Workplace Culture is just how we do things around here – and it creates a sense that impacts on business performance, compliance, reputation and staff engagement.

I remember around the turn of the century I was doing a briefing (as a consultant) for a tiny team of executives from an expert firm. We were debating¬†building fantastic workplace culture¬†what really is workplace bullying. All the senior team were getting passionately mixed up in discussion. Women executive who was not passionately involved and obviously quite annoyed about enough time it absolutely was taking to talk about this kind of’ineffectual’matter stood up and blurted’Actually all I wish to know is how far I could go before we call it bullying ‘. No unreasonable question but perhaps it absolutely was the lack of thought and sarcastic tone in the delivery that drove me to react (and quite unprofessionally I could add)’Well how far do you want to go?’ I replied. And in addition she responded:’Well that’s what we are paying you to tell us Stephen Bell-HR Expert!’ Suddenly I was caught in the battle. There have been some smirks, giggles and’oh yeahs’from a couple of of the ten executives which were sitting around the table. Every one of a sudden I was being hit head on by’just how we do things around here.’

This was, actually, an chance for the Regional Director to remain true and indicate the organisational values. This was an chance for the HR executive to make a speech about making this an engaging workplace for people and the lines should be drawn by the value of our values. And then I, Stephen Bell (HR Expert!) could recite the definitions outlined in local OH&S guidelines. None with this happened. Used to do lamely recite the values probably with a quarter the conviction the Regional Director could have and encouraged them to show to page 20 inside their manuals where they could find the area definition of workplace bullying.

The Regional Director and HR Director remained relatively silent; the discussion lasted another 20 minutes before most of us cordially shook hands and splintered off within our different directions to lead our different lives. I left with a particular feeling concerning this organisation -‘Arrogant, undefined about behaviour and culture, aggressive and rudderless, lacking leadership.’ Perhaps unfair judgements, but real and powerful feelings for me. And if’that moment’was indicative of the leadership behaviours,’arrogant, undefined about behaviour and culture, aggressive and lacking leadership’become justifiable descriptions of the workplace culture. And in’that moment’it was really what was not said by the Regional Director and HR Director that was more powerful than what was really spoken by the lady executive.

I also left that session with a resolve to never enter an exercise session about workplace bullying and culture without’my actors ‘. Yes those actor friends of mine ensure people could see what we mean by’over the line’rather than just discussing it. It absolutely was also then that I decided that iHR Australia and iHR Asia would start focusing on assisting organisations to properly define their workplace cultures in order that leaders could properly articulate the thing that was meant with a desirable, compliant and productive workplace culture that attracts the kind of people we want. Most importantly my actors would give them the opportunity to observe they act each and every day features a direct impact on culture and subsequently on performance, compliance, reputation and staff engagement.

Defining workplace culture or just how we do things around listed here is a fascinating process. It is about creating statements that align to organisational values but are more active. The workplace culture statement is an indicator of the pattern of behaviours we should see. For example a workplace culture statement arising from the often articulated workplace value’Respect’may be’We listen to and analyse the professional views of others ‘,’We listen to ideas and views from those around us or’We do not personally attack individuals when providing them with professional feedback ‘. When developing’culture statements’may very well not cover every behaviour for each probable situation, nevertheless, you leave leaders and employees within the organisation in undoubtedly what the’indicative behaviours’of the organisations workplace culture are.

Generally, organisations that are taking the time to clearly articulate what the workplace culture should seem like are actually becoming strategic about workplace culture. Which means recognising that workplace culture could be a driving aspect in achieving organisational goals. They realise that culture can drive a selection of important aspects of the organisation. To be able to explain the’business’impacts of a great, bad or indifferent workplace culture I have identified three key workplace culture aspects of impact. Simply I am saying that workplace culture impacts on:

Organisation, team and individual performance;

Brand perception for current and future employees, customers, stakeholders and business partners;

Compliance, specifically the organisations ability to comply with policies and regulations.

Within my forthcoming articles I’ll explain exactly why I believe workplace culture should be part of the strategic agenda for organisations aiming for sustainable success.

In 2009 once we start to emerge from the economic recession brought upon predominantly by an industry, and subsequently, workplace cultures where in fact the unacceptable often became acceptable it is interesting to ask ourselves where business cultures will see themselves in 2010.

Looking forward the danger is that leaders will feel compelled to immerse their organisations in practices that reduce risk and drive a conservative rigour that, will consequently, stifle workplace cultures once labelled innovative, responsive and entrepreneurial.

Founding director and CEO of iHR Australia and iHR Asia, Stephen Bell is an entrepreneur, business leader and renowned facilitator. Under his leadership, iHR Australia has established a diverse client base which range from government to significantly more than 2000 multi nationals, large corporates, Start Ups/Greenfields and Not-for-Profit organisations across Australia and Asia.

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