HR Culture: A Path to High Impact






Few topics receive as much attention in people management as organizational culture. Culture is a complex notion that incorporates the beliefs, values, behaviors and reward systems that influence “how things work around here” on a day-to-day basis.[1] At a time of disruption in the workplace marked by new digital technologies, demographic shifts, and constant change, a focused culture offers a sense of consistency and confidence to businesses facing a dynamic environment.

Much has also been written about the role of HR in managing an organization’s culture. Talent acquisition, performance management, leadership development, career progression, total rewards and employee engagement are all key opportunities to shape and reinforce organizational culture. For example, hiring, promoting or rewarding talented individuals who work well with others to achieve common goals strengthens a culture of collaboration. On the other hand, doing so with individual “stars” who achieve results while trampling co-workers can severely damage such a culture.

But what about the culture of HR itself? HR’s prominent role as curator of an organization’s culture comes with its own significant responsibilities. Consider what happens when HR functional areas, such as talent acquisition or total rewards, don’t work well with HR Business Partners and are unable to face the business with a clear and unified approach. If HR doesn’t set an example for the rest of the organization by shaping and engaging its own culture, it will not have the credibility to effectively influence the broader organizational culture.

In previous research, we made the connection between an HR culture of empowerment, driven by bold HR leadership, and high-impact HR.[2] In a research bulletin published to Bersin members on November 10, we take this a step further by exploring how the findings of our high impact research align with the indices, or components, of Deloitte’s comprehensive culture diagnostic, CulturePath. Combining high-impact HR practices with the CulturePath core and differentiating indices can help organizations define HR success and enable high performance. Shaping a high-impact HR culture in such fashion can set an example for the entire organization.

There’s more work to be done, however. The forces currently disrupting the workplace – and HR – are not slowing down. Businesses and HR are continuously transforming themselves to take advantage of digital trends. This includes cultivating their cultures to bolster risk taking, agility, and collaboration.[3] These are all indices measured by CulturePath. We will be testing these and other CulturePath indices, and how they foster high-impact HR, in our upcoming high-impact HR survey scheduled for January. We will report our findings later in the year.

It’s an exciting time to be in HR. We hope that you will join us in exploring HR trends and advancing the knowledge of high-impact HR culture. In addition, we’d like to invite you to participate in the Bersin Research Exchange by sharing your leading practices and receiving research-based rewards like reports, diagnostics, and whitepapers. Please register here:


As used in this document, “Deloitte” means Deloitte Consulting LLP, a subsidiary of Deloitte LLP. Please see for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting.

[1] “Shape culture: Drive strategy,” Deloitte University Press / Marc Kaplan, Ben Dollar, Veronica Melian, Yves van Durme, and Jungle Wong, February 29, 2016.

[2] High-Impact HR: Building Organizational Performance from the Ground Up, Bersin by Deloitte, Deloitte Consulting LLP / David Mallon, Karen Shellenback, Josh Bersin, and Brenda Kowske, PhD, 2014.

[3] “Aligning the Organization for its Digital Future” MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte University Press / Gerald Kane, Doug Palmer, Ann Nguyen Phillips, David Kiron and Natasha Buckley, July 2016.

Jeff Mike

Jeff Mike leads Bersin by Deloitte’s HR Operations and Service Delivery research He integrates rigorous research approaches with his extensive experience leading HR functions to engage diverse practitioners and to generate actionable knowledge Jeff also teaches HR to business people and business to HR people, formally at the graduate and undergraduate levels, and informally in organizations through his boundary spanning, consultative approach to problem solving and capacity building.

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