Tuesday, 7th December 2021
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How organizational culture and corporate performance will be reshaped post-pandemic – Samuel-Ipaye

In this interview with Olatunde Samuel-Ipaye, Group General Manager, Corporate Strategy and Innovation at Insight Redefini, we discuss culture, performance and communication for the post-pandemic business.

Tunde Samuel-Ipaye, Group General Manager, Insight Redefini

In this interview with Olatunde Samuel-Ipaye, Group General Manager, Corporate Strategy and Innovation at Insight Redefini, we discuss culture, performance and communication for the post-pandemic business.

Questions

  • For so long, culture has been recognized as the key driver for organisational performance. How do you define organizational culture and how have organizations worked this into their DNA over the years? 

Everyone knows that culture is the way of life of a set of people, a system put in place, shaped by a chain of events, as well as the collective vision, mission and values of a group. In any organization, culture is shaped by a couple of pillars; leadership, governance, policies and processes, and execution. These pillars are key drivers for organizational performance, determining a company’s identity over a period.

Beyond our daily activities in organizations, how we celebrate success, how we handle failure when we do not succeed, resilience and our bounce-back rate are things that have formed our culture and while we can’t speak for other organizations, at Insight Redefini we have been very intentional about ensuring that these unique attributes that make up our culture never die. 

Over the years, we have successfully ingrained this culture into our DNA by transferring our lifestyle at work, our processes and policies from generation to generation across our organizations. At the management level, this has helped the organization maintain an independent operational power at the helm because our culture has eased the transition of being an owner-managed organization to being a professional-managed organization. 

The workplace is a convergence of a variety of personalities. Each workplace works like it is its own country, guided by its own unique by-laws and cabinet members, with its CEO as its president. Alongside these are the underlying beliefs, values, and customs that guide each individual’s interaction with colleagues and their work. Within all of these sits the organizational culture – written and unwritten rules that develop over time, moulding itself in relation to the vision and mission of the organization. This system is a result of an amalgamation of each individual’s experiences. With every new addition to the organisation’s pool,  a culture evolves, as the new member brings with them the entirety of their past and the uniqueness of their perspective.

An organisation’s culture is formed at the start of its operations, even very small startups with less than five employees or large corporations. This framework runs in the DNA of organizations and just like actual DNA, it is constantly changing and mutating as the business grows.

  • Tell us about Insight Redefini? How would you describe the culture of West Africa’s largest   integrated marketing communications group? 

At Insight Redefini, we are guided by a philosophy we call SOULutioningTM, which simply means we exist to guide our clients into the high purpose of creating and implementing human-centred ideas. This philosophy has strongly influenced our culture, as we cater to the SOUL, and create solutions for humans across all our stakeholder groups. Despite the fact that brands are intangible, people run and are impacted by them. This understanding influences our communication and work with clients. 

We are open to feedback about our ways of working and are pretty big on ensuring flexibility in how we deliver our work. This helps us accommodate people of all personalities, backgrounds and across all generations. We continually ask questions and make checks and balances to ensure that our work culture is effective for the results we desire as a group and a people. So far, it’s been a great one. 

Insight Redefini is the largest integrated marketing communications group in West Africa and within it are six (6) individual companies – all driven by a common purpose, founded upon a powerful spirit, shared behaviours, great character and relentless focus on our clients’ success. Our will to win remains at the core of our services and culture. This culture that allows freedom and accountability to thrive, is built around our collective strength, our diversity and our staff’s versatility at adapting to the requirements of different roles across the group. We work together independently and interdependently, pulling our creativity and ingenuity to solve business problems through the Power of One philosophy. Operating in this manner allows us to ensure that the best of each person is brought to the fore. 

One thing that our culture has ensured is work sustainability. We have successfully built and ingrained a resilient system that continues to function despite organizational changes or possible contingencies.

  • The pandemic amplified the role and importance of company culture? How have you seen this play out in businesses, especially Insight Redefini’s? 

