Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Exceptions and exception handling from the HR perspective 11: mergers and cross-cultural challenges 2

Posted in HR and personnel by Timothy Platt on September 20, 2014

This is my 11th installment in a series on recognizing, understanding and thinking about exceptions, and about exception handing in a Human Resources context (see HR and Personnel, postings 197 and following for Parts 1-4 and HR and Personnel – 2, postings 201 and following for Part 5-10.)

I began more formally discussing societal and business culture-based differences in the workplace and how they can lead to workplace collisions, in Part 10 of this series. And my focus there was on perceiving, understanding and accommodating difference. That, as a point of clarification, does not mean always accepting difference, but it does mean thinking through what differences should and even absolutely must be allowed for. My goal here is to discuss the flip side to that, where the overall goal of an organization has to be to instill a consistent look and approach.

• Corporate culture can be a powerful glue that binds an organization together and it can greatly facilitate joint effort and a sense of identity and belonging as part of this larger whole.
• And at least as importantly, an effective and effectively presented corporate culture that is actually lived in day-to day-action and not just presented as an intention, can serve as a business’ most powerful and compelling marketing message too – and particularly when this corporate culture offers a vision of social awareness and responsibility. This is where a business can most compellingly present itself as being a source of positive influence and value and for a wider community than just that found within its own walls.

I cited in Part 10as a working example of possible cultural collision points, the need for observant Muslims to ritually pray at specific times throughout the day, and how a business’ sense of workplace scheduling needs to accommodate reasonable and necessary employee needs.

• When you think and plan through what you require of your employees and when you think through the corporate culture that arises in your business as it encompasses what good employees and corporate citizens do and do not do there,
• Plan and encourage this with an acute awareness of real and current, and significantly likely friction points, such as telling Muslim employees they have to work through their readily predictable times for daily prayer, simply because a business does everything according to one set schedule.
• A business owner or leader might not be able to fully dictate the corporate culture in place but people in position of leadership and direct ownership responsibility can set the standards for what is and is not done at a business and what is and is not allowed there. And they can influence how employees at their business perceive all of this and how it fits into the corporate culture that they can comfortably follow.
• An effective corporate culture enforces set standards and practices where they make sense
• And where they instill and support positive values that enrich the business itself, its employees, and its marketplace community.

And this brings me back to the issues of corporate responsibility and of corporate culture that reflects and even enforces socially positive behavior. And this also brings me to a point of observation that I find necessary to point out here, connecting this posting into the flow of my ongoing writing. I have written at various times in this blog about how managers and leaders can and cannot shape the corporate cultures of the businesses that they seek to lead in. And in this context, I have specifically noted that an incoming new manager and even an incoming senior executive can face real and significant resistance if they seek to overtly challenge or control the corporate culture that has been in place – and at times even if it seems toxic. Directing and changing an established corporate culture in this regard is like changing course and direction in a huge ship with all of its ongoing momentum to stay its current course. A slow and steady pressure and a longer-term strategic approach can be the only workable way to affect real change here. And the place to start is usually where current corporate culture creates the most painfully overt friction points and where it in fact conflicts with specific employee, customer or other specific constituent needs.

• Ultimately, there is no single best corporate culture. Better ones are simply the ones that cause the least friction between overall process and pattern followed, and impacted-upon constituent needs, and whether those constituent stakeholders are internal (e.g. in-house employees) or external (e.g. outside customers) to the business.

I am going to finish this posting at that point and will conclude this series there too, at least for now. I simply add here that I expect to return to issues that I have been discussing here, for further discussion and analysis at a later date. Meanwhile, you can find this series and related material at HR and Personnel – 2, and at HR and Personnel.

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