How HR Impacts Company Culture?

The most successful people-centered companies are great at cultivating outstanding company culture. However, if you want to create a positive, thriving culture, you’re going to need the help of dedicated HR professionals.

August 25, 2022 By Ivo Jurcic Share on Twitter! Share on Facebook! Share on LinkedIn!
how hr impacts company culture

While every employee is an agent of company culture, one can’t underestimate the impact HR departments have on the culture that’s lived in the workspace.

In this article, we’re going to discuss in which ways a dedicated HR department influences corporate culture, how they use HR tech tools, and of course, the delicate role of HR in the cultural ecosystem between employees and employers. 

HR is the Barometer for Company Culture

Every organization, no matter how small or large it is, has a culture that determines the experience of every employee. Company culture is a living thing; it’s practiced every day at the workspace whenever employees interact with each other. 

However, understanding the state of company culture, and more importantly, how to make it better, is a complex task.

In comes the story of modern HR. 

The old way of looking at HR departments, as administration-focused departments, has been retired for years. 

The challenges brought by the global pandemic were the ultimate confirmation that organizations have to put employee wellbeing at the center of their culture.

Because of stress and deteriorating mental health, companies are seeing record-breaking voluntary resignations. In the summer of 2020 alone, more than 4 million US workers quit their jobs. The numbers alone make managers’ jaws drop. 

This trend will continue unless organizations change their culture and turn their workspaces into positive, thriving environments. 

senior HR leaders focus on mental health

According to a 2021 HR sentiment survey from Future Workplace, 68% of senior HR leaders rated employee wellbeing and mental health as a top priority for the organization. Out of that 68%, 40% were chief human resource officers. 

Today, the first duty of HR is to be the herald of company culture. In other words, it is up to HR professionals to monitor the state of the company culture and discover means to improve it.

Let’s unpack this statement together.

Understanding the state of company culture begins with soliciting employee-centered data. This can be employee experience data, engagement and productivity data, or any subsequent piece of data that describes employees’ attitudes toward their activities and experiences at the workspace. 

Making sense of these massive volumes of data would be impossible without the right set of HR tools. For instance, HR departments frequently use pulse surveys to collect employee feedback and do quick check-ins with employees after they finish a project. 

Besides pulse surveys, organizations also use:

  • Employee satisfaction surveys
  • Culture surveys
  • 360° feedback surveys
  • Engagement surveys
  • Annual surveys
  • Exit surveys

After the company’s HR leaders have attained a data-backed view of the company culture, they can identify what the employee experience is missing and make the initiative to harbor cultural change. 

The impact of HR on company culture and the capacity to change is undeniable. Let’s talk more about the role of HR in change management. 

HR is the Leader of Change Management

Change management is the critical process of integrating new solutions and practices into the workspace, to bring necessary changes that will help the organization meet its cultural goals. 

The hard truth is that change is not always easy to accept, even though the end goal is a better employee experience. 

digital transformation challenges

A 2020 report from Third Man Consulting analyzed data from 1000 digital transformations in the past 20 years and revealed that the most frequently cited challenge was “organizational change and the people part of the transformation” Embracing change demands dedication, effort, and focus from all the stakeholders. 

Often, this means tackling a large learning curve and all the frustrations that might come from miscommunication or adopting a brand new tool. Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach for successful change management. 

A company’s HR team is often the deciding factor. 

Besides being the initiator of cultural change, the HR department guides all the stakeholders through the process, so they can understand why the change is necessary, what are the expected outcomes and how to achieve them. In the context of adopting new practices for improving company culture, the stakeholders can be employees, the HR department, managers, the board of directors, etc. 

3 HR deliverables in change management

Thankfully, HR professionals are here to provide the necessary support with 3 key deliverables: design the adoption plan, establish communication management for the process, and provide learning support. 

Design of the Adoption Plan 

Whether it is adopting new culture tech, or encouraging new practices and behaviors among the workforce, HR must design a systematic adoption process. 

This is also called a phased approach because change is introduced to employees in multiple phases. On the other side of the spectrum is the Big Bang approach, where the new culture solution or practice is adopted quickly by completing all the steps of adoption simultaneously. However, if a company is trying to implement a complex solution, it is better to do so methodically. 

Here is what a phased approach looks like.

When first designing the adoption process, HR communicates the project plan with all the stakeholders. These can include third-party customer success officers, in case the organization is adopting a culture tool, such as a Reward and Recognition solution. 

The goal is to have as much information, feedback, and data to make informed decisions when designing the adoption roadmap. HR develops all the steps and establishes completion timelines. Ideally, there should be enough time for every stakeholder to be fully onboarded by the time the adoption period has concluded. 

In addition, it’s HR’s task to ensure weekly updates are shared throughout the process.

Communication Management 

The quality of communication during change management is a success factor for adopting new cultural practices or HR technology during change management. 

HR professionals must clearly communicate to stakeholders why the changes are proposed, and what goals they hope to achieve, and provide them with all the information they need to succeed.