The coronavirus pandemic was an unprecedented occurrence that changed the way everything and everyone functioned. In the workplace, we witnessed speedy adoption of previously overlooked work structures, such as remote working. Virtual platforms became the crutch of every organization and we became increasingly dependent on teleconferencing platforms to survive. No one could have guessed how quickly a few months would necessitate the need for traditional companies to adapt to such technologies.

Not only did the pandemic impact the way an organization worked, it also amplified who and what they were about. At Insight Redefini, the pandemic only fast tracked the need to digitize our business. Unlike other organizations who struggled at first, we adapted easily, leveraging our culture, because prior to the pandemic, our critical businesses were already cloud-based. We had already started testing out the remote work system and by March 2020, we had a system that could hold. Instead of destroying our way of working, the pandemic enhanced it and helped us adapt. Instead of struggling to adopt remote-work, like many organizations, we could concentrate on managing the mental health of our employees, considering the effects of isolation witnessed globally and the consequences amplified by socio-economic issues like poor power and telecommunications infrastructure.  We ensured that line managers and the senior management were actively working with employees to manage mental health, so that employees could find a safe space in their leaders and ensure they had what they required to be the best at their jobs.

So, if anything, the pandemic helped strengthen our culture and we are better for it today in all ramifications. They were able to work from anywhere without us losing our core identity, our DNA.

  • In your role as Group General Manager, you must have a lot of responsibility ensuring the synergy amongst people, productivity and profit. What role does a company’s management play in ensuring success with these? 

The management team of any organisation plays a vital role in the creation and communication of a workplace culture to enhance corporate performance. Those of us who have been granted the privilege of leadership serve as the anchors for organisational culture. We have to ensure clarity and put the conditions for success in place, to allow effective synergy that deliver results in people, our productivity and profit-making

A company’s management team is responsible for ensuring that its people have clarity about their roles, and to the best of its ability, creating an environment that fosters positive mental health. 

As Group General Manager, I like to think that collaboration sits at the top of a positive culture, so it is important that a company’s management ensures that there is synergy across their teams. This sets a good foundation for success.. From a productivity standpoint, setting critical, but clear KPIs and ensuring comprehension of what is being measured, as well as the contribution of each team member is also very important for strengthening organizational performance. 

Overall, clarity in targets at the project level, functional level, business level, understanding the big picture, strategic objectives and the role each team mate has to play, is strengthened by strong governance structures. These help to effectively manage our employees’ workloads, and productivity.

The systems we have established for evaluation, monitoring, quality assurance and operational success are driven, first, by our executive management teams and attitude to personal adherence before these are cascaded down to other employees. We believe that employees reflect the ethics and culture of a leader and thus, transfer this to their work, which defines the outcomes perceived by external stakeholders.

For this reason, we have  adequate policies and constantly communicate clearly the requirements for each task because we are convinced that leadership and employee productivity are inextricably linked and where one falls short, others are consequently impacted. This is true for small businesses and large corporations.

  • People are at the centre of culture. How can companies drive performance through their people? How has Insight Redefini successfully done this for over 40 years? How have you enabled creativity, ideation and strategy internally for clients?

When companies take deliberate steps that make a fundamental difference to the way people are managed, led and developed, the result is a significant improvement in business performance. This realization further strengthens the proof that the best performing people are raised by the most efficient people managers. However, it requires intentionality and co-creation. 

As I mentioned, In any organization, culture is shaped by a couple of pillars; leadership, governance, policies, processes, and actual execution. While all of these are instrumental to efficient performance in any organization, leadership takes precedence. To drive performance or ensure a positive culture that promotes success, leadership has to be very clear on the critical founding pillars of the organization, understand how these pillars have evolved and how to interpret these pillars into the workplace. Without this clarity, transferring knowledge and clearly passing on the vision, mission and strategic objectives that would in turn drive performance from one generation to the other would be impossible. 

Adequate policies must be developed – these set the boundaries, but also allow creativity to foster. Systems for management, especially communication, feedback, quality assurance, measurement, rewards and recognition, must be established. They ensure we do not miss out on what is important. Finally, there must be communication. Many organizations are threatened because there is no transparency and employees have to make sense of changes by themselves. With adequate communication of the vision, and key performance indicators there is clarity; employees are freed up to deliver on the company’s objectives.. 

