Maybe it’s a Southern thing, but my mother taught me to always fix the back of my hair. See, my mother’s first career was a Beautician during the ‘60s and ‘70s. During those decades women actually “did” their hair or had it done for them by a Beautician. Hairdos were a thing then and women were judged by the construction of their “do”. It always drove my mother crazy to see a perfectly coiffed front section and a rat’s nest in the back. My grandmother likened it to a “stump full of granddaddies” (spiders that is). And I can still hear my mother say, “Who do you think you are fooling? We can see that mess!”
I see HR as the back of the hair…the inner workings/culture of an organization. It’s the systems/processes/people that make your business work (functional) or not work (dysfunctional). As business owners and organizational leaders, we place great emphasis on how we are perceived externally (brand – the front of our hair) but put little to no emphasis/effort into internal perceptions (culture – the back of our hair).
Have you ever heard anyone say, “I took this job with what I thought was a great company, BUT boy was I wrong.” Usually followed up with a statement like, “They are so disorganized”, “They don’t care about their people”, or “They are unethical.” Call it what you will – misunderstanding or false advertising – but they feel duped. They feel that the company did not deliver on their brand promise.
So how do you begin to SEE the back of your hair? I mean, you don’t have eyes in the back of your head, right?
Not only did my mother point out the importance of fixing the back of your hair, but she gave me a tool with which to address the problem. A SECOND mirror. Personal and professional development experts will often have you look in a mirror and critically look at what you see. The mirror is symbolic of reflection and helps to make the connection with what is real. ONE mirror is ok and it helps us to see OUR vision/opinion, but the SECOND mirror gives us an additional perspective that reflects back what is out of our view. Similar to 360-degree feedback or review, it is that SECOND mirror that allows us to see that mess we could not otherwise see.
I believe that culture development should receive as much (or more) attention as brand development and I have simplified it into a two-part process:
1) Defining the “Why”
- What is the purpose, vision, or spirit of the business?
- Ask yourself the highest questions, “My business exists to…”, “We are passionate about…”, “We are different because…”, “We are defined by…”?
2) Outlining the “How”
- Structure – are processes/procedures standardized, documented, and accessible to employees?
- Clarity – are policies/expectations/objectives clearly defined and reviewed at regular intervals (weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually)?
- Consistency – are policies, processes, and plans consistent throughout the company, departments, and work teams?
- Training – is training provided to ensure job readiness, ongoing support, and encourage employee development?
- Commitment and Accountability – are goals/metrics SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely), is leadership/management properly trained & accountable for team/individual performance?
- Engagement – do employees feel prepared and connected to their work, feel valued and understand how their job relates to the whole and empowered to make decisions at their level?
- Communication – is consideration given to frequency, tone, and the most appropriate channel of communication (i.e. face-to-face, phone, email, etc.)?
- Environment – does the environment promote or take away from productivity (i.e. lighting, temperature, proximity to others or production areas, access to tools and resources)?
Defining and clarifying the “Why” and “How” of your organization is critical to ensuring operational effectiveness and future business success. You must make a commitment to fix the back of your hair/build a culture that delivers on your brand promise.
So when things start to feel a bit disheveled… remember to get out that SECOND mirror, take a look at the back of your hair and comb out those granddaddies.