By J S Manoj Koundinya
Senior Vice President — Talent Management, Organization Development, Culture & Wellbeing at DBS India
and Matt Pittman
Principal Analyst, Brandon Hall Group™
As an employee, it’s easy to think of company culture as something that’s entirely out of your control. After all, it’s the leaders and managers who set the tone, right? While it’s true that leadership plays a significant role in shaping organizational culture, it’s not entirely up to them.
Recent empirical analysis suggests that substantive, enduring cultural evolution often germinates from grassroots micro-behaviors. Herein lies the potency of individual agency. The confluence of individual agency and organizational ethos is a crucible where the very spirit of a company is forged.
Organizational culture refers to the shared values, beliefs, attitudes and practices that shape how work gets done within a company. Every employee, from the most junior team member to the most senior executive, has a role to play in building and nurturing a healthy organizational culture.
Recent Brandon Hall Group™ research confirms this. In the 2023 study, Culture Eats Strategy: Is Your Employee Experience What You Intended?, 82% of respondents indicated that a collaborative and supportive culture was “Important” or “Very Important” to the employee experience. Interestingly, 48% of respondents indicated that there is room for improvement in understanding what employees want from their employment experience.
That is why these five salient habits that any employee, irrespective of position or tenure, can cultivate to amplify and scale their company’s cultural tapestry are so important.
- Radical Candor: The Dual Prong of Care and Directness
Coined by Kim Scott, the concept of “Radical Candor” is what happens when you show someone that you care personally while you challenge directly, without being aggressive or insincere.
When employees imbue their interactions with a blend of genuine care and unambiguous directness, they actively foster an environment where transparency is celebrated, and feedback becomes a constructive tool rather than a source of apprehension. This reinforces those feedback loops, both formal and informal, not just between colleagues but also between the workforce and the leadership of the organization, a key ingredient to a healthy culture.
In fact, Brandon Hall Group’s Retaining Talent 2023 survey revealed this as a “Very Important” step in increasing company understanding. Instead of fostering silos of politeness or zones of blunt, unfeeling criticism, a culture steeped in Radical Candor encourages its members to communicate openly, with the intention of collective growth at its core. When individuals habitually demonstrate this approach, it paves the way for an organizational culture that is both supportive and candid, propelling not just individual but institutional evolution.
- Cultivating Intellectual Curiosity: The Odyssey of Continuous Learning
“Cultivating intellectual curiosity” stands as a beacon for progressive organizational cultures, signaling a commitment to endless exploration and the ceaseless quest for understanding. Within the organizational microcosm, when employees habitually demonstrate a thirst for knowledge, it germinates a culture that values questions as much as answers. This habit of intellectual pursuit — whether through continuous reading, attending seminars, seeking mentorship, or simply challenging the status quo with a “why” or a “what if” — transforms the workplace into a vibrant hub of ideas and innovation.
When intellectual curiosity becomes ingrained in an employee’s daily ethos, it not only enriches their individual capacity but also radiates outward, encouraging peers to embark on their own journeys of discovery. In a culture where employees ardently champion curiosity and inherently foster adaptability and resilience with forward momentum, they lay the foundation for an organization that is adaptable, forward-thinking and perpetually evolving in its pursuit of excellence.
- Solution-Oriented Mindset: Transcending the Problem Space
In the intricate dance of organizational dynamics, adopting a “solution-oriented mindset” emerges as a transformative habit that employees can embrace to fortify and elevate the collective culture. Creative problem-solving is the third-most added new skill to current jobs, according to the Hiring for New Skills and New Roles survey conducted by Brandon Hall Group™.
This mindset is not merely about troubleshooting; it is a deliberate pivot from the often-stagnating realm of problems to the expansive horizon of possibilities and solutions. Employees who habitually approach challenges by asking “How might we overcome this?” rather than lingering on the impediments, infuse a proactive and optimistic energy into the workplace. When embedded in daily interactions and strategic discussions, this habit shifts the organizational narrative from one of hurdles to one of opportunities. It engenders a culture of resilience and creativity, where obstacles are not endpoints but catalysts that spur innovation and collaborative endeavors. Such a cultural paradigm ensures that the organization remains agile, adaptive and ever-evolving, consistently transcending the immediate problem space in pursuit of broader horizons and greater achievements.
