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The Art of Achieving Organizational Cultural Alignment

Sania was thrilled when she received an offer to work for a prestigious global IT organization after starting her career at a local, less eminent IT company. While this local IT company was not one of the best paymasters, they offered a stable, & caring organization for their employees. But in just 6 months, in this new organization, she experienced an old-boy club and alpha-male culture in direct contrast to the organization’s global cultural guidelines. She found that to succeed, one had to be part of the local inner circle and observed that loyalty to the entrenched group, rather than merit, determined important project assignments. Despite raising the issue with the local HR business partner, who didn’t acknowledge the prevailing culture, Sania left the organization by the eleventh month, disillusioned, & found an opportunity in another IT MNC.

Sania’s story is not uncommon, as it highlights classically, one of the major challenges for global organizations in managing cultural alignment which is environmental diversity (shaped principally by local context such as economy, politics, social and religious practices, etc.); – the other being the individual diversity (shaped principally by age, gender, language, and values, etc.). It is observed that organizations operating in culturally diverse geographies have more challenges to cultural alignment than those operating in homogenous regions.

Industry data suggests that aligning culture and strategy across geographies leads to greater success, but misalignment can cause significant setbacks, such as attrition, low sales, internal conflict, and many more. Analysis of global organizations which have successfully managed better cultural alignment shows a balanced approach comprising centralized directions with the adoption of local methods and strategies. Many of them followed the 80:20 rule (operations, procedures, proposals, & delivery), where 80% comply with central guidelines, while 20% are left open to adapting to local culture, laws, or habits.

This leaves us pondering a perplexing question: Can an organization truly serve its purpose if its own internal culture is disconnected? And what actions can be taken to drive cultural alignment ? The following are some of the effective strategies to achieve better employee-employer alignment.

1. Hire for Competence & Culture:

Organizations while sourcing for required employees need to factor in both competence and cultural fitment as an active selection process cutting across job scopes and genres of the employee. Analysis of real-world data suggests that organizations that practice these observed increased employee satisfaction, productivity, & retention rates.

Cultural fit tools such as pre-employment assessments & personality questionnaires, can serve from the very beginning of such screening process, giving the program the much-needed lattice; – making it tangible in recognizing how each individual brings unique perspectives & experiences and how well they fit in the already defined business culture.

2. Organizational DNA ∝ Employees Work DNA :

To create a one-of-a-kind workplace, employers generally agree that they must align their DNA with that of their employees. However, aligning the DNA of a diverse workforce with that of the organization can be challenging, as different generations may have different values, communication styles, & work preferences.

Organizations that have successfully navigated this challenge were seen to be more open to exploring and adapting to different viewpoints & work styles. They undertook Initiatives such as team-building exercises, mentorship programs & professional development opportunities embodying the organization’s DNA and thereby encouraged cross-generational collaboration & communication and in turn, provided inputs for flexible work arrangements that catered to the needs of different age groups.

3. Leaders Walk the Talk :

When Larry Senn (author of Winning Teams, Winning Cultures) said Culture is the shadow of the leader, he expressed leaders as being the core of shaping and aligning culture within. For example, if an organization values innovation & risk-taking, leaders should encourage & reward employees championing that value.

To foster this culture, many organizations have empowered their leaders by helping them become the living embodiment of their values. These organizations invested in leadership development programs and coaching to strengthen their leadership skills and ability to lead from the front. In fact, with focused investment, organizations can inspire their workforce to follow suit when their leaders walk the talk, aligning everyone on the same page and moving ahead in the same direction.

4. Assess and Applaud :

Culture alignment can often be overlooked by employees until they realize its impact on their performance. To ensure that the workforce is in sync with cultural values, successful organizations focused more on employee actions and behaviors through a magnifying performance management system.

An effective and curated performance management system doesn’t merely appraise employees’ output but also considers their attitudes, development curve, & avenues for enhancement. When used to promote cultural alignment, it provides a strong bearing on the values and goals shared by employees and helps organizations understand how they plan to grow toward a cohesive culture. When employees get rewarded for the perseverance shown toward alignment, a motivated workforce emerges, creating a positive ripple effect of cultural alignment for others to follow.

5. Technology - The Lost Key :

Most organizations today strive to adapt to new technologies to accelerate their digital journey. There can be added advantages as using emerging technologies can help identify the necessary culture changes and could ensure that their team’s behaviors are well-aligned with their company’s ambition and values. By deploying an AI-powered analysis tool that would analyze employee feedback and engagement data, employers can highlight areas where the organization is falling short & can offer insights into what employees want to see in the company’s culture.

Employers can also deploy gamification into their cultural alignment initiatives and reward employees with “culture points” for living by their company values. By using a machine learning algorithm that analyzes data from the gamification platform, organizations can gain insights and design appropriate interventions to help reinforce elements of desired behaviors to enhance cultural alignment amongst their workforces.

Aligning Employee-Employer Cosmos

Navigating the cosmos of employee-employer relations in the modern world can be a daunting task. To rise above today’s unprecedented challenges, organizations are seeking a new reality – one that is aligned with the needs and aspirations of their workforce.

Just like small ants working in colonies who accomplish feats far beyond the capacity of any single individual, organizations & employees that have a thoughtful alignment within their values & goals, can achieve remarkable results through coordinated effort. When everyone is moving in the same direction, with momentum building like a wave cresting toward shore, great things can happen. By investing in cultural alignment, organizations can create a culture of excellence that empowers employees and drives growth, setting them apart as leaders in their industries.

Now, take a moment to reflect & ask yourself: Does organizational culture, values, and beliefs align with your own? And if not, what steps can both take to bridge this gap and create a more harmonious and fulfilling workforce?

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