Often, we hear about various HR tools that HR practitioners believe holds the key to a better employee connect – E-Sat (Employee satisfaction/ Surveys), Gamification and ESOP’s. Most often these tools are effective for some period of time till they become common practice and lose their sheen. By then, another tool comes along. But I would like to believe, that in spite of all the tools that may be employed, what constitutes a great work place for any employee is the culture of the organization.

The culture of an organization is most likely to be driven by the CEO or the founder(s), whoever is more involved in the day to day operations of the organization. Let me illustrate, I worked in an organization where there were multiple founders, and the CEO was chosen from this group of founders, while the rest bid their turn by heading various departments. A one-upmanship amongst these founders existed to covet the CEO position. This trickled down steeply; departments could not work with each other, because the bosses were busy trying to outdo each other. Horrendous amounts of time and energy were wasted by hard-working professionals within the organization, in trying to deal with the politics of the place. A lot of policies and processes were built around this culture of distrust. In this atmosphere, any intervention by HR or well-meaning managers would only be a cosmetic change.

The culture begins from the top, a leader leads by example, and this is accurate for organization culture. Leaders who are perceived as fair decision makers, inclusive and intelligent are likely to get more respect for themselves and the decisions they take. Why does this happen? Employees are able to predict a behaviour pattern, which is comprehensible, reasonable and relatable. They are willing to believe, that if there is sound reason/truth/facts, the leader will be able to arrive at a decision which is devoid of malicious intent. Employees are then willing to share this comfort with the rest of the colleagues, which is built on this trust. This becomes an organization culture.

Organizational culture encompasses unique traits and behaviours within an organization which reflects the values, beliefs and principles of organizational members. In simpler terms- it’s the way things get done, how people take decisions, interact, build working relationships, etc. As much as we believe organization policies drive some of it, the implementation of those policies based on the culture is more important than the actual policy itself. For e.g. Granting leaves: Organization 1 will make you accrue leaves quarterly – track those minutely and deduct salary if you need more leaves than those accrued. Organization 2, will grant leaves quarterly but allow employees to manage their leaves, at the year-end or while exit leave calculations will be computed and actions thereafter. When you do an employee satisfaction survey, employees in Organization 2 will have less complaints than Organizations 1, even if employees in both end up paying for excess leaves.

When an organization culture is robust and positive, HR interactions and tools are likely to be more effective. Employees would be more willing to share issues and work towards finding solutions.

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