How Culture and Values Influence Performance Management

Culture and values are what makes a company unique. What are your company's values? What's the culture like? When you use corporate culture and values to shape a performance management system, you might find you're creating an atmosphere that encourages employees to thrive. Darcy Anton describes her take away from this concept below.

Recently my colleague, Sarah, posted a white paper about employee recognition from a company called Globoforce onto our Yammer page. Although the company name sounds a bit like a Schwarzenegger/Stallone film, it had some compelling ideas and is worth a read. The message that resonated with me is the importance of designing your culture and performance management system around your values. It also discusses the concept of social architecture, which I take to mean the basic culture. I like the term though because if emphasizes that organizations are social entities and operate based on rules and norms that are many times implicit.  The key is to understand mechanisms for evolving that culture and guiding toward your values. Globoforce recommends 5 steps:

  • Determine what your culture is today
  • Cultivate a global culture of recognition
  • Evolve you social architecture
  • Communicate consistently and constantly
  • Eliminate borders through a culture of appreciation

Here are some good quotes and concepts from the paper:

  • “...each human’s nature is different. If companies want to use this power, they must first find a mechanism to unleash each human’s nature, not constrain it.” (First Break All the Rules)
  • “Is your culture based on intimidation or on recognition? The unintentional consequence of many productivity or quality improvement initiatives is the creation of a culture of intimidation to achieve goals – or else.” (p. 4)
  • “An absolutely critical step in taking the values off the wall plaque and instilling them in the everyday actions of the employees is to ensure all actions or behaviors nominated for recognition are tied to a corporate value.” (p. 6)

My only concern here is the sense of manipulation that can result from using recognition as a way to change behavior. It’s better than punishment, but as Alfie Kohn pointed out in his book Punished by Rewards, the thing between the carrot and stick is still an ass.” I do believe people need feedback. They need data about whether they are achieving their goals and making progress. Recognition might be a part of that and to turn your entire company into a group of people constantly seeking recognition rather than just feedback seems problematic. Good food for thought.