01 Sep #084 – Integriosity – Re-Imagined Implementation – Culture and People
ESSENCE: A Re-Imagined Culture aligned with Biblical beliefs, values and priorities can have important implications for the very nature of an organization’s activities, including how people are treated. God created humans to create organizations to organize humans to work together in relationship to create products and services that serve humanity. Because organizations are about people, organizational Culture needs to about people. A leader wanting to faithfully “do right” through business a better way, (which requires prioritizing relationships, community, human dignity and flourishing of all people) MUST examine how it’s Culture treats the people it touches (owners, employees, vendors, customers, communities), whether its Culture encourages healthy or unhealthy relationships among those people, and whether its Culture leads to work being experienced by its people as a blessing of flourishing to be embraced or a burden to be minimized. Employee “engagement” is a helpful proxy for assessing whether work is perceived as a burden or a blessing, and Michael Stallard’s “connection culture” is the best tool we know for understanding human engagement at work in an organization.
In our last three posts (#081-Culture and Products, #082-Culture and Capital, and #083-Culture and Governance), we shifted from considering the factors that shape organizational Culture to begin looking “downstream” from Culture–the likely impact on an organization of Re-Imagining a Culture aligned with Biblical beliefs, values and priorities. It is worth highlighting once again the following observation from a recent McKinsey article:
Connecting purpose with the heart of your company means reappraising your core: the strategy you pursue, the operations driving you forward, and the organization itself. . . . Your stakeholders care about the concrete consequences of your lived purpose, not the new phrase at the start of your annual report.
Re-Imagining Implementation: Culture and People
God created humans to create organizations to organize humans to work together in relationship to create products and services that serve humanity. God cares about people (God’s image-bearers); God cares about relationships (an attribute of Imago-Dei); and God cares about work (essential to living out Imago Dei).
As we explained back in post #56 (Love by Serving-Nature of Business), organizations (including businesses) are platforms that facilitate humans working together in relationship–living out their purpose to use their skills to love each other through service. Organizations such as businesses have intrinsic Kingdom value because they are a creation of God’s image-bearers that provides the platform and the opportunity for humans to come together in relationship to express and fulfill their humanity through work by producing and promoting flourishing and “building for the Kingdom” in ways that could not be accomplished by people working alone.
Because organizations are about people, organizational Culture needs to about people. We believe it only follows that an organization committed to Re-Imagining its Culture in alignment with Biblical beliefs, values and priorities (prioritizing relationships, community, human dignity and flourishing of all people) MUST examine how it’s Culture treats the people it touches (owners, employees, vendors, customers, communities), whether its Culture encourages healthy or unhealthy relationships among those people, and whether its Culture leads to work being experienced by its people as a blessing of flourishing to be embraced or a burden to be minimized. Work is part of what makes us human, because it reflects our creator.
Skip Moen writes:
We become human when we act as the Creator acts. We earn humanity over the course of our lives.
People are humanized by organizational Cultures that make work a blessing and dehumanized by organizational Cultures that make work a burden.
In all those respects, business as usual is broken (post #007-Work is Broken; post #008-Workplaces are Broken; post #009-Workers are Breaking; post #012-Business as Usual), in large part because it focuses on Profit as Purpose, elevating profit to the pedestal of purpose and dehumanizing people as merely a means to that end–tools of production. As we explored in post #021 (Work As Usual–Money and Power), because people are not the focus of business as usual, they do not become the focus of work as usual. Just as people can be no more than tools of production when Profit as Purpose is the goal to which the business is managed, people become tools for doing our “work as usual“. The corrosive assumptions of the business as usual culture, such as Scarcity and Self-Interest, become the assumptions out of which people work and treat others.
Re-Imagining Implementation: Culture and Engagement
We believe employee “engagement” is a helpful proxy for assessing whether work is perceived as a burden or a blessing. Although recent Gallup figures show a promising uptick in worker engagement in 2019 to the highest levels seen since Gallup began tracking engagement in 2000, engagement remains pathetically low.
In recent years, roughly 75% of workers have identified as “not engaged” (in Gallup’s words, “those who are psychologically unattached to their work and company and who put time, but not energy or passion, into their work”) or “actively disengaged” (“those who have miserable work experiences and spread their unhappiness to their colleagues”). Other studies have indicated that roughly 60% of the engaged workers do not feel aligned with their company’s mission. That suggests only 10% of workers are effectively mobilized–experiencing an essential part of their humanity. The remaining 90% are experiencing varying levels of dehumanization–work as a burden rather than a life-giving blessing.
