September 6, 2022
An organisation undertaking work on its culture will face a real test of its maturity. It could be said that culture to an organisation is almost the same as identity to a person. It defines who we are, what our goals are, what attitudes and values guide our daily decisions, and provides an overall image in the framework of our being at any given moment in our lives. Both human identity and company culture cannot be merely stated. It is necessary to look deep into the organism, to understand the mechanisms of both individual and social functioning. One should simply get to know oneself.
Of course, a lot depends on the strategy adopted. First, you can do an in-depth analysis of the facts and then promote it in your environment as an organically built brand. The alternative is to transform what it sees as a priority area for development. Analysing EMBIQ’s needs, we decided to combine both approaches.
Let us start with a very contrary position. Those who explore the topic of organisational culture quite systematically have in all probability already come across a quote by Peter Drucker: ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’. These words are repeated almost like a mantra during many webinars, during podcasts or at leadership exposés. The implication behind this statement is that the values, visions, missions, organisational climate or other elements that make up the overall culture are leading the way for companies. Ultimately, in a duel between culture and strategy, the former will always win.
EMBIQ stands in opposition to this statement. Why? Organisational culture and strategy are intertwined – neither can be diminished. It is fair to say that if one occurs, the other will follow sooner or later. Business does not tolerate a vacuum; it will always naturally lead to filling the gap. How quickly? That depends on the development stage of the company. An organisation that calmly allows ‘culture to eat strategy for breakfast’ faces numerous consequences (e.g. unsustainable growth, lack of coherent strategic goals, growing frustration within teams, dissociation of brand image). According to the EMBIQ community, setting a strategy in parallel to identifying the culture allows a holistic direction to be set not only for the company itself, but also for each individual employee.
It is worth remembering that the work on company culture does not end with the Culture Book. You may encounter a situation where companies simply define organisational values, add a few catchy slogans to them and then announce them to their employees. This is not enough. Let me explain why.
Did you ever happen to play the guitar? If you use a tuning fork (a fork-shaped metal device) to tune it, you can create sound from it using the guitar’s resonance chamber. All you need to do is carefully tap the tuning fork against your knee and then quickly apply its tip to the instrument. Without having to pluck the strings, sound will flow from the guitar. Even more interesting is the consequence of this phenomenon. The tuning fork always produces the same sound, you can tune the strings to it whenever you need to. If the strings are well tuned, the sound produced by the tuning fork will make them tremble, a resonance of the string will occur, making the sound louder and longer lasting.
Using the above allegory, it can be said that business processes, any procedures or operating tools and mechanisms can be compared to the strings in a guitar, and the culture of an organisation acts as a tuning fork. By simply fine-tuning what the company influences appropriately, the naturally generated culture will reinforce areas in need of resonance. It is known that some of the actions need to be modified more, some less, but for an internally coherent consonance it is worth the time. In the long term, the company will not have to spend time manually controlling the whole organism and the strategy will not be devoured by the culture. Believe me, it has no such intention ;)
…and an effective culture reinforces feedback.
One of the undeniable differentiators of our brand is the autonomy of our employees and their very strong participation in key decisions. How do we know this? We asked this during EMBIQ Talks (periodic interviews of all employees twice a year), analysed reviews from our clients and carried out research using a questionnaire and focus groups. We used this power and decided to involve the entire company community in naming elements of our organisational culture. Powerful feedback emerged, from which we formulated not only the company’s mission and values, but also the key initiatives to be implemented in the organisation and the differentiators appreciated by employees.
In one survey we asked: What do you see as the greatest value within EMBIQ that needs to be nurtured? Clearly, this is a question about employer brand differentiators and the Employee Experience. We have received a clear message from our community on what we should be concerned about in our daily activities. Here are some examples:
“I think the most important value within EMBIQ is the welcoming atmosphere. By working with people who are open to contact I can learn a lot which makes me better and better :)”
“Employees. It has already been proven many times that an employee who is well cared for and happy really brings a lot to the company, and an employee who feels that their problem or need is not being taken seriously, sooner or later, they will leave, and before that they will still show their frustration. Surely problems cannot be swept under the carpet in the hope that they will resolve themselves. Now, in my opinion, the employees are well cared for and satisfied, and the atmosphere in the company is immediately different, you want to come to work and work, and you even start thinking about what you can do to make things better, not only for the employees themselves, but also for the company.”
“the atmosphere in the office, no tension, rat race, rather helpful and supportive.”
Using these and many other comments, we have formulated a dozen EMBIQ brand differentiators. We added feedback from surveys, 1:1 cyclical meetings and questionnaires, and compared the overall results with the views of those taking part in our recruitment events. Together with the project team, we focused on these materials, made a semantic analysis of the extracted concepts and proposed three brand values. We used authentic quotes from previously used sources to define them and presented them to the entire #EMBIQcommunity for evaluation. It turned out that these were not only well-articulated organisational values, but also key areas of the company’s operation for employees, around which they want the company to build further procedures and mechanisms. This gave rise to Community, Quality and Progress – the word order is no coincidence.
Everyone at EMBIQ was also involved in shaping the organisation’s mission. They pointed out that it should be simple, clearly state the objectives and be easy to remember.
Both the mission and values can be found in our Origins tab on the website. We decided to use staff quotes to define values, because after all, they were the ones who named them.
In many cases, work on the organisation’s culture ends with posters and rebranding. Of course, this will in no way result in the resonance of culture and strategy that I wrote about in the first part of the article. The truth is that once you undertake to work on your company culture, you should already be doing it again and again and at every opportunity. The dynamism of human development and even faster market changes mean that both culture and strategies evolve not from year to year, not from quarter to quarter, but from month to month. These changes are triggered both by global events (epidemiological emergencies, military crises, economic changes) and those specific to the ecosystem in which the organisation lives (microeconomic movements, changes in employment, development of human resources). Since culture is formed by configurations of personalities and talents in teams, any change in the members will slowly affect the shape of the culture. Let us not forget that the organisation’s strategy should also be adapted to the opportunities and threats it faces.
We want to avoid making our work on culture and its components obsolete. We have already communicated to the entire EMBIQ community the management board’s vision for the development of the organisation and the mission and values developed. If they are to thrive, it is not enough to decorate the walls and hang posters (but we plan to do that anyway ;)). This year, we set the goal of implementing the defined elements of culture into the feedback process. It is important that enjoyment of the benefits of organisational culture takes place unobtrusively and naturally. The internal communications team should only be a facilitator of changes and developments in these threads, and support the natural assimilation of corporate values. If they are well defined with employee participation and reinforced by behavioural indicators of their implementation, the company community will adopt them as a useful working tool. If employees are not involved in the process of defining the culture or if the role of internal communication is trivialised, we are likely to hear a very unpleasant comment from the audience: it is pure propaganda.
It is important that the visualisation, verbalisation and operationalisation of cultural elements is consistent with the actual state of the culture. It is worth considering in which dimensions of organisational functioning communication of the organisation’s culture can be implemented and at what time. We already know – we use the organic growth of the company to adapt key elements of the culture.
P.S. Our employees also took part in designing the new visualisation of the office! 😉
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