Many will counter and say that HR is not responsible for defining or creating company culture. They’ll say creating company culture is the full duty of leadership, and HR is only obligated for helping to support or maintain a culture. This is not the case.
In a perfect world, HR should be directly aligned with the rest of leadership, defining the culture best able to position the organization as a leader in the marketplace. After all, HR is at the gate, welcoming your talent through an open door, and it’s that talent that will drive creativity and innovation.
As senior leaders define corporate culture, HR is poised to support those efforts but to also provide feedback on what’s working, what makes sense, and what needs to be changed. For example, consider a Broadway play—the stage is ready to go, props in place, script has been written. But who’s working with the actors on a daily basis, running through lines, adapting the script, and making set design changes? It’s the directors that are making those decisions. It’s HR.
You see, leaders may set the stage for the action, but realizing they are often removed from the day-to-day, they may not be aware of what the script looks like and who’s really acting out the parts, and what’s happening with the final act. As Bersin by Deloitte explains, “Leadership sets the tone and direction of a corporate culture, but HR could be the mirror for our leaders and help them see both the positive and negative elements of their decisions and behaviors.”
Defining, supporting and encouraging corporate culture takes effort and patience, but here are 3 ways you can get started:
1. Be a Lifeguard on Duty
Just as a lifeguard stands watch, marking the areas that are safe, and redirecting swimmers as needed, HR professionals have the same responsibility to guide, direct, and advocate change.
For example, from the inside, your corporate culture appears to foster workplace flexibility and encourages the use of PTO. However, during interview day, managers seem perplexed when candidates inquire about workplace flexibility and wonder why that even matters. “They’re here to interview and get a job. Why ask now about flexibility and time off?” This type of lenient culture, advertised as a “benefit” actually holds no weight as the messaging is perfectly clear, “We talk the talk but have no action.” Candidates are left to wonder what the corporate culture is really like and leave feeling discouraged.
As an HR professional, you observe how this disconnect in messaging affects the candidate experience but also notice the lack of consistency among leadership. If the experience doesn’t match the culture, then change must occur. Redirect your managers by incorporating training that focuses on bringing everyone back in to those “safe-to-swim” areas, getting everyone on the same page with interviews, candidate experience, and how culture presentation affects the brand.
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