The link between culture, communications & productivity

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corperate-cultureThe correlation between organisational culture, communications and productivity has never been stronger than it is in today’s contemporary business environment. Organisational culture plays an important role in the growth and development of an organisation and can substantially impact performance. Communications is now integral to culture and productivity. It’s impossible to have one without the other(s).

How culture affects productivity

Organisational culture and productivity are closely related. In simple terms, productivity is the art of getting a company’s products and/or services to the customer at the lowest possible cost. However, productivity is often a bi-product of employee motivation and motivation thrives in a good climate. A strong corporate culture will ensure a long-lasting culture for success and a better chance of all employees working together for a common goal.

What is the key to creating a great corporate culture?

There is little doubt that communications is now critical to business functionality. Although external communication channels are important for any organisation looking to sell or promote a product, service, brand or idea to the wider public, it is efficient internal communication channels that create a great corporate culture within an organisation.

Effective collaboration tools and technology are the enablers of culture and productivity and IT plays a major role. According to Erastus N. Ndingur from Louisiana State University (Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict, 2013), “timely access to relevant information allows employees to be effective and efficient self managers as they would have to depend less on management to perform their duties, which also saves time.”

Dutch TNC Philips have been particularly proactive in attempting to foster greater happiness amongst their employees, and have gone as far as to adopt a so-called “happiness” project. Dana Stocks, head of HR for Philips North America, says that the company (ranked #25 on the CareerBliss survey) took this concept and used technological tools to enable it.

“Philips has come to understand that recognition for a job well done is often more meaningful when coming in the form of peer-to-peer acknowledgment than expected manager-to-peer rewards” Stocks said. As a result, Philips has put in place programs and ‘culture drivers’ that help individuals of that E-company to create a legacy that is “meaningful and energising, beyond cash bonuses or award vouchers,” he explains.

Philips also uses peer-to-peer recognition programs and social technologies to engage with employees. The app called Connect Us (available as a desktop app and for mobile devices) is commonplace at Philips and is used to unite its global workforce by sharing knowledge insights, collaborating and publicly showing appreciation with ‘thanks badges.

“Any employee can show personal recognition of colleagues’ achievements,” says Stocks. Virtual high fives are limited to five per week, and the boss gets looped in, too. “Managers of employees who receive a Thanks badge will be informed by email,” he adds.

Information technology (IT) is one way to disseminate information resourcefully, allowing employees quick access to needed information as a way of managing one’s own processes, limiting the need for supervision while giving employees more control over their tasks, which, in turn, increases the degree to which their jobs are motivating and satisfying, and their efforts are productive. Thus, timely access to information should influence productivity.

IP Telephony, for example, provides employers and employees a smarter and more cost effective communication channels for businesses of all sizes, across all industries and structures. IP Telephony is an evolutionary network-based solution which offers many features and benefits as compared to a traditional telephony solution, including enhanced call centre functions, data encryption, remote access and much more

Other communication tools available include, video conferencing, business internet or intranet, company webpages/platforms or productivity software, such as Office 365.

Employee engagement

Organisational culture does not only have an affect on productivity but also performance, commitment and engagement. Employee engagement has become a top business priority, and in this rapid cycle economy, business leaders know that having a high-performing workforce is essential for growth and survival. They recognise that a highly engaged workforce can increase innovation, productivity and bottom-line performance while reducing costs related to hiring and retention in highly competitive talent markets.

Engagement-screen

Courtesy Harvard Business Review (2013)

Recognising the importance of that corporate culture has on employee engagement and overall business productivity is one thing, but how does one go about implementing this? According to Forbes Business, corporate culture is essential to “boosting employee engagement, retention, performance, morale and satisfaction.” Proper internal communications measures are critical to success. But, how this cultural and communication connection is made will depend on two important factors:

■ A company must have a clear strategy in place to allow culture and employee engagement to foster;

■ A company must adopt the very latest IT/IP technologies and tools, which will allow for efficient internal communication channels between employers and employees

The keys to improving culture and productivity

Research done by Harvard University suggested that while most leaders understand the importance of engagement, three-quarters of those surveyed said that most employees in their organizations are not highly engaged.

For employees to succeed, they need commitment to the role and the organisation. According to Adam Robinson, Director of Marketing at Cerasis, this can only come about from “effective communication” from the top-down.

