We at PwC Philippines have always prided ourselves in our culture. Hand over heart, we are able to say that we truly care for one other and treat one another as family. It is one of the ways we differentiate ourselves in the market, and attract the best and the brightest. As our 2018 Katzenbach Global Culture Survey found, 72 percent of C-suite and board members say culture is a strong reason people join their organization.
But in the midst of changes in the market and your operating model, what if your workplace culture needs to be “tweaked” to better align with a new strategic direction? In our Global Culture Survey, the number of people who say their organization’s culture must evolve rose dramatically. Eighty percent of respondents said their organization’s culture must evolve in the next five years for their company to succeed, grow, and retain the best people, up from 51 percent in 2013.
That’s the very challenge that confronted us at the consulting division of PwC Philippines. Having become part of Southeast Asia Consulting in 2013, with a cross-territory P&L and increasingly regionalized management processes, we needed to adapt our ways of working. We didn’t want to get rid of all that was good about our culture, but did want to build upon it to ensure we were ready for the future. Most importantly, we needed to address where our culture and our strategy clashed.
Like the companies surveyed in our Global Culture Survey, we needed to become more agile (to respond to opportunities quickly), more collaborative (across territories and teams), and more innovative (so we can create more value for our clients). In addition, we wanted to be more results-oriented and accountable for our actions.
So what did we do? We identified the “critical few” behaviors that really mattered and got to work on them. First (and this may sound very basic), we worked to reduce “Filipino time” by using our calendars more consistently and getting meetings to start on time. We agreed on action items at each meeting and held people accountable for them.
We also began a program to use our enterprise systems as the single source of truth – whether it be for monitoring the sales pipeline, deploying people onto projects or managing project economics.
Next, we used the results of our People Survey to identify workplace culture and engagement issues that needed to be fixed. We found that these primarily had to do with coaching and communication. We held focus group discussions with staff at all levels, set up a project management office to drive and monitor our efforts, and embedded this in our performance management processes.
We also began a program to use our enterprise systems as the single source of truth – whether it be for monitoring the sales pipeline, deploying people onto projects or managing project economics. We got managers into the habit of getting critical operational data into our systems on a timely basis so that we (and regional management) could make better decisions. This wasn’t easy – taking time out of your busy day to do “admin” is a tough sell but once managers started to see the benefits of transparency, it all made sense.
To make people feel they were part of a larger regional organization, we established cross-territory communities of practice, increased the number of regional training opportunities, and even organized a region-wide talent show! (No, we didn’t fly our singers and dancers to a different country. This was all done through good old video technology.) This helped our people build connections with their colleagues outside the Philippines, and sparked greater trust and collaboration.
And finally, we started a concerted effort to embrace diversity. We eliminated our unspoken rule of not hiring foreigners into the practice. We now have four full time non-Filipino managers and staff, a number of short-term inbound secondees, and a steady stream of foreign interns. And to get people comfortable with an increasingly diverse team, we appointed a diversity & inclusion champion who has done wonders to raise our awareness of hidden biases.
All these efforts have been all the more important because our team has grown from 26 people in 2014 — when I rejoined the firm — to 100 today. I feel we’ve already come a long way but we still need to evolve our culture. We are in the midst of implementing a number of new digital tools for learning and development, people and performance management, and collaborative working. With all these changes, we need to raise the “Digital IQ” of our people, especially those like me who can’t call themselves millennials without being laughed at.