The working world is changing drastically, and the concept of work for younger generations is substantially different than the reality that previous generations have lived. Companies must now make a more concerted effort to attract and retain organizational talent by creating less hierarchical structures, and by establishing a solid and sustainable organizational culture.
Stephen Covey, lecturer and writer of the best seller “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, stated that “the only sustainable competitive advantage that lasts is born from a high-trust, principled, organizational culture with committed and aligned people with a common vision”.
Corporate culture can be defined as a set of experiences, habits, customs, beliefs, and values, which characterize a human group. How do we manage to establish and convey these values and beliefs within an organization?
Axel Abulafia, Executive Vice President of the Global Technology Services company, Globant, spoke to us about Globant’s experience in trying to establish its organizational culture, stating:
“when we held a meeting to celebrate Globant’s 5th anniversary, we discovered that our corporate values were not well defined. One of the founders spent the whole night before that meeting defining what those values were. Imagine that: it was like looking under the hood of the organization. He was trying to identify what makes Globant unique and different, and by doing this, he helped us discover our Corporate Values: Think big, Act ethically, Have fun, Excellence in Your Work, Team Player, and Constant Innovation”.
An organization’s values play a key role in helping determine its culture. Once the values are defined, however, a new challenge arises: successfully transmitting them throughout the organization. By reaching out to individual employees, making them feel like they are part of the culture, and motivating them to share the values throughout their daily work, you effectively transform them into the guardians of Corporate Values.
Stephen Robbins, author of “Organizational Behavior,” identifies four ways to convey business culture: telling stories, performing certain rites, using certain symbols, and creating a language of their own. As it pertains to Globant, Axel said, “we knew we had to do something to convey to our employees the culture that made us different, so the first thing we did was to write the values in our meeting room walls. We then took the next step to make sure these values were identified on our corporate web site, along with the mission and vision of the organization”.
Creating Globant’s Language
There are various circumstances that force an organization to look for new ways to solve its problems. In Globant’s case, it was its exponential growth in Latin America that led to unforeseen conflicts and new challenges that need to be addressed. “We were opening new offices in Tandil, Córdoba, and entering new countries including Colombia and Uruguay. We realized that we [the executive leadership team] could not be everywhere, but we wanted to ensure that the corporate culture was maintained in these new Globant offices. It was important for us to be able to transmit it”, said Abulafia.
In addition to the organic growth within the region, Globant expanded by acquiring other companies in Argentina, India, Peru, England, Brazil, and the United States. This expansion via acquisition led to an even greater challenge: How can you transmit a new culture to groups where there is an already existing culture? Axel remembered that moment and explained, “we realized that we had to make this something more lively, not just something to be referenced on a poster hanging in a meeting room or as text on the website”.
Having followed Robbins recommendations for conveying business culture, Globant understood that, in order to communicate a unique message to recipients with such different cultures, it was necessary to create its own unique language in order to integrate all employees. Globant’s first attempt to create that language was through innovation: they created the Stellar Program.
“We have an area within the company, Globant Labs, where Globers (nickname for Globant employees) can experiment with emerging technologies and test and prototype the innovative ideas they have. We asked some Globers from the Globant Labs team to help us solve the challenge related to successfully transmitting our corporate values and culture throughout the organization. The result of this challenge was that the Globers created an Intranet application, which was originally called the Stellar Program”, said Abulafia.
A star experiment
The spirit of the Stellar Program was to recognize Globers for everyday actions that are aligned with Globant’s corporate values by allowing these Globers to send “stars” to each other. In the beginning, the process to share recognition was not the most effective because it was not easy to use.
Axel recalled, “If a glober wanted to send a star to recognize a coworker, they had to connect via VPN, go to the corporate intranet, use an application and enter their username and password. After that, they had to browse through up to six menus – It was a total disaster! But, it was the first step in an experiment, and we began to slowly iterate and improve. Despite all the technical difficulties, the response was overwhelming, After two months, Globant realized the potential of its experiment. It was an exciting situation”, recalled Abulafia.
After countless rounds of iteration and ideation, the stellar program evolved to StarMeUp, a talent employee engagement tool that afforded Globers the opportunity to recognize their peers based on Globant’s values. The action of both giving and receiving a star became one of gratification, and a way of showing appreciation within the organization. Showing gratification and appreciation and recognizing distinction are necessary actions in any healthy organization. When embraced within the culture of the organization, it can generate a variety of positive actions. These actions have been shown to motivate and encourage a workforce, generate value in an individual worker, and increase organizational moral.
From Globant Labs to the whole world
Regardless of organizational size or location, StarMeUp helps communicate what is happening within an organization. The analytics generated by the application are critical to analyze the engagement of corporate talent, and thus the health of the company workforce.
This is why large companies such as Banco Santander , Davivienda in Colombia, Banco Galicia and Walmart in Argentina, and 3g Smart Group, among others, have leveraged StarMeUp to help communicate and maintain their culture throughout their respective organizations. As Axel Abulafia explained, StarMeUp can help “…to get workers to recognize the values of their organization and to make them the guardians of these corporate values. It [StarMeUp] is available to each employee that helps maintain and transmit cultural values for companies that are in a state of constant growth and change”.
StarMeUp also generates other valuable information for the company. In the case of Globant, Abulafia told us “in the second month of using this [StarMeUp], we invited the five most recognized employees to a barbecue. We noticed that we had never met three of them before! It was an excellent opportunity to hear what we must do in Globant to be able to continue our growth – what things they saw that were not working well and where we had to make adjustments. It was fantastic because it was a very simple and transparent way of sharing with us the information of what employees had embraced within company. For example, it told us which Globers were the most identified and recognized by their colleagues, and who could be the right Globers to help us replicate our culture”.
By analyzing the data provided by StarmeUp, we can produce several reports that can help the management of a company, human resources, and the area of internal communications. Leveraging the data, we are able to interpret behaviors and predict some events:
- Disconnected talent who are likely to leave the organization
- Interaction between offices
- Identify hidden talent
- Locate organizational culture ambassadors
- Opportunities for change
- A tool to analyze the current situation of the company and its culture
Promoting the culture of recognition
StarMeUp is based on the values and solid principles that maintain a healthy and sustained culture. This is why one of the most important attributes of the project is transparency. Axel, one of the main ambassadors of StarMeUp, said “we do not want to be contaminated with economic interests – money isn’t everything. We want this to become something genuine among employees who want to recognize each other. The goal is to transmit and share values of each organization, as those values make the culture of the company”.
Peter Drucker, a management philosopher and author of more than 35 books, says that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. You can have a fabulous strategy but, if the rest of the company is not aligned with the values, it’s very difficult to achieve the autonomy employees demand these days.
The key is to make Organizational Culture the main asset, not a competitor to Strategy. Strategy and organization culture need to be working together in the same direction.