The importance of culture

The importance of culture

It has been a really bad week for Sellafield with claims of a long-term toxic culture coming on top of the revelation that computer systems in Sellafield are being hacked. Given that employees at Sellafield are looking after some of the dirtiest and most hazardous substances known to man in difficult circumstances and many may already know about the vulnerability of their old computer systems, it is perhaps understandable, if not justifiable, that the culture exhibits some very nihilistic and toxic behaviours. (Source: The Guardian)

Of course, most organisations don’t need to deal with the unique set of relentless challenges faced by Sellafield but that does not make them immune from the emergence of unproductive changes in company culture. The culture of any organisation can veer in the wrong direction for many reasons, for example if a new competitor appears and dominates a previously safe market or if working conditions are changed without sufficient consultation and notice. There are many cases of the latter example following the pandemic including a recent and seemingly innocuous request from Nationwide that its employees come to the office on two days a week.

In the case of Nationwide, one would expect complaints to be resolved quickly but sometimes the culture degrades without the knowledge of leaders, leading to parallel cultures, official and underground, with different aims. Too often, extreme examples of divergent cultures become public before they are recognised and handled by leaders, for example as above where bullying and harassment are rife in the workplace.  However, leaders need to be aware of any potentially undesirable changes in the culture not just the most toxic.  They could do worse than start with their people where there is a wealth of untapped information held by employees with knowledge about every aspect of the organisation.

Finding out how employees feel about themselves in their roles through the mechanism of engagement surveys can help but these tend to be lengthy and may not offer the level of privacy employees might desire to be completely open. On the other hand finding out how employees feel about the organisation through an anonymous scan can deliver much more useful information on how the company is doing from their point of view. With its rapid and confidential scan underpinned by the science of sensemaking (Organisational SensemakingTM), Tensense can assess quickly how people are feeling and give leaders early warning of potential issues before they hurt the company and its culture. You can find out more in this short video here.

Image by Simon Ledingham, CC BY-SA 2.0