How can HR influence company culture?

Corporate culture Diversity Equity and Inclusion Article
It’s been said that, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Put simply, culture is the ecosystem of your organisation - a dynamic one eliminates the need for over complicated corporate processes. When the culture is strong, the people within it can be trusted to work together in a way that’s proactive and purpose led. When it comes to shaping and influencing this kind of positive culture, HR professionals are often hailed as the gatekeepers. If you’re a business leader or manager who wants to instil an impactful culture, HR professionals are the individuals whom you can trust to foster a positive work environment and a motivated workforce. If you’re asking yourself, “what can HR do to influence the company culture?”, read on. This blog will explore the concept of company culture and the direct impact of a HR team in shaping the employee experience and wider business outcomes. Related: The 3 HR roles that companies will want and need in 2023
It can’t be understated that company culture is truly the bedrock for business success. More than just a mere buzzword, it’s the heart and soul of an organisation. This palpable force shapes organisational identity and encompasses its defining elements such as workplace values, attitudes, standards, processes, beliefs, and behaviours. Consider it the DNA of a workplace – the written and unwritten rules that guide employees about how to interact, make decisions, and pursue the company's goals. It’s company culture that tells your employees what to do when the CEO isn't in the room. Many business leaders often wonder, “what can HR do to influence the company culture?” While it’s a valid question, it’s important to recognise that business leaders also have a pivotal role in driving a thriving culture and a strong sense of community. According to the Harvard Business Review, people who had a strong sense of community at work were 58% more likely to thrive at work, 55% more engaged, and 66% more likely to stay with their organisation. They also experienced significantly less stress and were far more likely to thrive outside of work. Mastering the art of community and company culture is therefore critical in mitigating the reduced rates of job satisfaction and the higher rates of job exits that were reported by “lonely” employees. Likened to a personality, company culture is unique, differing between organisations. It is influenced by everything from an organisation’s mission and values, to its leadership and market position. Those prone to pitfalls are those that erode employee trust when they fail to connect their vision and values with day-to-day workplace realities. While company culture cannot always be directly controlled, it can be nurtured in a way that aligns ideals and goals with behaviours, while empowering employees to flourish.
It’s been said that, “in order to build a rewarding employee experience, you need to understand what matters most to your people.” HR is absolutely essential in this pursuit. In leveraging a company’s greatest asset (aka it’s people), HR professionals must take on three distinct roles to yield the desired results: The Champion – articulating a plan of action and generating awareness about the initiatives that can shape corporate culture and community. The Coach – implementing solutions to inspire behaviours that will support a company’s goals and visions. The Consultant – distilling data and metrics to advise leadership teams about cultural change outcomes. Beyond administrative tasks, HR professionals wield significant influence in cultivating an environment where employees can thrive. Vera Ryan, Senior HR Business Partner at Robert Half, says HR professionals are the architects of company culture. “When businesses fail to recognise the influence that HR can have, they deny themselves the ability to evolve their company culture,” she says. “HR workloads are extensive but, true HR professionals will always be able to retain top talent, make them feel valued and motivated, and drive them to be ambassadors of your company culture.” So, what can HR do to influence the company culture? Set the tone – act as the cultural ambassadors who embody the ideal company values and behaviours. Recruiting and onboarding – ensure a good cultural fit from day one! HR seeks to secure candidates who align with the company culture and acclimate them effectively. Training and development – design and deliver training programs that emphasise desired behaviours, cultural norms and meaningful learning opportunities. Conflict resolution and mediation – bolster a culture of open communication and a positive exploration of issues to makes employees feel heard, valued and respected. Employee engagement – from wellness programs to team building initiatives, HR oversees the activities that will engage employees and drive a positive culture. Performance management – align individual and team goals with the company’s cultural values through formal performance reviews, constructive feedback, and two-way dialogue. Communication channels – keep employees informed about company news, values and goals. This open communication reinforces a culture built on trust, transparency and respect. Diversity and inclusion – develop policies and practices that contribute to a richer and more progressive culture. Incorporating diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria into HR strategies can help to attract and retain top talent who value genuine dedication to diversity and inclusion. Recognition and rewards – implement recognition and rewards programs that acknowledge positive employee contributions. This reinforces desired cultural behaviours, inspiring others to follow suit. Cultural assessment and feedback – gather employee feedback to identify improvement areas. A commitment to continuous improvement, these vital insights inform strategies to evolve and enhance company culture. By aligning these practices, policies, and initiatives with the organisation's mission, vision, and strategic goals, HR can maximise the benefits that come with a rich company culture. Related: How (and when) to hire a Human Resources Specialist
As we have explored, it’s important to recognise what HR can do to influence the company culture. As the driving force of company culture, HR professionals must work with business leaders to turn cultural aspirations into tangible actions. Understanding the wider business strategy is an important first step. Vera says, “regular collaboration with business leaders is critical.” She says “an understanding of business goals, missions, visions and strategies, is the only way HR professionals can connect the dots and set the tone for corporate culture.” With an unwavering commitment to employee wellbeing, continuous improvement and open communication, HR professionals can lead businesses on a path to a more harmonious and prosperous workplace. With so much on the line for businesses, it’s not so much a question of “what can HR do to influence the company culture?”, it’s a question of “what can company culture do to influence business outcomes?” Below are some of the big business benefits that can result from a positive company culture: Greater productivity, employee engagement and employee satisfactionIncreased revenue and profitsA more favourable employer brandWider interest from top talentBoosted moraleGreater creativity, adaptability and innovationReduced turnover and reduced recruitment and training costsImproved customer experience and satisfaction At Robert Half, we know all too well that people don’t want to work for a company these days, they want to work for a culture. If you’re a business leader wondering, “what can HR do to influence the company culture?”, know that their guidance is essential. In close collaboration with leaders like yourself, HR professionals have the important responsibility of crafting and advocating for a culture that’s carefully built for the people within it. A champion, coach and consultant in one, HR professionals are at the epicentre of company culture. They ensure that your workplace upholds cultural pillars while translating employee feedback into actionable outcomes that create an inviting and inclusive environment for all.
If you’re looking for your next ideal HR candidate in Australia, our experienced team of talent specialists can help. If you’re seeking advice on any workplace issues within your business, our experienced team of management specialists can help. Find out how much you should be paying your staff in Robert Half’s Salary Guide.