If you’ve spent some time in a US high school, or if you enjoyed watching high school movies as a teenager, you’ll know that these institutions invest a lot of time and money into creating a WE feeling: For example, students arrive to every major campus event in T-shirts with the emblems and uni colors that also dominate the entire campus. Sporting events for their own teams have a festival character and magnitude, particularly where the selection of fast food is concerned. There are various recurrent events during every campus year, such as homecoming with a parade or community service, where students collect trash or help out with other voluntary activities.
These are just a few examples of all the ideas in which the schools and universities invest in order to bring about a communal identity. If you were to suggest something like that to a company or group in Germany, you would probably be met with a kind, tired smile, at best. It seems at least that identification and belonging are a type of service exchange sealed in the employment contract in many companies and organizations: Money for identification = sold! But is it so simple?
Apart from the cultural differences between Germans and Americans, we often also ask ourselves the question in our work as Change Mangers: How can it be that the topic of identification has so little focus from our own employers? In crises in particular, it often depends on whether a long-term employee decides on a new employer and, in the worst case, takes the entire know-how with them, without a clean handover and transfer of knowledge.
It can also be seen that, in large group structures that are significantly more anonymous than a medium-sized company due to their sheer size, a lack of identification can lead to managers focusing exclusively on the image and success of their own team and in the process making group interests purely a side issue. This is often expressed in the linguistic world with the term “silo (thinking)”. Such constellations can promote even less efficient and effective competition between Business Units, causing more damage than benefit. A further exacerbation is that group-wide efficiencies and shared values cannot be levied, as the motivation for this type of intensive, inter-disciplinary, and cross-functional work is lacking. It is even more difficult if precisely this lack of identification is completely missing between the Business Units and also the central group areas. The question then is: What still connects these company parts?
The art lies in finding out what identification formats and initiatives are well received in your company/group. Perhaps it would be better to have a big summer festival rather than the 10th ballpoint pen with the 10th transformation slogan. The best thing to do is just speak openly and directly with your employees about their ideas.
However, you should consider one thing self-critically here: The longer you have failed to procedurally and structurally support this priceless identification, the more likely it is that a “one-off action” will fail to do the trick. To return to the example from the start of the blog: It is an annually recurring process that does specifically more than a legal (employment) contract. Make a start today, it’s worth it!¹
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