Culture is everyone's piece of pie!

Who is responsible for organisational culture in your company?

Do you think is HR? Or/And anyone else?

I was asking myself this question about 10 years ago, when I stared having an interest in how could culture be audited.

My interest in organisational culture is not a trendy behaviour which I started following due to the changes the pandemic is imposing on companies, it is a passion and an interest which I discovered during my professional journey as an internal auditor. Over the last 18 years while pursing my internal audit career I lived in 5 different European countries and worked in 4 multinational companies and one big national brand; journey which gave me the opportunity to experience various organisational cultures. It was around 2010 – 2011, after one of the multinational companies, I was working for at that time, merged with another big company which headquarters where in another country (and culture) that the whole culture and working across cultures topics started becoming more of a focus for our internal audit team. I remember we were having course like : “How to work with Nation X…or notion Y colleagues?”. If you work cross cultures or in multinationals, you might have come across those courses as well, and you know what I am talking about here. It felt strange at the beginning to think we needed to train in working with colleagues of another culture, but for sure it was interesting to go through those trainings; but this is not the post where I want to get in any details about that; but only to recall that whole cultural challenge.

Over the past 10 years I took a deep dive into organisational culture, and as I wanted to understand more about what makes a great organisational culture and how we change and deploy the desired culture I went to combine practical experience with academics and research, so I did a master in Corporate Governance and Business Ethics, trained as a Coach and Work, as a Metal Health First aider, as a Positive Psychology Master Coach and latest added some knowledge on applied neuroscience, to better understand how our brain works and how we can change behaviours.

What was clear to me from the beginning, and it was confirmed at very stage of my deep dive, is that organisational culture is not something that belongs to HR or to the board, or to the CEO, but it is everyone’s responsibility within that organisation. It is how we all behave, act and think, that defines an organisation’s culture. Post pandemic times we are far over the time when if we were asked about organisational culture we were pointing out at the nice pictures on the office’s wall, where the organisation’s values where printed; that is not what culture is.

The organisations I saw succeeding at challenging and changing the culture are those where employees took ownership and responsibility of standing up for what they believed in because it was important to them and it matter for a greater good. That does fully align with the idea of “bringing your whole self to work“, and for me I would push that a bit further to say: “and use your whole self at work” (a very small semantic difference maybe, but I think important).

Let me bring a real life example to explain what I mean, something that happened in one of the organisations I worked for. I believe it was around 2017, when the HR function, of the organisation I worked for at that time, started to get an interest in Diversity and Inclusion, and how to ensure D&I was deployed within the organisation. The surprising nice thing I saw happening, was that people in various parts of the business (not HR) seized the opportunity and took ownership of what they thought D&I was, what they believed in and what was close to their hearts. So we saw a BME group, a Disabilities at work group, a Return to Work Support Network being created, and 2-3 other group to represent colleagues and what they were standing for. All these initiatives and groups, which went on to make a real different and impact on HR processes and the wider organisation, were led by people within the wider business (not the HR), the HR was their stakeholder and supporter, but not necessarily the driving party.

Why do I tell you that? Because too often I hear people saying “the organisation’s culture is not great”, and my question back is “so what are you doing about it? “, to which very often the answer is “can’t do much, it is not my responsibility to do anything about it”…….. and let me surprise you: it is your responsibility to be an advocate for your values and what you believe in, and help your workplace deliver on that. It is everyone’s responsibility the organisation’s culture!

Culture, is “the way things are done over there” and everyone’s behaviour places a part in that culture; so take ownership of it. This idea of ownership mentality is even more important as our work lives have been forever transformed in the last 20 months. We can’t relay on banners on the office walls to tells us about our organisation’s culture. It is how we do things, it is in the way our processes work and the way we behave and interact with the others F2F and digitally. If something is not quite right with the process or the interaction, then it is our responsibility to take ownership and challenge it to change.

As I was doing my little research, on what might be the views around on who is responsible for culture, I came across this article which I found very insightful, as it gives an idea on how everyone and every function can plan a role in ensuring organisations have the right culture.

So, get out there and be the change you want to see! Culture is everyone’s piece of pie!