If you can't sell something to your own employees, you can't sell it to potential customers. That is what world-renowned culture expert Stan Slap offered to finance professionals during his energetic and thought-provoking speech that officially opened Finance Indaba Africa 2017 on the morning of 12 October 2017.
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As over 2,000 finance professionals had already arrived at the Sandton Convention Centre for the much-anticipated two-day event, Stan took the audience through an eye-opening explanation about the power of employee cultures, ferocious organisms that decide the course and success of any company. The presentation of the California-based expert was made possible by Clarkhouse Human Capital.
Finance Indaba Africa is the biggest conference of its kind in Africa. Finance professionals and accountants cannot afford to miss attending it every year, as all relevant service providers and partners showcase the latest and greatest in finance at the expo. Over the two days, an incredible line-up of speakers from South Africa and further afield will be sharing insights in more than 100 learning sessions, while the networking opportunities will be unparalleled.
Dutch community building guru Alex van Groningen, the visionary behind Finance Indaba Africa, could be spotted talking and exchanging ideas with Indaba attendees from early on Thursday morning.
Meanwhile, attendees throughout the convention centre listened keenly to Stan's presentation about "the killing field between company concept and employee commitment". If your employees want something to happen, it will happen. If they don't want it to happen, it won't happen, he implored.
Using the analogy of a tribe in Samoa that was visited by anthropologist Margaret Mead, Stan explained how an employee culture consists of many stories that managers "will NEVER hear". Employee culture only cares about "its own survival and the emotional well-being of its members", he explained. "You cannot bribe, bluff or bully an employee culture into doing anything."
There are three things managers should do to interact with the employee culture in a positive way, Stan said, and team-building exercises and sudden feigned attention are not part of it.
- Make the business case. "Culture is not some fluffy thing that lives outside your strategy and your business case. A great culture is a committed culture, and you can only achieve that by selling your business case internally."
- Plug into the power of the culture. "Your employee culture has an extraordinary need for energy and you can provide that by providing context to decisions, predictability of the future and addressing how being part of your company makes people feel."
- Don't blame culture for how it's treated. "For example, don't say that a culture resists change. It resists uncertainty. So, when you are explaining in five PowerPoint slides what is changing, use 50 slides to emphasise what stays the same to give perspective."
So what to do? First, you need to be able to explain your plans to your employees. "While making profits, delivering on big projects, and improving the share prices of a company are all good things, leaving a legacy impact on the lives of the human beings that helped you to do that is a great thing," concluded Stan, referring back to this great interview that CFO South Africa published earlier this year. "For yourself, for your family, for your employees, for your clients, for your company, and for the world, you should be a HUMAN first and a manager second."