How Machine Learning Will Help You Build a Stronger Organizational Culture

4 Minutes Read

I have worked with both large and small, global and local organizations all my life. I remember one time when I was working with a large organization who had some of its employees visiting the United States for the first time. They enjoyed thoroughly seeing a Coca-Cola vending machine which dispensed immediately cold drinks.

I speak of this because it reminds me of the idea of culture within the organization. No matter what the size of the organization culture is a major factor to deal with. I hear that from all the HR leaders I work with. The one constant is that there is no limit to the various cultures within an organization. They can be based on geography, age, role and expectations to name a few.

The thought of all of these micro-cultures is the type of thing that gives human resources innovators the worst kinds of headaches. How can you manage multiple cultures in a world where even the smallest organization’s have to deal with cultures with some type of global basis?

This is something that comes up frequently when I am talking to them about KangoGift’s solution. I can feel their pain and I can help them with a solution to help ease it. The solution lies in machine learning.

In the many uses for machine learning, one that is not often considered is the positive effect it can have on your various cultures. What machine learning can help you with is:

  • Establishing a cultural parameter and then measuring it
  • Allow you to quickly discover cultural problems and help you quickly devise better solutions to deal with them
  • Put you into the driver's seat by identifying cultural matters unique to your organization and providing means of dealing with them

Let me go into detail with you on these 3 issues

Establishing a cultural parameter and measuring it--When I’m out meeting with the HR innovators I deal with I find that the issue of culture is always one that comes up. The great paradox here is that each organization has the same problems but they are also nothing alike. Employee engagement and retention is universal but the needs of a small organization may actually mirror those of a global one more so than a peer.

There are a number of ways one can identify certain areas based on culture which can then be adopted. If a manager in a certain division is not retaining employees as well as their peers, then we can look and see if it’s something related to a certain cultural element.

For example losing young employees starting their first job presents grave risk to the future of the organization. Is this person losing because he or she is not connecting with these employees on a personal basis. Are they building a culture that lacks employee engagement?

You can also take the time to look at it from another perspective. If you have a high reward culture but are still losing people maybe you should look at how you are rewarding them. A simple well done receipt may seem like a slap in the face to someone who has been burning the midnight oil. The same holds true if you send to someone who doesn’t drink coffee a gift card to Starbucks.

Machine learning can take your parameters and quickly identify the outliers so immediate corrective action can be taken. It can, among other things, identify not just the obvious poor mixes in such things as age, but it can also identify those times when you think you’re doing the right thing when, in fact, you’re doing the right thing wrong.

Allow you to quickly identify cultural problems and how to quickly devise better solutions to deal with them-Another thing I hear often is “do I wish I knew about this before it became such a headache,” Preventing that is the basic concept that powers machine learning. But identifying the problems that can arise from cultural issues is one of its greatest strengths.

This is the part of machine learning that calls for creativity. Let’s go back to the great manager who has to share that terrible “reward,” with the employee who has been working so hard. So you’ve noticed an increase in retention in that group despite what you otherwise know to be a fine manager. Now is the time for you to adopt new solutions.

Let me give you an example of something I’ve seen when I’m talking about the KangoGift solutions. The participation award type of recognition is about as popular as we might think. But when some of the organizations scratched just below the surface they found out that employees wanted some type of experience. Day at the spa, tickets to a local event of some sort in essence something special and memorable. The appropriate steps were taken and the appropriate lessons were learned.

Machine learning had identified a problem that resulted in some investigation which resulted in a solution that benefited the entire organization.

Put you into the driver's seat by identifying cultural matters unique to your organization and providing means of dealing with them--Let me continue on with the example of the organization that learned about experience rewards. They found a new way to engage with the employees and provide them with that essential authentic engagement by acting in a direct and focused fashion.

This is one of the great values of machine learning is that you can get ahead of these cultural matters that, in the past, you had to wait for the bad reaction before you had a chance to shift and deal with. You also now have a better understanding of what your cultures are, what they value and what’s important to them. That opportunity to increase employee engagement and create a more authentic experience exist more strongly because you can create the environment that allows for it.

One issue I will deal with very briefly is the matter of artificial intelligence (AI) and using machine learning to identify culture. While AI does have an evolving role in machine learning and organizational culture it is a growing one. As of now from my perspective there aren’t any direct action steps it can take because everything requires human interactions.

So let me leave you with three direct takeaways from machine learning and organizational culture:

  • You are now able to develop parameters to measure your culture, in a variety of ways, and find any outliers that you can address on an ongoing basis
  • You can quickly find out what the cultural issues are and create solutions which will help all managers succeed while strengthening employee engagement.
  • You will be managing your cultures in such a way that you create a stronger and more authentic experience for all of your employees

Machine learning is lifting the veil of the terrifying world of sub and micro-cultures. Now comes the point where you don’t have to walk around half in fear and the other in mystery about what’s going on in your own organization. Machine learning is putting culture in your hands and letting you know what to do about it.




Todd Horton