When working as a People Consultant, often one of the first things that I’d need to do is understand the ‘pulse’ or the unspoken way of doing things within that company. This is most often referred to as the company’s culture. It’s those aspects which are left unsaid and just taken for granted by the company. These often make a difference in how things are incorporated and how any initiatives are best absorbed by the company.
The best method of gauging a company’s culture is to have a culture assessment, usually an employee survey and some one-to-one interviews… but this is time-consuming. This is particularly the case when you need to constantly monitor and assess where the company is. Those I call cultural bellwethers tell you where there might be concerns: they give early warning signs and can be a good starting point when you want to test out new ideas and initiatives. Of course, this works best in smaller organisations or in teams/ departments — not massive FTSE firms(!)
Many management textbooks often point to the CEO, founder or the most senior people as the bellwether of culture. However, my experience has taught me to look just to the side or below a level or two from the CEO/ Founder. Instead, I look at the most called upon people, the most connected and those with usually good enough emotional intelligence to pick-up on the emotions of others. These people are a vital part of any HR person’s work. So, who do you think is the cultural bellwether in your company?