From Cost Centre to Culture Catalyst: Putting People Focus First


The HR function has historically been considered a cost centre since it does not specifically create income, while still costing the organization money to operate. However, this thinking is not only out of date, it has always been inaccurate, more so in the changing business environment of today.

The fact is that HR has always indirectly contributed to the profitability of any organization by supporting and streaming process efficiencies and showing them how to use their resources in smarter ways. In recent years this contribution has grown in consideration as the benefits of organizational culture, morale and engagement become more widely known.

The Profits of Morale
What I would like to focus on for a minute is the relationship between maintaining an organizational culture of high morale/accomplishment and profit or cost. According to the Canada Human Resources Centre, employee disengagement costs North American businesses some $350 billion annually in lost productivity, while Gallup’s 2016 meta-analysis finds that firms with high levels of employee engagement report 21 per cent higher profitability.

Disengagement affects far more than the wellbeing of the individual working in an organization. It can take an organization to its lowest point, impacting multiple bottom lines: dysfunctional team relationships, turnover, low productivity, poor reputation, and, naturally, profits.

This is where progressive HR comes in. Their role is no longer solely to find and recruit the best talents, terminate as needed and do the necessary paperwork, but to be people-profit oriented, aligning initiatives and making strategic decisions that would drive individual and company growth.

Given the impact of poorly managed human capital in a competitive marketplace, HR can not only stem the tides of attrition, but truly truly transform and influence a company’s success. Ultimately when understanding that profit is all about the people that make a business “be” and when acknowledging that a well-engaged talent is a profitable employee, it reminds us that it has always been about the people, and will always be.

Embrace The Culture Experience
With a third of our life spent at work, people are increasingly looking for organizations that can offer them not just a job, but an experience—or essentially a job with meaning. As opposed to a job, which can be switched, a unique work experience has a magnetic effect; it can make them feel they belong, allow them to grow and benefit the business in the process.

Here is where HR can play a critical role in creating that experience by developing a unique culture that will attract the right people—and serving as cultural catalysts and organizational role models in their own right. It is HR’s ability to articulate the employee work experience that allows that culture to thrive.

Your organizational culture is your identity and yours to define, while keeping front of mind that each of your current and future employees represent a facet of that defining culture. To them it acknowledges a feeling of belonging to a greater group and shared mindset, while outlining the essence of how your people interact, what drives them and what they value.

This is why it is important to have a clear culture that can attract people, and leadership which clearly understands HR’s ability to create and maintain the collective belief systems that support that culture.

Is your current culture the one that will make you attract the best employees and customers? Was this culture thought and chosen? What are you currently doing to adjust, preserve, protect and grow this culture?

Here are few suggestions for catalyzing your cultural returns in both recruitment and retention:

Use your company’s culture as a hiring tool

  • To attract the best candidates, go where the candidates are—and talk culture first. Post your job offers on various media and social networks and talk about your company culture before even discussing the role and responsibilities. Use marketing tools that represent your culture and utilize your branding as a communication vehicle. Interview your current employees and make them share their view on the culture, what they enjoy about your organization and use their testimonials for attracting new talents.
  • Highlight your brand, culture, people and values. Explain to your candidates what they are going to do, but also who they are going to work with, where and how. The work environment (culture) is as important as the role. You’ll get more chances to reach a world of candidates that speak the same language.
  • Consider adjusting your interview process. Use behavioural questions to get a better idea of ??your candidates’ personality and behaviour, and assess whether your values ??and theirs are aligned.

Use your company’s culture as a retaining tool?

  • Create a culture committee including new and current employees to create present culture initiatives, while using these meetings to ensure the present culture is still relevant. Having new employees participate will help them integrate your values much faster and feel they belong from the early stage. It will also invaluable insight.
  • Put your people at the centre and listen to them by being available and inviting them to have open conversations. They will tell you who they are and what they need. Consider it as a precious source of information that will help you sharpen your culture. If you want your people to “be” the culture, coach them to do so and that starts with making space for them to express who they are.
  • Proclaim your values ??loud and clear and define them to make them clear for everyone. It is not about choosing a couple of keywords that would look good on your company’s walls. It is about the meaning behind it, what it means for your company. A value of freedom may mean something to someone but surely something else to someone else. So be specific in what each of your values mean.
  • Develop initiatives to make the office more fun, support the relationships’ development between your employees, and bring your values ??back in the centre in the form of activities. To be engaged, employees need to feel they belong to a team.
  • Show employees who they are and how much they align with and impact your company’s culture. There are many tests and psychometric tools that can help your employees better understand who they are and how they work. Provide them with the right tools for self-discovery, build trust in their strengths and abilities, and help them develop a positive self-image. It will also help them define the role they play within the company, the place they hold in your culture.
  • Have your leaders be people-focused and not just results-focused. Train your leaders to be great listeners and communicators, be your culture ambassadors.

Empower People: Share the Wealth
Being a culture catalyst is simply about taking care of your people by putting them at the centre. They are what make your culture what it is. Your job is to help them articulate it and preserve it. Empower them to make it grow, to adjust it when needed and make them responsible of it as if they own it; they will take even better care of it.

Benedicte Flouriot is a career and leadership coach working with clients across industries and continents to find the career they were meant for and ways to excel within it.

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