On November 6th, 2018, Jessica Knight, Director (Team Manager, Gartner) took the stage during the third day of the Barcelona Gartner Symposium/ITXPO, sharing her knowledge and best practices on the creation of "a culture that performs".

Jessica Knight leads the development of research and implementation tools that address HR executives' most pressing challenges. In her role, Ms. Knight works directly with HR executives to find the root cause of problems, test hypotheses and surface best practices. Her team's most recent research entitled "Creating a Culture That Performs" won the Highest Impact Research Award for 2017.

The Gartner HR expert started by sharing her definition of "organizational culture": culture is the set of behavioral norms and unwritten rules that shape the organizational environment and how individuals interact and get work done in that environment. According to her, "it is a key element and the first step in the journey to Continuous NEXT, as it impacts several aspects of the organization". Also, culture is the most discussed talent topic, and saw a significant increase in the last years. Even CEOs are discussing it with investors. And they don't just talk: organizations spend an average of 1900 euros per employee per year to actually manage culture. Yet, most of the companies still do not have the culture they need to achieve their objectives: according to CIOs, culture is the number 1 barrier to digital transformation. Moreover, only 31% of CHROs believe their current culture can support future business performance. "Our research also showed that the best organization take a process-focused approach, where IT must play a leading role. Rather than focus on just the people and change them, organizations should focus on underlined process: how employees understand and live the culture," she added.


What makes a culture perform?

"Are some cultures simply better? Is there one right choice? Actually, no cultural attribute consistently outperforms other attributes. Pursue a culture that will support the organization's strategy and priorities," explained Jessica Knight. Also according to the latest studies, 70% of companies are highly confident they know the culture they need. But why aren't employees demonstrating the culture the companies need? Three main gaps have been identified: knowledge – 31% of organizations report strong employee awareness of desired culture – mindset – 13% of organizations report strong employee belief in desired culture – and behavior – 10% of organizations report strong employee behaviors related to desired culture. "In order to close these gaps, they all need to be addressed at once. There's no ideal order, but if a single aspect is missing, companies won't be able to close the culture gap," highlighted the HR expert, before explaining that a process-focused approach was about organizations measuring culture, leaders operationalizing culture and finally employees embedding culture.

Also, in order to understand the culture – what companies are currently lacking – experts first need to identify and promote untapped sources of culture data, then involve employees in providing, interpreting and communicating culture feedback, and finally explore channels that facilitate more open-ended feedback and/or more continuous listening. "In order to overcome to quality, frequency and interpretation barriers, a culture management strategy is needed," insisted Jessica Knight.


Operationalizing the culture the company needs

The three components of effective role modeling are Say – what leaders communicate – Behave – how they act – and Embed – how do processes, structures and budgets align with the culture? Here, research shows that most organizations focus less on the most important part, which is embedding. "It represents the biggest opportunity to improve the culture. Talk all you want, but having the processes in place is what matters most. It is therefore necessary to align processes and systems, not just behavior," added Mrs. Knight. The first step is to consider a cultural priority at your organization and ask the following question: do the processes and systems you own/influence support that behavior? "As soon as possible, prioritize one or two aspects of the culture most in need of support. Then, identify aligned vs. misaligned systems and processes and validate alignment of proposed investments. Finally, redesign prioritized systems and processes".

Also, in their day-to-day operations, 75% of IT employees struggle to adapt culture to their specific context. Hence the necessity to empower employees to translate the culture rather than simply doing it for them. Jessica Knight then shared the example of the employees of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation who worked on a "culture do's and don't's" template. "It is then necessary to empower a team to define high-stakes moments and craft their own approach to completing such templates. Then, they need to share their results. In the months to come, teams need to keep revisiting templates at regular intervals to reflect on process made and opportunities for improvement," concluded the Gartner Analyst.


Alexandre Keilmann

Publié le 13 décembre 2018