Cultivating Culture


Is an organization alive? From a strategic human resources planning perspective, the answer to this question is a resounding – yes!

Organizations depend on multiple levels of movement, development and growth in order to thrive and survive. How these levels are shaped depends on the culture that runs through all aspects of the organization as a whole. When we think of the word ‘culture’ in organic terms, it describes a living thing. Bacterial culture can be healthy or it can be deadly. Living things need positive culture in order to sustain continued growth. If culture is poisonous or toxic, a living thing will get sick and, without intervention, will die.

If we apply these concepts to the strategic approach to Human Resources planning, it is enlightening to see and hear how much emphasis is placed on the need to nurture, guide and influence organizational culture in order to ensure that the organization stays alive and well.

Three Human Resources leaders provide their opinions and insights on the impact organizational culture has throughout all levels of business practice.

Click here for the video link.

It is interesting to note how often each of these Human Resources experts uses language referring to growth, sustainability, nurturing, and thriving. All of these phrases or words are focused on the importance of ensuring that people want to continue developing within a living, changing and healthy organizational culture.

It seems that added to the multi-faceted business roles the Human Resources practitioner takes on, the most important element will remain that of a guardian of care. Care for individuals, which leads to care for the organization. Care for the organization, which leads to continued growth and sustainable success.

Discussion Questions:

  1. From the video clip, identify one important message from each of the experts that will guide you in your practice as a Human Resources professional.
  2. Why is it important to ensure that the Human Resources practitioner understands the business?
  3. How can you, as a Human Resources professional, influence organizational culture in a positive way?

Learning to Unlearn


Business Man with Ball and Chain
Source: Vibe Images/Shutterstock

Nothing kills a moment of corporate creativity more than this phrase:  “That’s not the way we do things around here.” Once it is issued, it ensures that the status quo, no matter how bad that may be, will remain untouched and, most importantly, unchanged. It is a phrase that is usually uttered by those working within a specific power-brokering segment of an organization.

How is this a power play?

When one part of an organization refuses to move, it ensures that the rest of the organization remains anchored in the past, is resistant to change, and presents no opportunity for creativity or new learning.

How can true learning organizations respond to this type of resistance?

They need to unlearn and let go of that which is holding them back.

According to Vijay Govindarajan, the Coxe Distinguished Professor at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business and a Marvin Bower Fellow at Harvard Business School, organizations must divest themselves of old ideas and methodologies even though these may be the very things that made the organization great in the first place. In order to move forward, Govindarajan states that organizations must let go of what has been learned in the past.

Click Here to Read the Article

From a Human Resources perspective, Govindarajan’s concept can create great organizational learning opportunities if the Human Resources function has a leadership role.  Human Resources must lead with powerful impact, in order to push the change agenda both forward and throughout the entire organization.

Click Here to Read the Article

Not only must the Human Resources professional be able to provide incentives that pull people forward into change, we must also be vigilant in stopping what is sometimes a cultural and entrenched longing for both the past and not so recent past by helping people to let go of that huge anchor which is represented by the status quo.  We can do well to observe the past, but we must leave it behind and let it go in order to move forward and learn what is new and uncomfortable and create a future that does not yet exist.

To do this, the Human Resources professional needs to be brave.

The brave Human Resources professional will be the leader who will help to break the chain of the status quo, discard the anchor to the past, and set forward, freely, into an uncharted future full of greatness and new learning.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is the difference between ‘unlearning’ and forgetting in the context of employee training and development?
  2. Do you agree with Vijay Govindarajan’s perspective that creativity comes by having to unlearn what was learned in the past? Why or why not?
  3. What do you perceive as the biggest barriers to bringing new learning, creativity, and fresh ideas into an organization from a Human Resources perspective?
  4. Have you worked with someone who was resistant to learning something new? What was that experience like for you? How did it influence your own work and learning experiences?

Planning for Excellence

Sketch of cat in treet
Source: Morphart Creation/Shutterstock

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”

– Lewis Carroll

One of the many fun things that comes from working in Human Resources is trying to pull together the pieces of an organizational puzzle.  It helps tremendously when we can find patterns in the form of ideas or concepts that are applicable and transferable from one area of the Human Resources function to another.

For example, in the video clip below, “Culture Shock with Shawn Galloway”, Mr. Galloway introduces the concept of strategic planning, specifically, in relation to Health and Safety assessments.

Click Here to View the Clip.

While the focus of this clip is on Health and Safety, Mr. Galloway’s comments regarding the concept of excellence as the big-picture goal relate directly to the strategic human resources planning concept of setting an ideal vision for organizational success.

No matter how big or small an organization may be, if there is an over-riding and established standard of excellence, everything that the organization does must be measured and evaluated against that standard.

What excellence in action looks like, and how it is achieved, may vary between departments or organizational business lines, but it should in each case be defined clearly.  When a department or business line starts to waver or lose effectiveness in its activities, the question can be asked, ‘how does this action tie into the strategic standard of excellence?’.  If the answer is that it does not, or that there is no available evidence of activities that support the standard, then it is time to get those actions back on the path of achieving excellence. If the standard does not require adjustments, then the actions needed to achieve that standard, must be changed accordingly.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does excellence look like for you in your current actions as a student?
  2. What does excellence mean for you, as you think about yourself in the role of Human Resources Professional?
  3. What motivates you to achieve a standard of excellence and how do you know once you have achieved that standard?  What types of evidence or indicators do you look for?

Investing in the Employment Relationship

One of the most effective employee training programs, that HR Professionals can provide, is new employee Onboarding.

Bringing new employees into an organization represents a significant commitment.  Not just from a monetary cost perspective, but more importantly, from a long-term investment into the employment relationship.  HR recruitment and selection programs spend an immense amount of time and money ensuring that the right person is hired into our organizations.  That investment must continue to be nurtured by ensuring that the newly hired employee is integrated into the cultural fit of the organization for the long term.

Click here to read the article.

This particular program, outlined in the article above, requires a high investment of time and focused commitment within the first 90 days of employment.  Is that enough time to assess the success of employee integration?  Many provinces have employment legislation that has a similar probationary period.  It makes sense to make use of a 90 day framework in the most cost-effective way possible.

When we invest in any relationship, we want to be sure that there is an equivalent return.  The same applies for employer-employee relationships.  By checking in with our employees at the beginning of their employment journey we are checking in on our investment with the hope for a very high and long-term commitment in return.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is the cost-benefit of having a new employee buddy program?
  2. Have you left a position or a workplace within the first year of your employment because you did not feel welcome? What influenced your decision to leave? What would have influenced you to stay?
  3. Identify three new employee engagement/training activities that an HR department can provide at little to no cost, within the first 90 days of employment.
  4. Identify cost-related losses that occur when an employee leaves an organization within the first year of employment.