Worker disengagement is a symptom of an unhealthy Culture. For example, in our last post (#083-Culture and Governance) we discussed the importance to Culture of managers. Gallup has concluded that:
- Managers account for 70% of the variance in worker engagement.
- Businesses pick the wrong managers 82% of the time.
- Untalented managers compensate with manipulation and politics.
Re-Imagining Implementation: Culture and Connection
Just as James Hunter’s faithful presence is the best tool we know for understanding what it means to love your neighbor through the culture of social structures such as organizations and businesses (post #053-Loving Generously–Faithful Presence), Mike Stallard’s “connection culture” is the best tool we know for understanding human engagement at work in an organization. Although Stallard’s book Connection Culture: The Competitive Advantage of Shared Identity, Empathy, and Understanding at Work is written in secular language, in his research he tied all the ideas back to Biblical beliefs, values and priorities.
Stallard explains that a healthy work culture is a “culture of connection” in which humans feel connected to the organization, to their work and relationally to each other. This aligns with managing an organization in a way that prioritizes relationships, community, human dignity and flourishing–it aligns with business a better way. According to Stallard, a healthy culture of connection exists when people have:
- Vision: When everyone in the organization is motivated by the mission, united by the values, and proud of the reputation.
- Value: When everyone in the organization understands the needs of people, appreciates their positive unique contributions, and helps them achieve their potential.
- Voice: When everyone in the organization seeks the ideas of others, shares their ideas and opinions honestly, and safeguards relational connections.
Stallard identifies two common types of unhealthy organizational cultures. He notes that a distinguishing feature of these unhealthy cultures is that their sole focus is task excellence, with little focus on relational excellence.
- Cultures of Control: in which “people with power, influence, and status rule over others. This culture creates an environment where people fear to make mistakes and take risks. It is stifling— killing innovation because people are afraid to speak up. Employees may feel left out, micromanaged, unsafe, hyper-criticized, or helpless.”
- Cultures of Indifference: in which “people are so busy chasing money, power, and status that they fail to invest the time necessary to develop healthy, supportive relationships. As a result, leaders don’t see value in the relational nature of work, and many people struggle with loneliness. Employees may feel like a cog in a machine, unimportant, uncertain, or invisible.”
A leader Re-Imagining Culture in a way that aligns with Biblical beliefs, values and priorities must consider how the organization’s Culture needs to be changed in order to increase worker engagement.
We become human when we act as the Creator acts. We earn humanity over the course of our lives. (Skip Moen)
Imagine as You Re-Imagine
As you take the tools of RENEW and begin to RE-IMAGINE Culture, just imagine an organization:
- Where supervisors intentionally try to create an environment where all personnel feel “connected” to the purpose of their work, to the organization and to each other.
- Where there is a healthy balance between the emphasis of performance excellence and relational excellence.
- Where all people touched by the organization understand and are energized by the Culture.
- Where the Culture of the firm is explained clearly to prospective personnel.
- Where everyone looks forward to Monday.
- Where all people feel like the organization “cares”.
- Where all people feel valued for their unique contribution to the organization and its mission and not just for their productivity.
- Where all people feel that their voice is valued in identifying areas of improvement and customer service.
- Where “we” replaces “us-them” and all people feel like part of one community.
- Where “do more good” replaces “do less harm” in HR, decision-making and allocations of organizational resources.
- Where the internal structure and policies reflect an assumption of trust rather than distrust in employees.
- Where “should we do it” replaces “can we do it” in analyzing business decisions.
We believe it is time for “business a better way” in alignment with Biblical values and priorities–it is time to begin faithfully “doing right” through Integriosity®.
SPOILER ALERT: In our final post on Re-Imagining Culture posts, we will explore how Culture relates to Connection and employee engagement.
PERSONAL NOTE (from PM): As much as the concepts of Vision, Value and Voice, as well as the idea of an organization prioritizing relationships, community, human dignity and flourishing, are based on Biblical beliefs, values and priorities, it has amazed me to see that “faith-based” non-profits can be no better (and sometimes worse!) at living out those concepts than secular businesses. In short (this will be a topic for a future blog post unto itself), because “Vision” is BIG and EASY (i.e., you are working for God doing “God-things” to make the world a better place), it is easier to ignore people’s need for “Value” and “Voice”. A faith-based non-profit is unique among organizations, and its cultural challenges can be exacerbated when compared to a secular organization, because the faith-based non-profit can fall back on God as the source of the Vision, God as the source of authority for the leader and “calling” as the source of unquestioning commitment from employees and volunteers–all things that can be used to manipulate and retain good-hearted and well-meaning employees who are desperately miserable and disengaged.
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Photo Credit: Original photo by Gerd Altman from Pixabay (photo cropped).