Culture often starts at the top, with CEOs and others in leadership roles setting the tone.

As HR professionals, however, it’s often up to us to oversee and influence our organisation’s values and customs – in particular, how they translate within day-to-day operations.

We all know that building a high-performance culture is at the top of the strategic agenda for most organisations. But just what is HR’s role in culture management? Furthermore, if your workplace culture is in need of improvement, how can you get in the driver’s seat when it comes to correcting course?


HR: Change agent for high-performance culture

Culture is, first and foremost, a people issue. This presents a unique challenge from the outset, as working towards a strong and positive culture won’t always be charted with clear, concrete outcomes.

Creating a high-performance workplace culture may not have the same definitive KPIs as other HR functions, but there are some key criteria you can use to measure success, including:

  • Low staff turnover; when your employees stick around, it’s a sign you’re doing something (or many things) right.
  • Strong communication methods; having several clear and concise methods of communication with staff, including email, memos and even incorporating social media, ensure all staff feel ‘in the loop’.
  • High levels of internal recruitment; it’s a positive sign if your staff are actively training up, increasing their skills and climbing the totem pole within the workplace.


HR practitioners obviously play an integral role in ensuring strong talent and the right employee/organisational fit, and cultivating a high-performance culture is part of that process.

It is not always easy to achieve, especially in an environment where people “must be more productive than ever,” explains Stephen Bell, managing director, iHR Australia.

“HR and L&D professionals will be presented with the challenge of producing more with less,” he says of the current environment.

“These are not the ideal circumstances for achieving best practice, but it should be looked at as a great opportunity to implement simple, back to basics strategies that can be seen to make a difference.”


If your workplace culture needs some attention or reorientation, here are some ideas:

  • Get leadership on board: As mentioned earlier, culture starts at the top. Your organisation’s core values, desired behaviours and shared vision are essential for a positive culture change effort to succeed.
  • Develop a business case: Your CEO will find it difficult to ignore your suggestions if you can tie the need for cultural change to the business strategy.
  • Create an action plan: Start with the highest priorities, the biggest issues or the most impactful areas of change, and create a plan to move forward.
  • Be inclusive: Involve as many groups from across the organisation as possible. Create a committee; form focus groups; establish anonymous staff surveys; call haphazard groups of employees together for impromptu breakfast meetings. Engage the help and support of a group of passionate, committed people to identify cultural disconnects and recommend remedies.


Finally: make it fun!

To get your employees buying into your new vision, so they actively carry out and cultivate your ideal culture, create tangible ways to get them involved in fun ways, such as activities, competitions, games and awards. Celebrations and events held within the organisation will help reinforce the message of cultural change you are working to bring about.

What does your workplace do it make it fun? Is a slide taking it too far?

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