Additionally, it is the responsibility of HR to encourage stakeholders to voice their opinions and communicate their requirements for successful adoption. Many employees are reluctant to share their concerns. Skilled HR departments use tools for anonymous feedback and do frequent check-ins to create an environment of healthy communication and lift any insecurities. 

Learning Support

Onboarding employees to use a new set of tools is challenging, especially if we’re talking about a large global workforce. Leadership can’t just tell the employees to install the app and expect widespread adoption. Instead, employees need continuous learning support as they’re adopting a new digital tool. 

It’s no secret that there is a disconnect between the attitudes of ground-level employees and c-suite management toward embracing new tech. 

disconnect between employees and leadership pwc

A paper from PwC reports that 92% of surveyed c-suite executives are satisfied with the technology experience in their organization, while only 68% of workers can say the same about their tech experience. 

So, what is the cause of the 24% difference?

PwC’s research suggests that the reason for this is that c-suite executives have support available whenever they have roadblocks or problems with using new technology. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the workforce doesn’t have that kind of support. 

However, PR professionals can remedy this disconnect by providing employees with learning support and workshops throughout the entire change management. In addition, HR professionals work hand-in-hand with the HR tech vendor’s customer success team to ensure every employee has a frustration-free onboarding. 

HR Introduces New Employee Wellbeing Initiatives

As mentioned before, employee wellbeing is one of the most pressing concerns in today’s business landscape. 

When employees’ personal wellbeing is low, they have to take more sick days, or even resign from their positions if work is infringing on their health. 

According to a study by the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC), almost half of all US worksites offer some kind of employee wellness or health promotion program. 30% of those surveyed employers offer wellbeing programs to encourage physical activity, fitness, or sedentary behavior. 

Experienced HR professionals understand very well that no concern for employee wellbeing is a symptom of a toxic company culture. 

That’s why a dedicated HR department will observe its workforce carefully, and propose employee wellbeing initiatives to improve their lifestyle. 

Here are some staple examples of employee wellbeing initiatives:

  • Weight loss programs
  • Gym memberships 
  • Mental healthcare apps
  • Smoking cessation programs
  • Education sessions

By promoting employee-wellbeing, a company makes a strong cultural statement: the health of employees matters and is worth investing in. If the current corporate culture doesn’t do enough to highlight this value, the HR department will spearhead the cultural change.

HR’s impact on company culture regarding wellbeing is unquestionable. 

Besides being tasked with proposing wellbeing initiatives and monitoring employee wellness, HR uses wellbeing tech solutions to administrate the programs for the entire workforce. This means that HR is de facto responsible for supporting staff health, and is the heart of the wellbeing culture in the company. 

“Well-designed employee wellness programs are significant drivers for fostering engagement, teamwork, and inspiration.” Daniel Healey, Senior Vice President & Head of People SAP Customer Success

HR is the Bridge Between Leadership and the Workforce

In complex corporate environments, it’s not uncommon that there is a slight disconnect between the company’s leadership and the rest of the employees. 

After all, staff members have a ground-level perspective, while executives and managers are focused more on the macro-level experience. If left unchecked, the rift between leadership and the workforce will grow and eventually erode the company culture. 

company leaders are uninspiring gallup

According to one survey from Gallup, as many as 82% of workers reported that their managers and leaders are uninspiring. There’s even a phrase in HR for disconnected workspaces, called Us vs Them culture.

Thankfully, HR departments are here to be the bridge between both sides and ensure that never happens, starting with internal communication. HR professionals are chief communicators; their role is to clearly communicate plans and initiatives from the top so that employees can understand what is the agenda. 

This way, the staff is less likely to be confused by leadership decisions. 

For instance, during the pandemic, company leaders had to quickly act and make radical decisions that impact everyone, like new policies or measures. HR played a critical role by communicating the changes in operations with ground-level employees. 

However, the meditative role of HR isn’t reserved only for emergencies. Rather, its mission is a continuous effort to keep all the employees and leaders aligned. 

From the bottom up, HR ensures that all employees can voice their opinions and be heard by the leadership. This isn’t merely a declarative statement. 

We’ve talked before about how HR departments use internal communication tools with employee listening features to understand the state of the workforce. The insights gained from employee listening are relayed back to leadership so that executives stay connected with the employees on the ground level and be more empathetic to their needs. 

Unfortunately, only 13% of US workers believe their company leadership listens to them, according to Gallup’s State of the American Workspace report. This fact alone highlights the need for a better connection between employers and employees. 

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Back to you

Enterprises, social scientists, and organizational psychologists have widely researched the topic of company culture. Today, it’s unquestionable that HR departments are more than administrative bodies of organizations; they are the heralds of company culture. 

HR is effectively the bridge between employees and employers, and constantly seeks new ways of making workspace culture better for everyone. With the ever-growing landscape of HR technologies, HR professionals can become even more instrumental in their mission of achieving high employee experience. 

The next step for corporate leaders is to give their HR the best technology to make outstanding culture a reality.