content reinforces cultural messages. Keep the good ones, and get rid of those who are unable to pass the culture on.
Make it interesting and fun. Create contests, activities that enhance the culture. Decorate the office in inspiring ways. Celebrations and events can reinforce the message.

Does high performance mean high pressure and more stress on employees? How do you propose to handle this side effect?

JV High performance doesn't mean more pressure or more stress. Performance happens when we have a better way of doing things, which will in turn reduce the stress and pressure of the associates. If they are having pressure, it is a clear understanding that they are not aligned with the culture of the organisation. Efforts should be taken so that they are trained to align with the goals and visions of the company, help should be given so that they communicate better and gels well along with the team as well.

Being able to deal with pressure in the workplace is a highly sought-after skill. If pressure at work is part of your everyday life, you will be pleased to learn that there are things you can do to both lower the pressure and prove to others that you can handle pressure effectively.

Here are some ideas to put into action and work colleagues with how great you handle on-the-job pressure :

Remain calm, always. Maintain a calm demeanor no matter what happens. This takes some practice, but the more you practice, the better you will get. Staying calm demonstrates that you have the ability to take things in stride and complete your tasks even in the face of difficult circumstances.

Stay focused on what needs to be accomplished. Even though the day may be stressful, keep your mind firmly focused on completing your regular responsibilities.

Sidestep the drama and stay positive. Refuse to engage in arguments or other disagreements with your colleagues. Keep busy to enable your thoughts to remain positive and focused. We all get sucked into drama periodically. But, if you are getting really wound up, stop and think what you feel the final resolution should be. Stop, breathe, take a step back, and the proceed with a clear mind.

Get help if you need it. Part of your job as an associate is to protect your employer. Notice if there is something out of line and get the help that you need immediately. Assessing the situation and taking care of issues right away demonstrates that you can think clearly under pressure.

Take your breaks. Taking short breaks helps you release pent-up stress, rejuvenates you, and actually enables you to be more productive. Take a walk to the restroom or just get up and move about your office space.

Utilize your vacation time wisely. Plan your vacation during slow times at your job. Staying during the busy times shows your employer your dedication.

If you are feeling stressed, avoid letting it show too much. Carry on with your responsibilities, no matter what is going on. Consciously bringing your mind back to your current action in completing your important tasks will help you let go of worrying and other stress.

Having a high performing culture is a matter of direct influence from the top? In such absence, what strategies should HR adopt to keep employees' morale high to maintain high performing culture?
JV Hiring for culture fit : HR should focus on not just filling the role, but the person is well fit and goes along well with the culture of the organisation. His/her values align with the company's.

Training the next generation to be high performing leaders : A forward-looking company understands the importance of priming the leadership pipeline. When it comes to culture, that means not only investing in individuals, who are high performers themselves, but investing in those who exhibit talent for bringing out high performance in others. In a high performance culture, leaders inspire their colleagues to commit to the company vision, build loyalty, and own their performance outcomes. But inspiring, insightful leaders aren't created overnight - and even those with natural leadership talent need encouragement and a safe environment to finesse their skills. HR can help ensure that your company has a deep bench of leaders who can maintain a high performance culture for the long term by implementing effective leadership development programs.

Rewarding high performance achievement :
Part of nurturing a high performance culture means frequently and sincerely rewarding or recognizing your highest performers. Publicly recognizing achievement through HR programs or communications serves as an encouraging reminder of what desired high performance looks like and sets the standard for high performance throughout your company. Plus, formal recognition of high performance can actually lead to more high performance in the individuals being recognized.

Identifying and measuring high performance. Measure your performance with the culture goals and access the level of performance. Check for satisfaction surveys... Attrition rates and other standard data HR have to take on a new meaning and importance after you implemented a major change in culture.

In organisations having diverse workforce and multi generational effect  where technology is fast coming in to mainstream employee processes, what kind of obstacles and psychological blocks you foresee in creating high performing culture and their possible solution?

All induction and training material should be having more of audio visuals. More of team building activities, role-plays to be there to enact the kind of culture that is there in the organisation. The older generation will find this as a change in the traditional approach which well be well accepted as well.

Mind-set training should happen with the entire team including people from all age group in different teams. Each group to be assigned a particular task, this will help the team mates to understand how then Gen Z will think and act.