For us at Insight Redefini, it has always been about our will to win. This will to win is at the core of our culture, driving our way of life, how we run our business and deliver on our clients’ briefs churning out the most creative and widely celebrated works.  We like to say that our vision of human-centered businesses drives us. It unites our over 200 talented and passionate redefiners who work tirelessly and together, leveraging their collective strength for our stakeholders. This culture which has been ingrained in every redefiner allows us to create solutions for the soul, something we have successfully done for our clients for over 40 years and counting. 

This has contributed to the choice of our people, as well as our approach to management. We also have a “Power of One” policy, which I mentioned earlier. The “Power of One” keeps us grounded and collaborating, reminding us that no one exists on their own. More importantly, it reminds us that our people are at the center of our business and, like our founder, Dr Biodun Shobanjo, rightly says, “if we take care of our talents and consistently do great work, fame and fortune will follow.”

  • One of the effects of the pandemic has been an emphasis on mental health and its awareness. Is there a correlation between mental health and organisational culture and performance? 

There is definitely a correlation between mental health, culture and corporate performance. First, a company’s culture greatly influences an individual’s state of mind and vice versa. Toxic work environments do no good for anyone; neither do poor attitudes to work or toxic work relations. On the other hand, a great work culture can engender creativity, foster collaboration and ensure productivity. It is the same with individuals, especially leaders, who have learnt to balance work and relations well. They allow the people around them thrive and create an environment for growth. 

On the second level is the effect on output. A person’s mental state often influences the quality of work delivered, with ripple effects on overall service or product outcomes. It is at this level that there must be intentional support and strategies for engagement. The individual has the primary responsibility for their wellbeing. However, with the right systems and structures, organisations can benefit from the successes.

Companies must prioritize mental support and mental awareness. It should no longer be a taboo for employees to voice out on the challenges they face and its effect on their mental state. When management teams are willing to listen, they can successfully implement structures and programmes that promote healthy work environments. 

  • From your experience, what solutions or sustainable practices can management teams put in place to ensure build healthy work environments in a post-covid society and what does that mean in terms of performance and productivity?

Creating an organisational culture that successfully creates and sustains a healthy work environment is not as difficult as we might think. It is all in the little things. There are many examples of low-costing endeavours that bear great rewards for an organization. 

The first place to start is communicating the company’s vision, mission and objectives to the team. It can be delivered by the CEO to all employees, with closed-door engagements with managers, who go on to cascade to their teams. 

The second level requires established communication and feedback systems that allow transparency and free flow of information. Humans thrive on communication. Where it is lacking, roadblocks are created unconsciously. This can be done easily by establishing frequent review meetings across all levels – informal discussions or formal townhalls. Now that economies have opened up, there is a sense of not being alone, which is good and critical for great performance, unlike what was witnessed during the pandemic, when there were feelings of isolation that bred fear, anxiety, and elevated levels of pressure. To completely eradicate these mental constraints, the work environment must foster a sense of belonging and community. One thing we are doing at Insight Redefini is increasing channels of social interaction within the group to eliminate anxiety and give everyone a safe space where they are truly cared for. We have structured our physical building to provide a peaceful atmosphere with natural surroundings and it’s living wonders (our famous peacocks and other migratory birds), allowing for refreshment and enhanced creativity., I can boldly say our employees have a healthy work environment, which has considerably increased productivity and performance on the job. 

Next, organisations must assign and adopt the responsibility of culture management at the executive level with clear KPIs. Anything that does not sit at the c-suite level is often ignored. When there is executive ownership, only then can it be translated into sub-level measurement criteria and easily communicated to managers and lower-cadre employees. More importantly, however, is the need to model a culture of productivity and performance by the management team. Success at this will result in success across the board.

Finally, every organization will have a different system that works for them, but whatever structures are defined, they must not be concluded independently by the management team. Work must be conducted collaboratively, where both parties – management and employees – are accountable for sustaining culture. When this sense of ownership flows through the organisation, productivity and performance will be at its peak.