Reframing Organisational Culture
Michael Cheng, Partner, People & Organisation, PwC Mainland China and Hong Kong;Guy Parsonage, Partner, Experience Leader, PwC Mainland China and Hong Kong;James Storey, Manager, People & Organisation, PwC Mainland China and Hong Kong;Jack Roberts, Senior Associate, Experience, PwC Mainland China and Hong Kong
  • As hybrid work becomes the norm, an organisation’s culture represents the beliefs, decision making, and behaviours that align with its business objectives.

  • By implementing best practices and bringing together core values and diverse competencies, the HR function has a key role in nurturing a high-performing culture.

COVID-19 has recast many aspects of work and how it is managed. Prior to the outbreak, the focus in the HR environment was on the megatrends of digital transformation, talent mobility, connectedness, and globalisation, and their impact on reshaping the world of work. The new normal not only accelerated megatrend components such as the rapid adoption of digital technologies, it also created new challenges and opportunities. For instance, the chance to build capabilities around a company culture.

Culture has always been vital, but even more so due to the seismic shifts caused by COVID-19, which has dramatically altered established work processes and human interactions. As the hybrid work landscape cultivates new habits and preferences, a high-performing culture can provide the framework around how people interact with one another, the values and ethics an organisation upholds, and the expectations set by leadership.  

However, staff can’t act in line with high-performing cultural expectations without the right motivation and skills improvement opportunities in place. With the HR function as the key driver, building and sustaining a highperforming culture requires three essential elements – up-skilling and re-skilling, employee experience, and enlightened leadership. PreCOVID culture mechanisms may need to be reassessed. According to notable research, including a study conducted by the MIT, companies that innovate and measure their employee experience are 25% more profitable than companies that don’t.

Establishing high-performing culture behaviours and mentalities can’t be done through a standardised strategy. It requires a holistic approach tailored to the unique needs of each organisation. To steer culture outcomes for “what good looks like”, quantifiable measurement processes need to be established as early as possible. Defining tangible key performance indicators (KPIs) and objectives and key results (OKRs) can provide helpful indicators of how leadership, up-skilling and re-skilling, and employee experience interact and contribute to a high-performing culture. Embedding KPIs and OKRs scorecards also reinforces greater individual and team ownership and accountability.

PwC’s Katzenbach Centre, which focuses on excellence in areas of organisational culture, leadership, and teamwork, has devised a “critical few” approach, whereby an organisation identifies relevant critical behaviours necessary to develop a high-performing culture. When enacted, the “critical few” concept permeates how staff behave, think, feel, and believe under the organisation’s vision. Ultimately, this provides the HR function with a solid foundation to accelerate change and demonstrate impact.

Employee experience

Employees have spoken. Driven by the rearrangement of work processes brought by COVID-19, staff have generally been quick to embrace the benefits of remote and hybrid working. In a hybrid work environment, how employees experience change is different. It is necessary to understand what inspires people and identify creative ways to engage with them. Both physical and virtual communication and engagement channels need to cater to different critical touchpoints. These interactions need to take into account individual personalities and work inclinations.

Experience-led change places the experiences, needs, and motivation of staff as the North Star. Focusing on employees’ needs, the HR function can shape human-centred ideation and co-design solutions and ways of working where staff feel they have a collective sense of ownership. Monitoring experience along the employee’s journey can allow HR to fail fast and adjust accordingly to provide experiences that they cherish. Furthermore, equipped with strong data and analytics capabilities, the HR function can provide real-time, actionable insights on whether the experiences they are creating for their staff can produce desired business outcomes. By setting up transparent mechanisms and encouraging openness and flexibility, HR can help employees and business units work together seamlessly.

Up-skilling and re-skilling

Up-skilling and re-skilling should not be considered side projects to other initiatives – they need to be fully incorporated into business strategies. However, the rapid move to virtual or hybrid work processes has uncovered capability gaps in both organisations and their people. To evaluate how available resources can be effectively utilised to implement up-skilling and re-skilling programmes, a good place to start is by looking at staff data and feedback. With this in mind, up-skilling and re-skilling efforts can serve both the organisation’s need for capability uplift as well as employees’ aspirations to adapt to an increasingly digital work landscape. 

Findings from PwC’s 2020 Global Digital IQ survey revealed a quantifiable correlation between upskilling and employee engagement. On up-skilling programmes, 60% of the CEOs said their programmes were “highly effective” in terms of accentuating culture and employee engagement. Similarly, 86% of the respondents said their digital training and education programmes improved employee engagement and performance. At the same time, according to PwC’s 2021 Hopes and Fears survey, staff are concerned about job security, access to digital up-skilling tools, and development opportunities. Survey respondents also expect to be recognised and appropriately rewarded for their upskilling and re-skilling efforts. Against this backdrop, to sustain a highperforming culture, employers need to strive for synchronicity between staff’s expectations and the strategies necessary to navigate an uncertain business environment.

To keep up-skilling and re-skilling efforts on track, a balanced set of performance indicators needs to be put in place across external, commercial, and people parametres. External parametres measure societal, market, digital, and emerging technological trends that organisations should be keeping up with. Commercial parametres measure business service impact as a result of up-skilling and reskilling, customer satisfaction, digital app deployments, and digital intrapreneurship. Meanwhile, people parametres measure employee engagement, talent turnover, promotions, and redeployment.

A new focus for leadership

Leadership has always been important, but during this time of rapid change, it has taken on a new meaning. Leaders are central to implementing and shaping the vision and goals for a high-performing culture. In order to create such culture, the C-suite need to align their teams around a vision, and most importantly, set a practical plan in motion to create and sustain a culture that inspires people to give their best.

In the face of unprecedented challenges, when making difficult decisions, leaders need to demonstrate empathy and commitment to ensure the workforce embraces change. Sharing ideas, concerns, objectives, targets, and resources lays the groundwork for tailoring a highperforming culture. In a hybrid work environment, visibility and accessibility are prerequisites to creating a peopleoriented culture. In addition to empowering employees to up-skill and re-skill, the C-suite must practise what they preach by also up-skilling and re-skilling themselves. Importantly, leaders that cultivate opportunities for their workforce to learn can expect to boost performance as well as attract and retain talent.

Regardless of industry sector or company size, a high-performing culture can be created based on the organisation’s unique needs. For instance, small to medium-sized businesses (SMEs) can take advantage of size to involve all members of the workforce in shaping the highperforming culture journey. Due to their relatively small size, it is easier for SMEs to identify and prioritise strategies that define such culture. Meanwhile, in larger organisations, the HR function can leverage the company’s size to “crowdsource” influencers from across the organisation to champion high-performance initiatives. With a high-performing culture as an integral part of their DNA, organisations aren’t only better positioned to adapt to a hybrid work environment – they are poised to respond to the constant changes driving every industry

Reframing Organisational Culture
PR 11 January, 2022