How do employees' get work done in your workplace? What beliefs and assumptions do your managers, executives, and line employees have about the company and its people? These are classic questions that get to the heart of company culture. Culture is ethereal, but don't mistake it as a secondary influence on performance. An anemic culture is draining, demotivating, and dreadful. None of these descriptors are ingredients for a great place to work.

Businesses are going through major transitions and disruptions in the way they operate. Consequently, these changes are impacting and shaping company culture at an accelerated rate. Michael Gretczko, a principal at Deloitte, categorized the impacts into three areas: workforce, globalization, and digitization.

  • Workforce disruptions include changes in employment type and even how employers think about the workforce.
  • Globalization is changing how we think about where work gets done, diversity and inclusion, and employment laws and regulations.
  • Digitation changes are shaping how workers collaborate or get work done, for starters.

Though the rapidity of change is unstoppable, leaders can future proof the company culture. Categorically speaking, technology and human potential are two sources that can help.

Technology and Culture

At Deloitte, Gretczko and his colleagues have rolled out a technology solution that can better serve employees' diverse needs. It's called ConnectMe. Using artificial intelligence, ConnectMe personalizes the employee experience. Are you a new employee? From your profile and AI, you would get information relevant to you as a new employee that is specific to your role and based on your interests and needs.

Gretczko explains that the tech solution helps companies to create "moments that matter." What a new engineer needs to improve her employee experience will differ from a manager preparing to retire. What is fascinating about the design of Deloitte's solution is how it helps employees customize the content they get based on their season in life: new employee; recent promotion; an alumnus, and so on.

Technology provides opportunities to support employee success in a way that aligns with company values. For example, is it essential to your company that employees find meaning in their work? Look to tech companies like 15Five and Weekdone. Both software solutions show employees how their work contributes to the bigger, strategic picture. They do so by helping managers link strategy, objectives, and key results down to a team and individual level.

A steady growth in the number of HR tech companies is making it more accessible, and more affordable, for small, medium, and enterprise businesses to evolve its culture. Though technology can help leaders monitor the health of the company's culture, it is not a panacea. There is one other smart move that carries significant influence on culture--people.

Human Potential and Culture

Employees are not resources or assets, both of which have a limited shelf life. What's more, the perspective dehumanizes employees by looking at their current "value." To view employees as resources or assets is a leftover Industrial Era management belief. The oft unchallenged perspective reduces employees to cogs in the company's efforts to generate profits.

Instead of minimizing the contribution of employees to a "what have you done for me lately" arrangement, healthy workplaces pivot right. The pivot right focuses on unlocking each employee's potential. In place of a transactional employment arrangement, viewing employees' potential is a partnership. And the impacts on culture can be profound.

Human Synergistics, the maker of the Organizational Culture Inventory, defines a culture that sees human potential as constructive. The firm's CEO, Dr. Robert Cooke, defines a constructive culture as one where "members [of the organization] are encouraged to interact with people and approach tasks in ways that will help them meet their higher order satisfaction needs." In other words, leaders who create constructive cultures achieve the following:

  • Employees achieve established goals
  • Employees grow personally and professionally
  • The work environment is supportive and caring
  • Employees can develop meaningful relationships

Simply put: Cultures that focus on people can better withstand a tumultuous, demanding business environment. Strengthen your people, strengthen your culture.

Culture is complicated. It's a reflection of the beautiful mess called humanity. Yes, what shapes organizational culture goes beyond technology and people. However, technology and people are cornerstones to culture. If your business wants to create a healthy workplace, aligning technology with your values, mission, and vision can reinforce culture. Finally, you cannot go wrong transforming the way you partner with those who bring it all together--your employees.

Published on: Oct 29, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.