Organizational culture: obsessed over, misunderstood, oversimplified, and scapegoated.
“We need to change our culture”, “That place has such a toxic culture”, “Our culture wouldn’t allow for that” “The real problem is our culture”…
Sound familiar? Whether you’ve heard it at your own organization, or come across a similar premise in one of the many fervent cultural calls-to-action online, it’s clear to me that these days culture is on the operating table. Underlying all these arguments is a sense of urgency, and a belief that culture can and should be engineered, shaped, and managed:
Mold it, control it, strengthen it, change it, or it will change you! Your efforts will mean the difference between culture as organization-limiting obstacle, and culture as critical competitive advantage!
But the sloppy and imprecise way we talk about ‘culture’ also effects our thinking and speech about changing culture, so that we find ourselves awash in popular discourse that basically equates organizational culture change with switching the wallpaper in your house: a real pain in the ass, but nothing that you and a few friends couldn’t get done over a long weekend. Read more
I spend a great deal of time thinking, talking and writing about how HR could and should be different and better, and there is no shortage of others who do the same. Which is why I think it’s really important to make something perfectly clear- I am not a member of the HR Sucks Brigade. I love HR. And each year that passes I love it more. I love that it naively and enthusiastically sets out to bring some kind of order to the chaotic, dysfunctional and unavoidably imperfect collection of humans that is the modern organization. Read more
Happy Superbowl Sunday! Although I much prefer to watch the other football, I can never resist tuning in for the Superbowl entertainment. This year, pop star Alicia Keys will be performing the US national anthem. One assumes that this required time away from her other role, that of newly appointed ”Global Creative Director” for Blackberry (formerly known as RIM, and formerly a Canadian technology success story). Announced this week, Ms. Keys’ impressive new position got me thinking about a mysterious organizational phenomenon: ‘title inflation’. Read more
I spent three days of last week at the HRPA Annual Conference here in Toronto. As always, it was a great event to reconnect with tons of brilliant HR folks in my network, as well as make new connections, and absorb ideas and knowledge from the many session speakers and keynotes- and this year was especially fun. As in past years, a couple of those speakers brought up ‘the Z word’…no, not zombies: ‘Zappos’. If you work in HR, or have any interest in organizational culture or employee engagement, it’s virtually guaranteed that you’ve read all about Zappos’ approach to corporate culture. They’ve been referenced as a benchmark in this area for many years now, and although I have nothing against Zappos, this year the Z word gave me pause. Maybe it’s because I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about organizational culture recently, or maybe it was this recent Tim Sacket post decrying the obsession with ‘best practices’, but I just couldn’t muster my usual enthusiasm for Zappos’ legendary approach.
I really enjoyed this recent Forbes article “Don’t Just Bash HR. Help it Succeed.” In it, Ron Ashkenas talks about the transition that HR is going through, and the fundamental shift in some organizations’ thinking about where many HR accountabilities should reside. Here’s a quote from the article:
“So HR’s evolution…does not just concern changing HR. It’s also about helping managers take more accountability for people and culture, and eventually blurring the rigid distinction between ‘HR’ and ‘management’.”
For me, this quote sparked with an idea that’s been rattling around in my head for awhile, based on one of the many things I’ve learned since I entered the non-profit sector a little more than 2 years ago: the concept of capacity-building. Read more
Perhaps the most common question I am asked by candidates in interviews is “What’s the culture like here?” And I understand why. Accepting a job offer after a few interviews sometimes feels like accepting a marriage proposal after sharing a taxi with someone, and this question has become standard candidate-speak for “What would it really be like to work here? But if you read my last post on organizational culture, you’ll know that I believe taken literally, the question “What’s the culture like here?” is much more complicated than it sounds. Read more
Well, 2013 is here, and so far it’s shaping up to be a fantastic year! I am so grateful to note that I am listed on the HRBN/Starr Conspiracy 40 Under 40 HR Bloggers list, alongside so many of my favourite bloggers who inspire and inform me daily. What an honour (and always nice to be reminded that 40 is still a few years off…)
Also, if you didn’t catch my previous post ‘HR’s Sloppy Thinking on Culture’, you can check it out on Business Insider’s website this week, as they are republishing it for their audience, which is awesome!
Here’s hoping that the rest of 2013 is a great year for us all!
I have to admit that I love the days and weeks before a new year begins, as we’re compelled to look back, take stock (and produce a flood of ‘Top 10′ lists), as well as look ahead, making predictions about the unknowable year in front of us. HR predictions (like most predictions) are always a dodgy business, but I think that there are a few safe bets- trends that we can all agree are already coming to pass. One of these that will have significant and lasting repercussions for HR, organizations, and the economy as whole, is the rise of the contingent workforce. Already a demonstrable trend, arguably accelerated by the recession and the ensuing tepid recovery, this change has the potential to significantly impact virtually every aspect of HR (and in many cases has already done so). Could the traditional employee become an endangered species in the years to come? Read more
Hey everyone, I was so pleased to contribute to Xpert HR’s ‘December 2012 Top HR Blog Posts’! I participated by selecting my four favorite blog posts of December 2012, including fantastic posts from Bonni Titgemeyer, Kris Dunn, Neil Morrison and China Gorman. Check out my, and some great fellow HR Bloggers’, picks here.
Image via Steve Jurvetson: Flickr Creative Commons
The end of a year is frequently a catalyst for reflection on the past and attempts to predict the future. I know I’ve been thinking about the future of HR, and my place in it, and have enjoyed reading (and re-reading) many of this year’s visions of HR’s Christmas Future.
One of the more intriguing visions of HR’s next incarnation that haunted our profession this year was the role of the ‘Performance Advisor’. Read more