January 24, 2022

Revolutionize Your Company Culture with Interculturally Validated Behavior

Part 2 of 2

Historically, organizations have focused on carefully selected value words and articulated definitions, often using multi-day retreats to craft their value language. We believe that value words and definitions are not what is important. Instead, what’s important are the behaviors the organization decides to pursue. 
5. Creating interculturally validated behaviors
This approach is deeply embedded in how we at KnowledgeWorkx define organizational culture: “The sum total of the expression of the thinking, speaking and acting of its contributors.”
Often, changing the value words is not necessary and could be costly because it shows up in multiple documents, brochures, websites etc. 
Even if you have culturally challenging values, like ‘integrity’ or ‘do the right thing’, you can focus on articulating and interculturally validating the behaviors that allow the values to come alive! 
Therefore, it is crucial to go back to the contributors of the organization values and engage the full diversity of the organization to discover how they currently give expression to the values and how they want to do that in the future. In this way you are starting to listen to the collective thinking, speaking, and acting of the organization.
Creating clarity about organizational behavior is becoming more and more important especially in a world where young consumer activism is demanding that ‘who you claim to be on the outside’ (brand externalization) must be consistent with ‘who you are on the inside’ (brand internalization). 
MIT Sloan worked with the job seekers website GlassDoor and used the goldmine of employee reviews and stories to create the Culture 500 ranking. Amongst many things these employee stories revealed if the brand externalization and the brand internalization were consistent and aligned. Some of the negative company reviews typically have a backstory like the following example:
Ahmed is a passionate consumer of a certain clothing brand. He encourages his friends to buy clothing from the brand and is dreaming of working for the company. He finally gets a job at the company only to discover that working for them is utterly disappointing.
Aligning brand externalization and brand internalization in a diverse world makes it essential to interculturally validate the values and their associated behaviors. In this way both consumers/clients as well as staff are more likely to have a consistent and positive experience with the organization. 
We use our Inter-Cultural Intelligence (ICI) grid to validate the intercultural appropriateness of the value-based behaviors
The ICI grid includes both the Three Colors of Worldview as well as the 12 Dimensions of Culture of the Cultural Mapping Inventory.
We use the neutral language of the ICI grid to first answer the question: “What culturally defined behavioral preferences does each individual bring into the team or organization?”
We then use the same tools to define interculturally validated behaviors that are more easily embraced by the whole team or organization. In this way every person’s thinking, speaking, and acting finds expression in the culture of the organization.
6. Benefits of Interculturally Validated Behaviors
If a culture is well defined around behaviors, and if those behaviors are interculturally validated, then it is more likely that a larger number of people will feel at home in the organization, attracting a broader and more diverse talent pool.
It will also assist with recruiting appropriate talent into the organization. Potential candidates will have a much clearer picture of what is (behaviorally) expected from them if they join the organization. This additional clarity will result in hiring candidates that are a better quality and fit for the organization.
Joining a new organization always comes with adjusting and compromising in order to find our place in the culture. As long as we maintain our identity, wholeness and our moral compass, we can ebb and flow with what the organization requires from us. 
There is a powerful business case for interculturally validating a company’s value-based behaviors. According to Gallup research, employee engagement is generally low around the world and even dropped a few percentage points during the pandemic. If the culture of the organization is not interculturally validated, you will typically see lower levels of employee engagement.
The more the culture is interculturally validated, the more employees will feel at home and have room to express their culturally defined thinking, speaking, and acting. 
The Process:
Defining interculturally validated behaviors around values is a delicate process and requires sensitivity and cultural agility to draw as many voices into the process as possible.
Although there isn’t an ‘off the shelf’ process, the following key ingredients work exceptionally well:
  • We launch a large scale, culturally appropriate employee engagement process. The design of the process is crucial so that employees will feel comfortable to add their voice to the mix. It typically means that electronic surveys are avoided, speed is essential, and a wide variety of methods is used to give all diversities, geographies etc. an opportunity to talk about the current organizational culture on the ground. 
  • This initial culture audit allows us to create an accurate picture of the current organizational culture and in which way it is aligned or misaligned with the values, definitions and behavior statements that already exist. We use our ICI grid to map where the culture might be too tight or too slanted in a certain cultural direction.
  • These insights are then used to extract the behavioral code from the contributors to the organization so that we can define a behavioral grid that is aligned with the organizational objectives.
  • We then ‘field-test’ the language and behavioral impact of pursuing the behaviors. This leads to further fine-tuning, making the behavioral grid even more culturally agile. Finally we align the behavioral grid with the collateral and visual identity of the organizational culture, and we ensure that the behavioral grid becomes part of the processes and flow of the organization.
We have seen organizations develop interculturally agile ways to keep the culture alive and aligned with new market realities. Here are a few things that might inspire your thinking:
  • Look for core behaviors in your recruiting (use behavioral interviewing) and ask yourself the question: “In which way are they already practicing the core behaviors important to our organization and would they be a good addition to ‘the tribe’?”
  • When you onboard candidates: immediately initiate them into ‘your tribe’. The behavioral initiation must start from day one!
  • Don’t just map a career development plan, also map a culture growth plan! Most of us find certain behaviors easy and other behaviors more challenging. Identify the challenging behaviors from the beginning and include them in their personal development plan!
  • Remember that the leadership culture should be the birthplace, the center for modeling and cascading the organizational culture. This means that any leadership development will have to include intentionally developing the leader’s ability to model the behaviors behind the company values (leadership coaching is a powerful enabler to make this a reality!
  • Developing leaders (HIPO’s, career path development, promotions) should include a metrics that quantifies to what level a candidate is not only displaying the desired behaviors, but also cascading, nurturing, coaching, modeling the desired behaviors amongst people around them. This also includes how they correct and deal with people who do not exemplify the desired behaviors. In this way the behavioral grid starts to drive the culture, and employee engagement will increase because the culture now allows them to express their culturally defined thinking, speaking, and acting. 
Be on the lookout for our next article! Several researchers have worked on ‘the most common used values in global organizations. In our next article we will unpack the intercultural challenges and opportunities of the top-10 most used values (and yes, integrity will be there again…) .
Start getting your corporate values interculturally validated today with a free 20-minute cultural consultation.

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