Like a delicate ecosystem in the natural world, an organisation’s culture, and the corresponding levels of employee engagement need to be cherished and protected. This is an area where the Rambutan bunch definitely ‘take their own medicine’ according to David, one of our founders.
Our experience at Rambutan tells us that you can’t work on employee engagement without affecting culture and vice versa. They are part of the same system and need to be treated as such… a system that is as subtle and finally balanced as a biological ecosystem which can take years to recover from damage, if it recovers at all.
At its core, culture is a psychological, unwritten contract of trust between people within an organisation; a kind of charter that covers the rights, principles, functions and privileges of a team that is agreed by, and demanded from, all team members. Put more succinctly, it’s a summary of people’s answers to the question: “So what’s it like to work around here?”
Be warned though. Like mother nature sometimes, part of the beauty comes from the fragility. Short-term culture change programmes and engagement initiatives can do more harm than good as can ‘poor’ leadership behaviour and knee-jerk decisions because an organisation’s culture is something that should be well-defined and totally cherished in the long term. It should define ‘who’ we are and ‘how’ we are going to be, irrespective of what services we offer or products we sell now or in the future.
At Rambutan, we have a very clear and well-defined culture and I’m 100% convinced that if we went on to sell bicycles or bathmats instead of being consultants, it wouldn’t affect what it’s like to work around here. Like all companies, Rambutan’s culture and corresponding levels of employee engagement face constant threats. Any time a leader is seen (or is perceived to be) behaving in a way that is contradictory to our culture, or any time a decision is made that is seen to undermine the culture, the system starts to die. As a leader at Rambutan, the team often used to ask me what I thought about projects, initiatives or decisions, for example. Without trying to catch them out, I asked the question back: “What do you think I think?” or “How does that fit our values?”. Over time, we have come to realise that, most times, we don’t really need to ask each other what we think because the Rambutan culture and values give us all very strong ‘True North’ that we believe in and are engaged around. I am not saying we’re perfect… we all have our ‘off’ days, but we all cherish what makes Rambutan special and do everything we can to help it survive.
How protected is your culture? How do actions and decisions by leaders affect it?
Is #LearningatWorkWeek and its 2019 theme of #shapingthefuture an ideal time to review your culture and how engaged your employees are?