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What Is HR’s Role in Company Culture?

Traditionally, the role of a human resource department has been to serve as a policy officer. People in this profession uphold an organization’s principles while determining wages and benefits packages as well as helping in the hiring process. “In this role, the HR professional served executive agendas well but was frequently viewed as a road block by much of the rest of the organization,” wrote HR expert Susan Heathfield. “Much of the HR role is transforming. The role of the HR manager … must parallel the needs of his or her changing organization.” Today, those needs include a positive, engaging company culture.

As employee advocates, HR managers must utilize their people skills to truly understand what workers need to thrive. They have to look beyond the conventional aspects of their jobs and implement a climate in which people feel empowered, motivated and happy.

According to Heathfield, this includes regularly scheduled communication opportunities, profit-sharing strategies, chances for employee development and fair assessment of employee complaints.

How Can HR Impact Culture?

Think of your home and the steps you take to ensure it is comfortable and welcoming. Whether or not you’re aware, you’ve established a specific culture to please yourself and family members. This is similar to how HR creates corporate culture.

As an HR leader, you need to sort through each aspect of an organization to determine which practices work and which need modification. According to Automatic Data Processing (ADP), “Your corporate culture influences everything from productivity and morale to engagement and brand reputation.”

Culture is reflected through day-to-day interactions between staff and management, productivity, and overall morale. HR personnel have the unique responsibility of guiding teams to build an atmosphere conducive to everyone’s well-being.

5 Key Aspects

ADP points out the aspects HR should look to when evaluating company culture:

Changing demographics: Each generation has different needs. As Millennials replace retiring Baby Boomers, HR leaders have to understand generational requirements and expectations. From there, they must determine if current company values are still vital and if new programs, such as increased mentorship, should be implemented.

Industry trends: Each business’s culture is influenced by external agents; a tight job market or shortage of local skilled workers are both influential. As an HR leader, you may have to consider allowing employees to work from places outside the office in order to find qualified talent. The best candidates may not have the ability to be present at the workplace during traditional hours and some can’t move to a company’s city. With the guidance of HR, more organizations are adopting telecommuting policies and flexible scheduling.

New technology: With teams spread across the world, collaborative tools are necessary to bridge gaps caused by varying locations and time zones. When communication is hindered, so is company culture. To keep your company’s teams working cohesively, you may need to learn how new technologies can keep coworkers aligned.

Employee engagement: Effective company culture can be seen through employee productivity and connection to an organization’s mission. Strategic assessments can reveal if workers are no longer dazzled by company culture. Steps like clarifying your purpose or improving your management style can help to re-engage team members.

The big picture: The first impression of a company’s culture is conveyed through its mission statement. Workers also look to key values such as customer service and treatment of employees. HR leaders should revisit documents and past practices to ensure ideals and standards are still facilitating a healthy, positive culture.

Company culture has become a significant factor in attracting and retaining talent. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) notes, “While HR might not always have the power to change the culture outright, it does have the ability to influence leadership to steer the culture in the right direction and nurture an environment where employees enjoy coming to work and performing their jobs.”

Though CEOs set the tone for their organization’s culture, HR professionals are responsible for maintaining open and honest communication with employees that includes listening to and understanding concerns. With this feedback, HR can coach management and point out how negative behaviors impact the entire company.

Learn more about Northwest Missouri State University’s online MBA in HR Management.


The Balance: The 3 New Roles of the Human Resources Professional

ADP: 5 Ways HR Impacts Company Culture

The SHRM Blog: HR’s Role in Developing a Positive Corporate Culture

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