Towards Creating a High-Performance Culture [Session Summary]


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The following article is a short summary of a presentation by Steve Correa, CHRO at Diageo India at The CHRO Virtual Summit 2018.

When tasked with creating a high-performing culture, there are a number of key factors that should be taken into consideration. Steve Correa, CHRO of Diageo India provided attendees at The CHRO Virtual Summit with an overview of the theory and practice behind this task. To preface the transformation, Correa gave the audience an introduction to the unique characteristics of India’s marketplace, and in particular the context of the highly regulated local alcoholic beverage industry. As Diageo emerged from previous distributor United Spirits, the context of operations had changed dramatically; reflecting changing regulatory and social attitudes. For the company, this was a reflexive task that involved carefully understanding how India’s burgeoning consumer base and potential employees would engage with the brand – and then formulating a plan to grow the organization and it’s performance with the help of the external environment, not in spite of it.

“Culture is not a given – it is an outcome”

Again, knowing the context of the market and the ramifications for the business is key. Driving performance ambition depends on having a clear image of how your organization can fit into, and rise to the top of the marketplace. This means that all HR professionals need to have a background awareness of key business imperatives, from knowing the three distinct Indian alcohol consumer types, to ensuring that positive (harm reduction) drinking campaigns are in place. This knowledge is a core part of understanding the business strategy, which HR must of course be acutely aware of. The result of this approach is the development of a unique employer branding campaign, whereby the right talent can be attracted according to the organization’s cultural and ethical positions, and also so that the company can be branded as an employer of distinction in the digital media age.

So what’s driving the performance ambition transformation? When we look at what the components of a winning organization are, it’s of course very important to look at how performance management practices take place. At Diageo India, Correa says that each performance transformation journey begins with the individual. However, it is amplified by establishing an organizational approach to developing a performance culture that is set by the tone of top leadership. One of the most important elements of in this quest to develop a high-performance culture is what Correa describes as “Transformational Leadership”. The premise is that leaders should change how they lead so that individuals are much more inclusive and aligned with the organizational habits and values. Furthermore, leaders should act as teachers – guides, rather than managers in the traditional sense.

“Everyone is a custodian of change”

Correa says that it’s critical for leaders to help each employee discover their purpose and to connect it to Diageo’s purpose, as setting a cultural standard for leadership and accountability is a real step towards amplifying employee purpose both internally and externally. To structure this process, Correa outlines that this transformation involves an approximate mobilization of 70% change leadership, and 30% organizational levers. The result is that the core aspects of changing the performance culture is left up to individual agency, while the organization’s tools, structures, programs and initiatives provide an added framework to ensure cultural changes stick. The new organizational mechanisms being implemented include; shifting decision making from hierarchies to networked clusters, building functional reporting (as opposed to solely siloed channels), increased analytics and digital innovation, ensuring business partnering is established across functions, and increasing agility by removing ‘layers’ of redundant roles.

In summation, the key message in Correa’s presentation is that “culture transformation is owned by all”. This is an important point to remember, because it takes individual agency and individual responsibility to empower any collective change. In empowering its employees to improve themselves, they in turn improve the organization – with the help of new available ‘levers’. It’s a symbiotic catch-22 scenario that gives Diageo India a great chance at creating a sustainable high-performing culture.

If you missed Steve’s presentation (or indeed any others), you can sign up on The CHRO Virtual Summit website for free and view it until June 30th!


The 3rd HR Congress Brussels, November 27-28 will feature a selection of sessions that will explore this topic and much more! Make sure you follow The HR Congress Blog and #HRCongress18 to stay posted on all the latest news, updates and content from the world of work!

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