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The Guide For New HR Managers, Part 3: Culture

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast”, said the late business management guru Peter Duncker. That was a long time ago, but it was again in 2015 that HR guru Josh Bersin declared that it’s the hottest topic in business again.


And that’s no wonder, because studies show that there is a direct correlation between a healthy, productive culture and a company’s bottom line. The success of any organisation comes down to one thing: how well it organises its members to focus on and work towards the same purpose. So, as a new HR manager, culture is most likely on your agenda as well. You want to ensure that every employee is engaged, motivated, committed to the same goals, willing to go the extra mile to help a colleague or a customer, flexible… And the list goes on.

“Before you do anything, it’s important that you listen in, get the feel of, and get the pulse of the organisation,” advises Camilla Hydén Karlsson, VP People & Culture at CatalystOne. She defines culture as “the way we do things around here”. It could be that the culture is already strong, that the employees identify themselves with the same values and share the same goals, but you should not act based on assumptions. “First, find out if there have been previous employee surveys and what the results were. Interview a representative group of people; cross-function, cross-country, top management, first line management and employees. Find out what they say about “the way we do things around here”. Then, use employee or pulse surveys to find out where your culture(s) stands today: areas of strength and areas that require development.”

When you have identified areas that require work, remember that culture is something every employee must buy into. Therefore it’s crucial that you engage the organisation in culture development processes. When you give the employees an active role and allow them to take ownership of the culture, people will actually live the culture. This way it will be something that shows in everyday work, instead of culture strategy documents in a folder nobody ever opens.

Engage the organisation for success

Culture development requires thinking and planning in a long perspective and should happen in stages. Engage the organisation by requesting ideas, encourage them to send feedback, run workshops with hands-on involvement and ensure that as many as possible are involved in the process. And even if you identify areas that need work, remember to focus also on those things that are positive. Do you for example have a tradition of celebrating employees’ birthdays? Or honoring work anniversaries? Keep up those traditions, and remember to set an example in the areas that you want to develop.

One important aspect of your culture is that the more scattered your employees are across different locations, the more you probably have to work with culture and employee involvement. For a company to reach its goals, you’ll need everyone aboard.

This is the 3rd part in our blog series that guides new HR managers in various aspects of their role. In case you missed the previous blogs, you’ll find them here:

  • “The must haves” explains how to prioritise the administrative tasks that wait anyone establishing an HR function in an organisation.
  • “The annual HR cycle” sheds light on how you should begin building an annual plan, and how to prioritise which processes to have in place first.

Do you want to learn what the CatalystOne team has to say about our culture? Watch the below video to find out!


Micaela Tärnhamn

Micaela Tärnhamn, 16 December 2017

Micaela Tärnhamn har en stor nyfikenhet och intresse av frågor relaterade till modernt ledarskap och är genom sin roll som marknadschef i CatalystOne Sverige väl insatt i frågor kring Talent & Performance management, strategisk HR och HR system.

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