What is People & Culture?

January 27, 2023

Find Recruiter has seen an over 30% increase in People & Culture roles posted on our recruitment platform in recent months and this trend seems to be consistent across corporates as well as startups. We wonder why companies were repositioning their HR function to be called People & Culture and what this transformation really meant for them. Is it a fad or were there deeper values to achieve?

I had the honour to share the room with industry experts to discuss People & Culture trends from corporates and startups. Coming from companies such as Klook, Dairy Farm (DFI), Hitachi, Goldman Sachs, and Accenture, our panelists have a wealth of experience in enabling the transformation and growth of the HR function in these companies.

The discussion started with each of the panelists, sharing their favourite corporate culture from their past experience, and interestingly they mentioned a mix of physical and psychological elements. From having “Covid Care Packs” or “Work-from-home gadgets” being sent, to a shared mindset and speaking the same lingo across different offices, they felt a combination of these elements can effectively build a strong corporate culture.

So, what’s the difference between HR and People & Culture?

It’s obvious that the transformation is not merely a title change but with deeper intentions and meaning.

Kevin, the Chief People Officer of DFI Digital, challenged the conventional view of seeing employees as an “excel line”, especially with large-scale organizations. He added that “In essence, [our roles have morphed into] the marketer of the company from an employer perspective.”

Cameron, who’s the APAC Organization Change Management Lead for Hitachi Energy, zoomed in on the definition we’re giving Human Resources versus Human Capital. Resources are meant to be depleted, whereas capital is to be invested into. In practice, an organization’s culture should be promoted by its people.

Christy, the founder of Inspect Talent and Klook’s ex-Culture & People Experience Director, highlighted the shift from an employer-dominant market to a talent-driven market in the past decade. Candidates in recent years have become more conscious and intentional with their selection of employers where they spend major time with each other. One of the People & Culture team’s major purposes is to align leaders and talents throughout the selection process.

Why do you think it’s essential to align people and business needs? and How?

Cameron used the analogy of the organization being the body and its people as the muscle. For a body to flex its muscles and propel forward, you need a well-lubricated joint. This is what the Corporate Culture essentially is – the lubricant every business needs. It’s especially important for people and business needs to be aligned because you can move much faster with a strong culture. Culture manifestation needs to be part of the agenda, we need to have the right tone as the management and role models, and also set up reward mechanisms to incentivize wanted behaviours.

Christy sees that business needs change constantly, so setting up effective company communication channels such as townhalls, quarterly business reviews, and regular 1 on 1’s can make sure these needs are aligned and recalibrated. Ensuring there is an adequate platform for people to voice out and encouraging them to do so will also add to the effectiveness.

Kevin summarizes that businesses can only move forward if their employees are with the company so setting common goals and showing how these goals are tracking can help make them understand the purpose/vision, and even add to a sense of pride in being part of the team.

How do you influence without authority and make a company’s culture scalable?

“[Everyone] needs to know that Culture is not owned by the Culture team. The values and mentality have to be in everyone’s blood. The more people understand we are all partners building and maintaining a great organization together, the less are the policies and authority needed” explained Christy.

Being thoughtful about the core values and culture throughout the employee life cycle is essential. Using the same principles in a marketing funnel where we attract, inform, convert, and engage, keeping these messages and expectations need to be communicated clearly. “From the first touch point where the talent gets to know about our organization to a leaver joining our alumni network” Kevin explained the cruciality of having a clear, thoughtful message throughout the talent’s journey.

“Empathy and affection are key, making sure the teammates you’re trying to influence feel safe about what you’re suggesting.” Cameron shares what has worked for him when he influences his counterparts across 15 different markets within APAC.

Is it inevitable that the culture gets diluted as our organizations grow?

The short answer to this is – yes, but rather to see it as a dilution, we may as well embrace it and call it as an evolution. Culture isn’t and cannot be static, when we have new joiners in the business, we will dynamically grow along with the culture. As long as the culture isn’t deviating from the company’s core values or Vision-Mission-Value, then the transformation should be encouraged. Culture is very much like mixology, you have your base (core values) and you add other flavours (people and their values) to make it a perfect-tasting drink.

Even if you feel the corporate culture is diluting too much or rapidly, there are ways you can steer the boat back on track by communicating and reminding the teams of the shared values and common goals set previously. By setting up an adequate infrastructure for effective communications and goals setting, we can foster a healthy culture.

For the full discussion, you can watch it here:

Howard Sung

Co-founder of FindRecruiter.com - Intelligent Recruiter Matching Platform

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