Bringing the culturecode to life

Piers Bishop · May 13, 2015

There’s a shift happening that’s leaving some companies behind (expect a lot of action around the hashtag culturecode in the months to come). While most organisations are still trying to control their staff with targets, measures and sanctions, young and hugely successful companies like Hubspot are saying publicly that “people want direction on where they are going, not micro-direction on how to get there.” And that’s just the beginning – innovative and hugely successful companies are throwing out the old rule book – no fixed vacation allowance, no fixed hours, no fixed office …

This is so radical it sounds dangerous to some, and there is a lot of change happening very quickly.  Fortunately Jon Windust has done us a favour on Linkedin with a Megaphone post summarising what Netflix, Zappos, Hubspot and Google have to say about how company culture needs to change.

Two things are happening at once here.  For one the world is changing, getting faster and smarter. New-model companies like Google know that surviving means responding fast, which means giving the right people the right tools and the right freedoms. According to Google the key people in the new world are the ‘Smart Creatives’, who combine technical knowledge, business acumen and creativity.  Give them the tools and lots of freedom and they can do amazing things amazingly fast.  Netflix agrees that freedom is vital – as companies grow they become more complex, then they bring in processes to manage the complexity, because it’s ‘time to grow up’ as the managers say.  At this point the high-performance individuals – Smart Creatives in Google’s terms – want out because they don’t get what they need from the new restrictive environment.  The result is deadly – the company’s supertanker processes can’t turn with the market.

While the world is changing, the workforce is changing even faster.  Gen X and Y just expect different things from work, and companies that can understand and react to this will tend to get more from their people.  Hubspot again: “If you want to hire and retain great young employees, you have to work the way they live…”  This is proving a bit of a nightmare for many managers.  Zappos modern core values and insistence on delivering happiness to employees as well as customers seems not to have done them any harm, but as you will read in their culture code on Slideshare they still get comments like “That’s fine for Zappos, but it would never work at my company”.

So, there’s a new culture out there, and it’s counterintuitive in places. Can giving people more autonomy really make them more likely to deliver what you want? Yes, if you get the comms right. Can it make them more likely to stay with the company? Yes again, and Yes to a whole lot more useful outcomes – download the free Missing Manual for Working With Humans to see why.

For the manager the key to making the shift is going to be understanding what is working for the team and what is not – and much of this is not obvious. So here’s a new idea – a tool that will make the unseen problems clear as day.  It will show you where the values of the organisation aren’t working for the individual, where the communications aren’t getting through and where resources are missing.  It will point up the areas where your managers can get in there and hold coaching conversations – and not just at annual review time.

WeThrive is not just about the Annual Review, by the way, because that is another tradition which is in the process of being shown the door.  Any parent can see why – there’s no point beating your child once a year for all the things that have gone wrong over the last twelve months. Feedback has to happen within a very short time to have real chance of generating new learning. The emerging culturecode from Google, Zappos, Hubspot and the like is showing us how the annual review will be replaced: by continuous feedback and coaching relationships where staff are able to be open about their aspirations, needs and fears, and where the system can respond quickly to rectify deficits and help people to reach their potential – or, in some cases, to decide they are in the wrong place.

This is a very exciting time for learning and development, workplace relations and the development of company culture.  We’ll make it easy for you to make the transition from command-and-control to a needs-based management culture – you can find out how easy by taking a free trial.  You can’t fix what you don’t know, as we say, but we’ll unlock a whole new layer of insight about your team, and show you the issues you can fix right now.