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The three pillars of corporate culture

    Building a strong corporate culture in a world with hybrid or remote working has become an increasing challenge for managers in organisations across the globe.

    Over the past few years, there has been an increasing emphasis on “Employee Experience” strategies. For many, this has simply meant improving compensation levels, benefits and other perks as a way to slow the “great resignation” and to improve recruitment performance. What is needed, however, is more significant changes to the workplace culture.

    This change has three dimensions according to Edgar Schien, formerly an MIT management professor who developed a model for organisational structure that he originated back in the 80’s. In fact, his book, Organizational Culture and Leadership, is still a considered an excellent source on the topic.

    Schein said that a company’s culture is reflected in shared assumptions, beliefs, values and norms that influence how employees understand problems and appropriately react to them.

    It includes the three dimensions of collaboration, learning and competitiveness that plays a pivotal role in improving innovation and amplifying effectiveness of an organisation.

    Collaboration develops a shared understanding about the current issues and problems within the business and among employees and it helps to generate new ideas (innovation). Managers should actively encourage collaboration with both technical social tools (e.g. Slack) and in-person events (dare I say, meetings). It should be an explicit strategy by senior leaders where progress should be monitored and reviewed periodically by the executive.

    Learning requires more than access to an online training portal. A true learning culture is built on the shoulders of collaboration. Employees should be encouraged to become curious and have access to multiple forms of training opportunities:

    1. Formal training (if appropriate)
    2. Informal “on the job” training from managers, peers, job rotation and onboarding.
    3. Guest speakers on specific topics that are out of the scope of colleagues.
    4. Social groups and task forces where employees can discuss issues and get stronger together.
    5. Self development from online training (as needed).

    Combining a culture of collaboration with a solid learning culture leads to the third pillar – competitiveness. A strong organisation gains competitive advantage in the market for both customers and employees (retention and recruitment). But competitiveness should be discussed openly – like the other pillars it needs to be monitored and actively managed. Your employees are stakeholders in establishing the organisation’s competitiveness and so they should be part of the process.

    Improving your company around these three pillars – collaboration, learning and competitiveness – will feed back into Schein’s views on shared assumptions, beliefs, values and norms. They make the company culture stronger which will make the company stronger.