Transforming the culture of work
When the framework governing work changes, its values change and with them the values of interaction and culture. “Responsible management brings individual values and values lived out in reality into greater harmony with one another, and has a positive effect on intrinsic motivation and satisfaction with work. This shows very clearly that corporate success and value orientation are directly related.” said Professor Dr. Ludger Heidbrink, Visiting Professor at the Reinhard Mohn Institute, Witten/Herdecke University (RMI) and executive member of the Wertekommission (Values Commission) on the latest management survey.
The culture of work is a hotpotch of the values and cultures people bring into their organizations, flavoured with the attitudes and beliefs we acquire during our socialisation. Corporate and management cultures form the link between these very different poles of influence. Ideally, they should give stability and security, and motivate the desire to use personal potential. When they do so, they make an important contribution to the economic success of the company.
Yet all too often, mistrust, dependency and insecurity cloud our everyday work.
In many instances, the cultures of society and the in-house cultures of companies are drifting apart. In society, for instance, digitisation has given renewed forceful relevance to such values as transparency, openness and trust. In many companies, on the other hand, the visible and invisible power structures within which employees live serve to cement and propagate similar cultures of power.
Trust, respect, courage, self-determination, solidarity, autonomy, sense orientation, esteem, loyalty – this list of “new” core values could almost be continued indefinitely. Yet despite their importance for many of us, and despite all the positive connotations they may hold, in our need for security and belonging these are the very values we will sacrifice for fear of losing our job. We ourselves are the ones who help to ensure that corporate cultures cannot make a sea change.
A positively accepted cultural base is a key requirement for sustainable development and long-term stability. Only in this way can employees give a ready ear to the concerns of the organisation and bring their full potential into the company. Culture creates space for the exercise of otherwise hidden potential for creativity and genuine innovation. The success factors are manifold. Setting a good example through your own personal conduct has the most marked impact – and especially when the example is set by multipliers, leaders and management. Self-reflective, continuous and cautious embodiment of the values aspired to enriches the culture. This holds true today and – we humans are slow learners in this respect – will hold true tomorrow as well.
Stakeholders outside the company bring further new values into play: prestige, reputation, sustainability, honesty, tolerance, transparency and openness are gaining in importance. Given the growing number of possibilities for communication and the interactions among themselves of customers whom companies can no longer control, any conduct that runs contrary to such values will always be fiercely contested.
Demographic development in conjunction with a growing self-confidence on the part of employees and the development of technology will at other points play a major role in transforming the cultures of society and enterprise. The shift from an employer market towards an employee market is beginning. The amount of project work will increase, the number of permanent positions will diminish. This means that ever more people will themselves be deciding on the number of hours they wish to work, and in turn will be looking to society to accommodate their desire for latitude and flexibility.
We shall also see another way in which demographics influence the culture of work when increasing numbers of older workers wish to stay at their job (or have to). Together with the new generations pouring onto the employment market, they will have to face ever new challenges. Part of this collaboration will be a bi-directional knowledge transfer between young and old which will also foster a growing mutual understanding a circumstance that is sure to be of great benefit to the long-term development of our society.
Our sense of collective responsibility is growing. From reciprocal negotiation of tasks and roles, and the freedom to choose working and holiday times to transparency in matters of salary – all these are issues that, on the basis of the appropriate values, create an open working environment such that companies which strike out on this way show an above-average quota of high achievement. As with the company vision, continuous discussion of values and the effects they have on culture is by far the best way to maintain awareness of their intrinsic importance. Yet before embarking on such a route, one minimal condition must first be met: we must become aware of what our own set of values are and check what kind of contribution they make to the development of culture as a whole.
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