One of the keys to engagement is defining and articulating what constitutes a “successful” employee and communicating success clearly.

According to a recent business report (Harvard Business Review: The Impact of Employee Engagement on Performance, 2013), “every employee should know what they’re supposed to do and how it impacts your company’s performance.”  Companies can focus on annual client / employee surveys to determine any problems/challenges within the company.

It includes specific, targeted areas, including:

■ In the last seven days, someone has recognised me for my work;

■ I have the tools that I need to perform my job;

■ My supervisor cares about me;

■ There’s someone at work who encourages my development;

■ I know what’s expected of me at work; and

■ My associates are committed to doing quality work.

These are very basic questions, however, if a company is not doing well on these questions, it is revealing.

Courtesy Harvard Business Review (2013)

Courtesy Harvard Business Review (2013)

Best practices in tying engagement to productivity

The survey showed that while more and more companies are instituting employee engagement programs to improve and cultivate higher engagement, most are in the nascent stages of measuring their efforts against tangible business performance numbers. The two metrics most utilised to measure the outcome of employee engagement initiatives are employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction. Best-practice companies are increasingly measuring and monitoring how engagement affects the customer experience using measuring techniques.

Software Development company, Atlassian, recently created a “happiness app” that staff can use to describe how they feel that day to monitor mood. It makes sense that a software company would develop an app, however there’s lots of other technology readily available to businesses who want to enhance their culture and communications.

Top tools to improve productivity and Communications

■ Collaboration and Communications software

The most common tools that integrate easily with Microsoft and or Google include:

Microsoft Lync

Staff can connect anywhere and anytime, using Microsoft Lync. With the ability to perform Instant Messaging, Video Conferencing and Lync Meetings, Lync makes internal and external communication easier and more efficient.

Skype

Skype was the original platform to allow free or relatively cheap international and domestic phone calls, using 3G rather than traditional telephone wires and poles. With it’s partnership with giants Microsoft, Skype continues to play a pivotal role in global communications and has helped to spawn several competitors, such as Viber and Whatsapp. Communication (either digitally or audibly) has never been easier and cheaper than it is today.

Microsoft is in the process of further opening Skype to the business world, recently trialing ‘Skype for Business.’ The new version of the popular chat software – which will be similar in design and performance to Lync – aims to let you connect with co-workers and contacts outside your company.

Google+ Hangouts

A fairly new tool to enter the communications market of the new digital age is Google+ Hangouts. As the name suggests, this technology is developed and owned by Google and aims to bring video or voice conversations to life by allowing users to share photos, emoji’s and even group video calls for free.

■ Virtual Desktops

With more companies than ever operating remotely via the internet, it’s only logical for the IT, marketing, HR and other departments to also exist remotely. Freeing up IT professionals, for example, to work remotely will provide a sounder support structure for your business, while increasing your employees’ quality of life.

A recent survey by IT Manager Daily found that a third of IT employees would give up 10 percent of their salary in exchange for the option to work full-time from home. Currently less than 1 percent of IT workers are given this option, but tools such as GoToAssist, which allows IT workers to use their iPad to connect remotely to a network and provide real-time diagnostics and support, make it easier than ever before. Coupling GoToAssist with other remote working tools means you can have a fully functioning IT desk without the need for an actual desk. Imagine a world without the frustration of only being able to get help with a technology problem when the relevant support worker is at their desk. The new generation of workshifting tools offer that world today.

■ Instant Messaging

Instant Messaging was once a communication tool used mainly in the personal space. Think Microsoft Messenger and even ICQ. The concept is now not only commonplace in the business field, but is slowly making E-mail redundant (at least in terms of communicating internally between colleagues). There are companies, in fact, that are banning the use of E-mail for communicating internally, giving way to IM or other internal social media tools such as Yammer.

The casual nature of IM allows for instant responses to queries and even rapid fire banter, which often leads to quicker outcomes and stronger relationships between employees.The ability to turn it on and off when necessary also prevents confusion as to if somebody is away or busy. An E-mail can often go unread without the acknowledgement of the sender.

 

Centrix can assist your company bridge the gap between culture, communications and productivity, via IT solutions and technological products .