- Empathetic Engagement: Beyond Transactional Interactions
Empathy, though often relegated to the periphery of soft skills, emerges as a linchpin in contemporary organizational culture. It is the fourth-most added new skill, just behind creative problem-solving from Hiring for New Skills and New Roles survey. Empathetic engagement encapsulates a profound shift in the way employees can approach and enrich organizational culture.
At its essence, this ethos underscores the transformative power of seeing beyond mere tasks and transactions and delving into the human narrative intertwined in every professional exchange. Employees who cultivate a habit of engaging with colleagues, stakeholders or clients with genuine empathy foster a culture where interactions are not just about immediate outcomes but about understanding, connection and mutual growth. This moves from transactional to relational exchanges and creates an environment where individuals feel seen, heard and valued — not just for their professional contributions but for their holistic selves.
By consistently demonstrating this depth of engagement, employees lay the groundwork for a culture of trust, collaboration and meaningful relationships, where the organization’s success is interwoven with the well-being and fulfillment of its members. Such a culture not only enhances productivity and innovation but also anchors the organization in a profound sense of purpose and interconnectedness.
- Championing Inclusivity: Celebrating Diversity in Thought and Deed
In the multifaceted ecosystem of organizational culture, the “inclusivity” mantra beckons a paradigm shift that transcends mere policy or rhetoric. When employees consistently demonstrate a habit of valuing diverse perspectives, actively seeking out underrepresented voices and creating spaces where differences are not just tolerated but celebrated, they seed an environment that thrives on varied experiences and insights.
This is not just about ethnic, gender, or age diversity; it encompasses the full spectrum of human experience, including cognitive diversity, educational backgrounds, life experiences and more. Employees who take it upon themselves to ensure that discussions are inclusive, that decisions account for varied perspectives and that the organizational narrative is one of collective authorship, sculpt a culture where innovation flourishes and barriers diminish. Through such intentional and consistent actions, an organization is propelled toward a future where its strength is derived and where inclusivity is not an initiative, but an intrinsic value.
As global HR leaders architect and recalibrate organizational strategies, recognizing the pivotal role of employees in building culture is non-negotiable — and company culture isn’t the exclusive purview of the C-Suite or designated HR professionals. As insights show, it’s the cumulative effect of individual habits that foment cultural evolution. A healthy, positive organizational culture helps to create a positive working experience. That positive working experience is directly linked to an individual’s willingness to contribute at the highest level and thus impacting overall business performance. By imbibing and championing habits like radical candor, intellectual curiosity, a solution-oriented mindset, empathetic engagement and inclusivity, any employee can become a pivotal catalyst in the transcendent journey of cultural evolution.
J S Manoj Koundinya is a Senior Vice President — Talent Management, Organization Development, Culture & Wellbeing at DBS India. Manoj is a HR leader with 18+ years of diverse experience across industries globally in Learning, Talent & Organization Development. He is passionate about delivering business strategy through people practices by strengthening leadership, driving performance and institutionalizing culture. He has driven large-scale transformation through M&As, Ramp-Up, Restructure and Leadership Transition. He is a certified practitioner of psychometric assessments, PROSCI Change Management and Executive Coaching.
Matt Pittman is Principal Analyst at Brandon Hall Group™. Matt brings nearly 30 years of experience developing people and teams in a variety of settings and organizations. As an HR Practitioner, he has sat in nearly every HR seat. A significant part of those roles involved building out functions in organizations and driving large-scale change efforts. As a Principal Analyst at Brandon Hall Group™, Matt leverages this in-depth experience and expertise to provide clients and providers with breakthrough insights and ideas to drive their business forward.