Creating an Open Work Culture

An open culture directly impacts how motivated, inspired, and committed the employees are and how aligned are they with the organizational goals

Prashamsa Pandey

Organizational culture has always had a major influence not only on the employees but also on the vision and overall business of the organization. The ever-changing technological and competitive landscape, globalization, and most significantly, the Covid-19 pandemic, have changed the ways of doing business and running organizations. With all these, there have also been changes in employee expectations from any organization.

Gone are the days where a bulky remuneration package and annual bonus served as the basic employee expectations from any organization and the shift has gone towards factors or rather parameters like work-life balance, work culture, decision making, individual respect, non-discrimination have taken the center stage when it comes to employee satisfaction and retention. Given the context, it seems that it is slowly becoming inevitable for organizations to create a rather open and inclusive work culture where they can not only meet their business and revenue goals but also create a welcoming yet performance-driven working environment.

When we talk about open work culture, it is necessary to understand that we are not talking about an organization where there are no rules or guidelines, and anyone can do anything but rather a culture where employees are clear about business goals, communicate with each other freely, share their ideas and opinions, collaborate with each other, practice empathy and focus on the quality of work. This is a culture where diverse perspectives are welcomed regardless of which level of the organizational hierarchy the employee is in, a culture where constructive feedback is a common norm and where employees are not afraid to make mistakes or to try out new things. As a result of this, an organization with an open and inclusive work culture is very adaptive and agile where one can witness lively and meaningful debates on how to better align the task and projects with organizational values, vision, and strategies. However, it is to be understood that in open work culture, though employees have the autonomy to control their work conditions, they are equally accountable for delivering the results that they commit to.

The significance of open work culture is increasing in today’s age since in this organization achievement is given priority over titles, best ideas are welcomed from all levels, and collective decision-making is made to turn these ideas into successful projects. This creates a positive impact on the minds of the employees but not only empowering them to do their work but also creating a culturally balanced working environment. Overall, an open culture directly impacts how motivated, inspired, and committed the employees are and how aligned are they with the organizational goals and it thereby assists in creating a win-win situation for both the employees and the organization.

So how do we create an open organizational culture?
The first and foremost factor that determines the success or failure of an open culture is the level of commitment of the organization’s leaders to create and contribute to this kind of work culture. It means that the managerial behavior of the leaders of the organization remains the strongest influence while creating such a kind of work culture. If the leaders themselves are not committed to being open, to breaking their own barriers of decision making, opening up channels of communication, changing their past concepts/beliefs of leadership and most important of all to mentoring and delegating rather than dictating and controlling, then there is no way the organization’s culture can be open and inclusive for a longer period of time.

It will simply phase out as one of the failed projects barring the employees and the organization from the benefits of free, open and transparent exchange of ideas, opinions and decisions. As such when implementing or trying to implement an open work culture all the members of the organization and especially the people in leadership positions must practice what they preach and they must also be willing and able to rethink or even change some of their past habits, ways of thinking and in some cases even the organization’s value systems. They must at the same time be adaptive enough to shift their approach of top-down decision-making and information sharing to a collaborative approach where everyone’s ideas are welcomed, discussed, challenged, verified, and ultimately implemented in such a way that not only meets the day-to-day operational needs of the enterprise but also the strategic objectives and purposes that the organization has set for itself. So, any organization that wants to create an open inclusive culture must focus on some of the major parameters as discussed below:

The envisioning, acceptance and implementation of an open organizational culture must start from the top so that the employees can see that the leaders are committed to the purpose and benefits behind creating such a work culture. Moreover, by doing this, employees can see that the leaders are truly emphasizing openness, idea-sharing, collaboration and empathy. It should not be something where employees feel that the leadership is contradicting the ideas of the open culture. It is inevitable for any organization to face the challenges of the ‘silos’ concept that comes with segregating the organization into various departments. So, while creating an open culture it is to be kept in mind that the organization encourages more individual conversations regardless of whether the conversation is carried out through online or offline modes of conversation. Examples of this include formal and informal, meetings, calls, and emails where there is a one-on-one setting that enables people to share their ideas and suggestions freely and honestly.

When we create an open organizational culture, we must also create a platform and culture of healthy debate and constructive criticism. It is because having an open culture does not mean that anyone can say anything without having verifiable evidence that their ideas and suggestions are at par with not only the problem on hand but also with the organization’s vision, objectives, and strategies. However, while creating such debate platforms utmost attention should be given to individual respect and freedom to make decisions.

An open culture cannot survive and foster if there is a lack of integrity in the organization. It means that while an organization tries to develop and nurture an open organizational culture it should be able to give that surety to its employees that the employees can trust their organization that their opinions and criticisms are taken in a professional light and that they are secure in the organization even if they share conflicting views on any organizational matters.

Hence, it has become imperative for organizations and especially the organizational leaders to think beyond the business targets and think about envisioning and implementing such a culture where employees are clear about their role in achieving the organizational goals where ideas and opinions from all levels of organizational hierarchies are welcomed with due respect for individual boundaries, where debate and challenging ideas to prove their validity becomes a norm.

It is because when we create an open, connected, collaborative work culture we ultimately create a path that ensures and enhances the decisions making of an organization to outperform its competitors and above all creates a clear momentum where everyone focuses on the better ways of collaboration, value creation, and success.

Pandey is the General Manager of Team Quest Pvt. Ltd.

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