The way a company organizes itself, the policies, and the conduct of the staff all provide an insight into the work culture it follows. Simple things like the way its people sit at their desks or the way the leadership team interacts with them are indicative of the larger ethos of the organisation.

And there is a stark difference in how companies with different cultures work and are perceived by those within and outside it.

Larger companies like Google, for instance, strive to maintain a fiercely open culture – something usually associated with start-ups – “…where everyone is a hands-on contributor and feels comfortable sharing ideas and opinions,” the company states on its official blog.

Other companies like Facebook and Twitter also follow the same ideal, mainly that an open culture (where employees work flexible hours, dress casually and enjoy free healthy meals) makes employees happy and in turn promotes productivity.

Traditional work culture, on the other hand, involves companies following a well-defined hierarchy – where the head of the organisation is the final authority and employees work in a disciplined environment, playing a limited role in the company’s decision making process.

This discipline is considered vital to the way the firm functions and history has shown several companies succeeding following this. GE (General Electric) is perhaps the best example of such an organisation.

Technology the game-changer

Most companies that have existed over the last several decades followed the traditional form of operations, but things changed with the advent of technology – first led by the Internet and then followed by mobile phones and social media.

India and the economies of other developing nations grew rapidly in the last decade, giving rise to a more relaxed open culture where employee satisfaction and work environment was an important reason why people chose to work at a company. Businesses in turn had to rework their models to ensure they retained the best talent.

Traditional barriers were broken down, giving rise to transparency and open spaces for employees to interact and let ideas flow irrespective of hierarchies. But ushering in openness did not mean organisations looked to discard traditional culture altogether.

The best of both worlds

The real winners are perhaps those organisations that combine the virtues of both cultures. Companies are waking up to this idea now, but adapting is easier said than done.

So how then can companies achieve this?

Target setting: Businesses need to set short-term and long-term goals to ensure that employees are productive. Setting targets allows managements to measure performance and conduct reviews. This defines a structure and yet allows companies to do achieve more.

At Bajaj Finserv, targets are set by the company and employees are offered quarterly incentives to achieve them. As the financial year begins, all team members plan their objectives with the senior management. Those who are part of the senior management then make an annual operating plan and projects to achieve these objectives. This may be construed as a traditional work culture method.

However, once the target is set, the execution is left to every employee to achieve the target. Adequate support is provided to them to help achieve their objectives. Recognition, by means of awards for outstanding performances at every level, comes to those who work for it. Top performers are awarded with trips abroad with the focus being on encouraging people to rise beyond their key result areas (KRAs). This falls under the tenets of open culture.

Listening organisation: An open work culture means building a listening organisation. Breaking down cubicles or cabins or organising events to get people together are actions that are needed. However, the most important thing is to let employees know that the company listens to them.

Timely feedback from employees must be converted into projects to ensure employee satisfaction. There is no reason for any business to simply hear complaints and feedback, and not act on them.

At Bajaj Finserv, we believe that employees should adopt self-management to survive and thrive. Top level management and leaders must share ideas and take suggestions from the team. The idea is to let roles and responsibilities to fluctuate. Another important aspect of building a listening organisation is transparency.

We hold Confluence, our regular town hall-style meetings where employees can ask questions and discuss issues with the top management directly or anonymously.

Work-life balance: The interests of employees have to be taken into account to ensure adequate attention span and productivity. An open environment helps in meeting the objective of an optimal work-life balance. Employee engagement initiatives often help in that context.

Besides offering incentives to motivate achievements, Bajaj Finserv has programs such as Fulcrum and Ruminate, which are vital to the learning and development of our people.

Employees who excel in dynamic work environments and excel are rewarded under the Excelsior League. Going beyond the work-related growth of its employees, Bajaj Finserv also conducts a number of activities to help people grow outside of the work space.

Talent hunts such as Talentino and cultural events such as Family Day and Children’s Day are annual features where the organisation involves not just the employees but also their loved ones in fun events.

And it is perhaps the balance between both work cultures – Traditional and Open – that helps Bajaj Finserv be counted as the preferred workplace for the best talent from all around the country.