Company culture refers to the values, beliefs, and attitudes that serve as guiding principles for everyone in an organization. More intangibly, it’s the personality of a company. While it may feel nebulous and out of your control, it actually is possible to shape company culture through an effective People strategy, leadership buy-in, and the right tools to support the changes you want to make.
“HR can absolutely use tools and tech to drive meaningful cultural change in the workplace,” said Kimberley Tyler-Smith, MBA, Vice President of Strategy and Growth at Resume Worded, a resume and LinkedIn profile review service. The key to using HR tools and technology to drive meaningful culture change at your organization is to align your aspirational culture with a defined People program and ensure you have the technology in-house to support the cultural shift you want to see.
People programs are the sum of the ways companies exchange information with employees to enable their best work — like creating goals, providing feedback, and collecting and responding to employee input. If you’re on a journey of updating — or overhauling — your people program, don’t worry about how the technology will work with your current culture; instead, focus on the tools you’ll need to drive the People Program and culture you’re striving for.
Culture and tools work in tandem and usually influence each other.
Companies that recognize the two-way relationship between culture and tech can leverage this symbiosis to drive aspirational cultural changes by using technology, and build their systems knowing that they will influence behaviors. Organizations that don’t will continue to wonder why their people aren’t following through on behaviors that are expected of them.
Let’s look deeper at how to use HR technology to drive cultural change.
3 Ways HR Tools and Technology Support Meaningful Cultural Change.
1. Many desirable traits of culture are responsive to tools and tech.
It is essential to have a healthy company culture. An organization's culture orients team members in making decisions and reflects core company values, and it can be observed in how employees express themselves, provide feedback, and how — or if — they are recognized for their contributions.
A positive culture is related to many significant benefits for an organization, including better retention, increased employee engagement, higher performance, and a better employee experience, to name a few. And while there’s no technology that can magically transform culture into one where employees and teams perform at a high level, there are tools that can reinforce elements of key desired behaviors.
Three notable elements of a healthy workplace culture include regular formal and informal feedback, routine employee recognition, and an emphasis on employee development. A comprehensive People success platform that centers on performance, engagement, and development will support the exchange of feedback, encourage the workforce to share praise, and allow employees to learn about and take advantage of development opportunities.
For example, Lattice’s People success platform makes it easy to give, log, and track feedback given both formally, like in annual performance reviews, and informally, such as in one-on-ones. With Lattice’s integrations, you can recognize peers, direct reports, and leaders by giving them shout-outs in Praise channels. And Lattice’s career pathing and individual development plan tools help ensure that HR departments and managers consistently support employee development.
These three components — feedback, recognition, and performance management — are key pillars of a thriving workplace culture because they help create an environment in which employees feel seen, valued, and invested in. When these three elements are integrated into an organization — and supported through technology and tools — they’re woven into team and interpersonal dynamics, too, further propagating the new, desired culture and work environment Human Resources leaders are aiming for.
2. Technology helps reinforce the behaviors you want to see and makes it easy for employees to follow suit.
Simply developing cultural initiatives at the executive and HR levels and telling employees about them will likely not result in meaningful culture change at your organization. To influence real and lasting cultural change, leaders need to make it easy and accessible to embody the behaviors that drive the aspirational culture.
Change management models, like the Kotter 8 Steps for Leading Change, developed by Harvard Professor and change-management thought leader John Kotter, demonstrate that two best practices for managing change — like a cultural shift — are providing resources and/or removing barriers, and reinforcing the desired change quickly. Specifically, steps five and six of the Kotter method are “Enable” and “Generate.” Enable is to remove barriers and provide resources, and Generate is to make it easy to produce short-term wins.
For example, say a company wants to build more feedback into the employee lifecycle and create a culture of continuous feedback. One way to take action on step five, Enable, could be to mandate weekly or biweekly one-on-ones between managers and their direct reports. By codifying this into an official company policy, Human Resources can help facilitate a more regular exchange of feedback between supervisors and their staff members.
Next, a supporting action for step 6, Generate, could be to introduce a praise initiative and an accompanying tool that incentivizes senior leaders and managers to participate. This is just one example of how companies can harness HR technology to encourage the actions and competencies they want to see more of. However, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of gamifying participation – while it may result in a temporary behavior change, the long-term impacts can do more harm than good.
Experience the difference for yourself: Schedule a Lattice demo to see how we revamp company culture.
3. Tools help hold an organization accountable.
An organization can’t force or control culture, but it can — and must — help shape it. This begins with an assessment of the current culture you have and the changes you’d like to see. Too often businesses want a cultural shift without being able to describe their current culture, let alone how they’d like it to evolve. Ask yourself: How does the aspirational culture you’re envisioning differ from the one the company has today? Take some time to write this out, and be specific.
For example, your lists might look like this:
- Current Culture: Reactive, change-resistant, and lacking the regular exchange of feedback
- Aspirational Culture: Proactive, agile, and continuous exchange of feedback
Once you’ve defined the principles you’d like to see your workforce embody, you have to supply the resources needed to enable these changes. For instance, if you’d like the organizational culture to be more collaborative, what exactly would this look like in practice? And then, what tools can you provide your workforce with to support this kind of collaboration?
Providing your workforce with the right tools and technology has two main purposes: First of all, it makes it possible for your employees to embody the desired traits or behaviors of the culture you want to create. And secondly, it helps hold the organization accountable with metrics that can track the success of initiatives, for example.
Giving careful thought to the tools and tech you’ll need to enable the shifts in behavior, values, and culture you want to enact will help you determine if your organization is adequately resourced to make the desired changes. And then you’ll need to fill in the gaps with any additional necessary resources.
To see how technology can support an organization’s core values and culture, consider the social media management company Buffer and their commitment to transparency. Buffer backs up their “Default to transparency” value by making a huge amount of company information available online for employees (and the public) to see. The company may be best known for publishing all employee salaries, but their commitment goes beyond that. Buffer has a section on their website dedicated to transparency where it’s possible to view a revenue dashboard, see their product roadmap, examine their diversity metrics, and more. Up until a few years ago, Buffer even extended their transparency philosophy to email and made all emails viewable by the entire company.
While this kind of radical transparency is probably not a good fit for most businesses and their cultures, the way Buffer uses technology to support the company’s core values in order to hold itself accountable can be applied to any organization wishing to use technology to support its values and culture.
And technology doesn’t just help an organization stay accountable. “HR can also use tools and tech to create social accountability among employees,” Tyler-Smith said. For instance, if the cultural norm of a team is to recognize one another for successes in the workplace, social accountability encourages employees to continue this behavior of praising colleagues for their great work.
HR tools and technology don’t merely reflect your culture; they can work in tandem with your organization’s People strategy to emphasize and incentivize the behaviors that contribute to the business’s aspirational culture — and have a hand in creating it. Technology is a tool that allows HR to strengthen existing positive aspects of company culture, and develop new ones, too.
Culture, People programs, and HR technology are all linked, so before onboarding new tech to support your cultural initiatives, define your People Program Model first. Not sure where to start? Download Lattice’s eBook Bringing Your People Strategy to Life for expert, in-depth advice on translating your People strategy into an actionable People Program Model, and six different models for doing so.