Organisational culture has turned out to be one of the strategic priorities for Australian, as well as global, leaders when it comes to talent retention.
The global war for talent is intensifying with time, and leaders are struggling to retain and attract the right talent. While leaders strive to figure out a strategy, a global survey conducted by PwC reveals that culture is one of the major factors affecting the reputation of companies.
PwC recently revealed the results of its Global Culture Survey, which was conducted across 20 countries and polled 3,200 workers, including Australians. The report says culture is a high priority for 67% of global business leaders and 71% of Australian senior leaders. They believe it is an important topic on the agenda.
According to the report, respondents prioritise organisational culture as one of the key factors driving decisions around employment. The survey reflects how organisational culture has emerged as one of the strategic priorities for Australian, as well as global, leaders.
Over the past 18 months, the Australian workforce has undergone changes. As reliance on a remote workforce hit its peak during the 2020 lockdowns, the perspective of employees about their organisations also changed. As work-life balance was substituted by the work-life integration model, people started prioritising wellbeing, in terms of both drawing a line between work and life and enjoying flexibility, trust and empathy from the management.
Culture versus operations
The PwC survey shows that senior managers (74%) in Australia ranked culture above operational structure as a workplace strategy, while 78% of Australian respondents said their culture would need to evolve significantly in the next three to five years.
The intersection of culture with strategy, the business and operating models, and purpose is key to enhancing each, according to Dr Michelle Kam, a partner in strategy, who is part of the PwC network.
“In the pandemic context, what we observed is that stronger cultures were more adaptable, and distinctive cultures enabled more effective ways of working, making it easier to maintain performance despite the external shock,” said Dr Kam.
This statement is supported by data on the rise in importance of culture as a core agenda, from 53% in 2013, to 61% in 2018, to 67% in 2021, globally. About 66% of C-level respondents believe the era calls for prioritising culture more than operations as a talent management and retention strategy.
While the need to prioritise culture rises to the top of their agenda, globally about 81% of respondents who believe their employers were able to adapt to changes in the past twelve months believe culture to be a “source of competitive advantage.”
The proportion of respondents with this perception was high irrespective of geography, with the majority (94%) coming from China followed by India (92%). The two other major regions included the US (80%) and the UK (72%).
Among Australian respondents, 78% shared this perception, with 76% hoping for better employee satisfaction as a result of a distinct organisational culture.
Culture of flexibility
The survey reflects that it is high time for leaders to understand the significance of culture in employee management. With more flexibility comes more accountability, but in order to translate this into productivity, employees need their own space to self-evaluate.
During the initial days of remote working, trust issues were observed between managers and employees. Though such issues have been resolved over time, employees have started placing more emphasis on their level of comfort in their work environment.
In another survey conducted by FlexJobs, about 47% of respondents said they prefer remote work in order to spend more time with family. Such expectations are driven higher by the culture. This ensures not only flexibility but also trust, empathy and autonomy.
Studies suggest that leaders should start evaluating the outcome of work, instead of evaluating how and from where work takes place. This is more so because the remote work model has translated from being a mandate due to the pandemic to being based on the employee’s choice.
“With organisations adjusting to hybrid working models, some for the first time, the key question is what approach senior leaders take to maintain a coherent organisational culture. The most common error is to confuse 'connection' and 'culture', and thinking that working virtually will 'kill culture' when in fact it just undermines connections,” Dr Kam added.
When it comes to culture affecting senior managers, the majority (84%) of Australian respondents said they can be their authentic selves at work. The figure is much higher compared with 59% of middle managers who feel the same way.
After all, culture, as writer Walter Lippman once put it, is the “name for what people are interested in, their thoughts, their models, the books they read and the speeches they hear.” This translates into the professional experience through the expectations of employees about their mental, physical and social wellness -- and evolving social contracts.