This is part two of a three-part series exploring the future of work and what true diversity can mean for you, the organisations you work in and society at large. Click here to read part one.
Imagine this… you are walking around downtown Kolkata (previously Calcutta) in India. It looks like this.
It is 99% humidity. It is 38°C (or roughly 100°F) and you feel the sweat dripping down your face. There are people everywhere, pushing and crowding.
Now imagine this… you are walking around the forests of Fontainebleau in France. It looks like this.
The air is crisp and cool. There is calm in the air. You feel a briskness in your limbs, and you breathe in the sweet smell of forest green.
When Professor Sumantra Ghoshal described these scenes in a speech at the World Economic Forum, he was careful not to disparage either of them and rightly so. There is nothing wrong with Kolkata. It is a vibrant city full of amazing things to see and do, and equally, there is nothing especially magical about the forests of Fontainebleau.
Professor Ghoshal draws an analogy between organisational culture and the ‘smell’. He admits that measuring organisational culture is inherently difficult, but if you imagine, you can almost ‘smell’ it. The key is to make sure the people that work within your organisation (the ones you need to perform well and feel engaged) are attuned, inspired and energised by that “smell” – the distinct culture, values and experience your company offers.
Four requirements for supporting diversity in your own culture
Last week, we talked about what a diverse person could look like. We all agree that we want more diversity in our companies, it is a quantifiably Good thing (with a capital G). But are we prepared to support that diversity? Are we creating the right environment, the right “smell” to allow it to thrive?
He emphasises that in order to build an organisational culture that smells like success, you need to improve in four key areas.
An organisational culture of stretch, and not constraint
An organisational culture of stretch means that all your staff want to do is more. If you asked the question, “Can you think of an instance recently when you saw an opportunity to do something that would be of significant value to your company. Did you take it?” Would the majority of your staff admit to not taking the opportunities because of structural barriers? If we are increasing the diversity in our companies and encouraging many different thought processes into the mix, are you holding some of them back with an organisational culture of constraint?
Encourage discipline, not compliance
An organisational culture of discipline is about embedding self-discipline instead of ensuring compliance. It can manifest in a myriad of ways from simple things like always being on time to meetings through to more complex structures, like being accountable for your project goals without the need for micro-management. Creating a culture of self-discipline fosters the growth and allows diversity to thrive. Instigating an organisational culture of compliance displays lack of trust and alienates diverse thought.
Curate a culture of support, instead of control
The whole role of senior management changes when you are not consistently being seen as the overlords of control but as those who exist with one purpose only, to support your staff to win. You can do this by providing access to resources or coaching and by guidance and not control.
Lean into trust, rather than contracts
Most large companies (and come to think of it, most societies) have become overwhelmingly contractual. The idea that there’s no trust without a legal contract binding you to your word. Of course, we’re not advocating you dissolve all your contracts. But to really encourage your staff to fly in their diverse ways, we need to nudge the pendulum a little closer to the middle – increasing the level of trust we have in each other and in our workforce.
So, do you have a good handle on your culture’s unique “smell”? Whether you’re a forest in France or a busy street in India, a diverse, inclusive environment is better for your organisation – the question is, are your ready to support it?
Weirdly creates customisable screening quizzes that test every applicant for values alignment, instantly. Integrate it with your ATS and collect valuable diversity and candidate experience metrics. Talk to one of our team today to see how Weirdly could work in your own organisation.