Culture and cake

If you’ve read the previous blog post I wrote on culture, you’ll know that a motivating culture is something I think is pretty fundamental when it comes to providing your employees with a great working experience and delivering against business objectives.

The obvious question therefore is, if my organisation doesn’t have the culture I believe is right to achieve this, can I just turn around as an HR professional and enforce it? Can I simply stand up in front of my employees and tell them that from now on, this is the way things are going to be around here?

You can’t force culture

The simple answer to that question is: No. No, you can’t. Well, I mean sure, you can absolutely stand up in front of your organisation and tell them that this is the way you want things to be – and I think HR has a vital role to play in monitoring your employee culture and ensuring it receives appropriate focus… but saying you want your culture to be a certain way, and actually making it that way, are two very different things.

Bake a cake

Think of it a bit like making a cake. If I stand in my kitchen and announce that I want a chocolate cake then I am likely to be pretty disappointed. I am not one of life’s natural cooks. However, if I stand in my kitchen and announce that I want a chocolate cake… having first brought in the ingredients that I need and some experienced chefs who know a thing or two about baking… then I’m probably far more likely to get to my desired end result.

Even then though, it’s not quite as simple as just saying that that’s the cake I want. The cake I actually end up with is going to depend on a number of things. What was the quality of the ingredients? What recipe was used? How experienced are the chefs? Chances are, I will still end up with a chocolate cake, but it might be slightly different than I first envisioned. Maybe it will be slightly larger, or will have chocolate icing on the top instead of chocolate ganache… but you know what? It might not be quite what I imagined it would be like… but it might actually be even better as a result.

Gently steer your organisation

That’s exhausted my baking analogies, I promise! Do you see what I’m getting at, though? You are not going to achieve the culture you want by standing up in front of your organisation and demanding it. What you can do, though, is to gently steer your business in the direction of your desired culture by providing everything they need to get there.

Vital ingredients

Your people are your ingredients. Bring in great quality people with the attributes you believe your culture needs to thrive, never compromising on cultural fit, and you are halfway there before you’ve even started.

You then need your recipe: your principles, objectives and strategic direction. If you share these transparently across your organisation then people can immediately see what you’re trying to achieve, and your chances of success are that much higher as a result.

Don’t forget your chefs

Finally, you need your chefs, in the form of key individuals who are hired to help drive your organisation forward. Their role is to motivate their teams to achieve the objectives you’ve outlined, in alignment with the cultural principles you’ve agreed. Don’t make the mistake either of thinking that your chefs must always be your senior managers. Here at Benefex, we have formed our very own Culture Club (not solely in homage to the 80s pop group!), made up of employees from around the business who are passionate about making our culture work. They are some of our most valuable ‘chefs’ of all, because they’re experiencing our culture at the very heart of our organisation, and are therefore best placed to make suggestions as to what we need to do in order to continue to move it forward and add value.

Bringing your culture to life

With all of this in place, your culture is then brought to life. A great culture shouldn’t need to be enforced. A great culture is organic, and is delivered by the ingredients, the recipes, and the chefs you bring into your business in order to make it happen.