Culture Drives Policy Decisions and Implementation

When it comes to policy formulation, it seems like a straightforward decision-making process. However, the corporate culture influences the determination from the initial consideration through to the final steps of implementation. Today we’ll look at some of those underlying factors and how you can leverage them to make policy decisions stick.

Culture in a Nutshell

For simplicity’s sake, we’ll go with the definition of corporate culture as “the combined beliefs and norms that govern workplace behaviors and decisions.”

That underlying culture, therefore, influences the organization on a massive scale. Each individual employee carries a piece of the culture with them in what they do, but most importantly, how they do it. If the goal here is learning how to leverage the culture to help with policies, it’s key to be aware of the specific elements of your culture before you begin.

Applying the Policy Process

The policy process is fairly simple for purposes of this discussion. Here are the key pieces and what each step involves.

  • Needs Analysis—Determine the need for a new policy. If the need is warranted, consider how it will affect the employees and what it might look like.
  • Definition—Establish the key details of the policy, including who it covers, what it does, and how it will be enforced.
  • Development—Create the policy and garner support from key stakeholders prior to implementing.
  • Implementation—Share the policy and its details with the staff. Roll out any supporting education measures.

Traditionally these steps have been the only focus of someone developing a policy. However, organizations are realizing that it’s also important to consider the culture and how it plays into the considerations. For instance, these are a few of the questions that might be more heavily influenced by culture in the midst of the process:

  • Do we truly need this policy?
  • How will it affect our employees or our customers?
  • What is the driver of this decision?
  • Is implementing a new policy our only course of action?

That certainly isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a good way to start exploring the role of culture within the frame of this discussion.

Culture-Driven Change Management

When it comes time to develop a change management plan for a new policy, it needs to be tied into the same objectives and values that make individuals successful within the framework of the organizational culture.

Let’s say an organization has a social culture. The focus of the organization and its people is more toward the social aspects of employment than the performance aspects. Yes, performance matters, but the people are going to prefer a party to an overnight work marathon.

For instance, the employer can unveil the new policy and encourage staff to share opinions and other comments in an informal town hall meeting. That incorporates the staff’s demonstrated need for social interaction with the implementation process to get them interested, involved, and on-board as soon as possible.

There are countless versions of corporate culture, and the concept can be likened to an organization’s “individuality.” It’s what makes it different from other organizations, even within the same industry, size, or other demographic. The most important step is to determine the culture of the organization and how to leverage the elements of that culture when planning for impending changes.

What are your thoughts on culture as it pertains to policy decisions and/or change management? Do you have any specific terms you use to define your organization’s culture? If so, what are they?

Ben Eubanks, Associate HCM Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

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