There are three important steps HR leaders need to take in working with executives to help drive organisational culture change, according to Jennifer White, HR leader in ANZ for global technology solutions business Avnet.

The first steps HR leaders need to take is to ensure substantial planning occurs around the development of an overarching strategic culture roadmap.

“In doing so, we become intentional around outcomes, have clarity of purpose and alignment with organisational values remains sharply in focus,” she said.

“It also helps in mitigating the situational influence of ‘the day job’.”

White, who is responsible for helping attract, engage, develop and reward a diverse and highly skilled team in supporting the business objectives of Avnet, said that once the culture roadmap is defined, HR leaders can then assess the current culture versus the desired culture.

“This is best done through a robust diagnostic to make the intangible tangible,” said White, who explained that HR leaders then need to work with the business in actioning this.

“HR leaders can then dedicate more quality time in the business bringing the plan to life – guiding, partnering and challenging older or less effective thinking patterns, processes and models to achieve the desired cultural blueprint.”

“The greatest difficulty is overcoming the ‘busyness of business'”

Avnet Technology Solutions is one of the world’s largest global distributors of electronic components, computer products and embedded technology, with annual revenues in excess of US$26.2 billion ($34.2 billion) and customers in more than 125 countries.

White is currently helping to drive the organisational culture change program within the local business, and observed that one of the greatest challenges in the process is getting managers to realise the importance of this change.

“The greatest difficulty is overcoming the ‘busyness of business’ – although day to day activities can give context to purpose, it’s important to prioritise strategic intent,” she said.

“What we do at Avnet is ensure we are deliberate about strategy and execution and dedicate time to focus on it regularly.”

However, White said HR leaders first need to work with organisational leaders to develop personally, so they are then able to drive broader organisational culture change more effectively.

“Think ‘for things to change, first I must change’,” she said.

“If organisational culture is an output of an individual’s leadership impact, it goes without saying there is a necessity for leaders to develop and model constructive styles.”

HR plays a crucial role in this transformation by holding up the mirror where self-awareness may be lacking, providing expertise in leadership competencies, sourcing and providing development on emotional intelligence and constructive leadership, and, providing feedback and ongoing coaching.

“By delivering a constructive culture, we bring about engaged employees who then deliver better customer service”

The HR function at Avnet has been re-scoped and transformed to assist in this process, and White said the intention in this is to build people capability and become more strategic and agile – to respond to dynamic, rapidly changing environment with strong customer focus.

“We recognise employee experience is central to this and by delivering a constructive culture, we bring about engaged employees who then deliver better customer service,” she said.

“This, in turn, drives improved business performance.

“To do this, we have designed an HR strategy and culture roadmap, the key pillars of which centre around attracting, engaging, developing and retaining key talent.”

The strategic framework is delivering specific outcomes focussed on the development of a high-performance culture, she explained.

“Our HR leaders across the APAC region are certified in a suite of change management and HR diagnostics to support their professional development and ensure this roadmap can be implemented,” she said.

“Focusing on the big picture has enabled us to evolve to be more operationally efficient – we are focussed on disrupting our own models to work smarter (for example, through automation) to enable us to dedicate more quality time to high-potential areas within the organisation.

“Our priority is balancing the short-term business deliverables with long-term culture development such that we elevate and amplify the positive experiences our people have through this time of transition and dynamism.

“The ultimate benefit to the business is a productively engaged workforce who are motivated to build their career with Avnet.”

“Our priority is balancing the short-term business deliverables with long-term culture development”

For any company to be profitable, they must first create an engaged workforce who will provide an enhanced customer experience to their clients, advised White, who cited the important role that business leaders play in influencing the employee experience and defining the company’s culture.

She said business leaders can help understand the effect they have on their teams through:

  • Being sharp in focus
  • Setting aside avoidance, blame and judgment
  • Surrounding leaders with great contributors
  • Being curious, asking big questions, asking oneself and others
  • Being courageous to have a voice and be heard and believe that it matters
  • Learning to say “no”
  • Setting aside time to plan strategically as one’s day job will always get done somehow

Leadership is a choice that one makes, according to White, and she suggested that some of the success factors of a courageous leader include influencing and encouraging a constructive culture that is based upon (1) clarity in purpose and values, (2) real trust and collaboration amongst stakeholders, and (3) freedom to innovate.

“Culture will do what culture will do,” she said.

“It is up to us as business leaders to manage it, or culture will control us.”

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