We all have our own unique personalities that set us apart from everyone else and define us. Similarly, every organisation has its own vision, rules, practices and guidelines. This is essentially the organisation’s personality. This is known as organisational culture.
Defining Organisational Culture
Distinguished Professor of Management, Jennifer Chatman states that organisational culture is “A system of shared assumptions, values, and beliefs that show people what is appropriate and inappropriate behaviour.”
These shared values will influence people within your organisation and regulate how they behave. Every organisation will create and develop its own culture. This will provide boundaries to ensure everyone acts in a way that mirrors the company values. It is vital for all employees to understand this culture if they want to be successful.
The seven characteristics of organisational culture
It is widely accepted that organisational culture has seven key characteristics. Every organisation will value each of these characteristics, which, when combined, will define the organisation.
Companies that value innovation will encourage their people to be brave and take risks. This will empower people and inspire them to think creatively. Companies who do not value innovation will have set guidelines and practices that must be adhered to.
Attention to detail:
This dictates the level to which employees are expected to be accurate in their work. For some organisations, attention to detail is key for success. Financial organisations and law firms are prime examples of this.
A culture that places a high value on this will expect their employees to undertake their duties with precision. A culture that places a low value on this will adopt a “try your best” attitude. Putting less pressure on everyone.
Companies that value outcome, will focus on results, but not on the processes. They will strive for results by any means necessary. Companies that value the processes will believe that when everything is done correctly, the outcome will take care of itself.
Organisations that value their people will consider how their decisions affect everyone. These companies will value their staff and will give them input in organisational decisions. They will not simply focus on the traditional P&L, but also what we refer to as “The 2nd P&L” – People and Leaders. The inverse of this is when companies adopt strict policies and procedures and are more focused on financials than people.
Companies that organise work activities around teams instead of individuals are advocates for teamwork. They emphasise cooperation and collaboration. Cultures that promote this will encourage positive and open relationships – at all levels.
This characteristic dictates whether everyone is expected to be forceful or not, when dealing with competitors. Companies with an aggressive organisational culture will strive to outperform their competitors at all costs. Companies who oppose this, will focus on their own performance more than their competitors’.
A company who encourages stability will be administrative and rule-orientated. They will focus more on maintaining their output and processes, rather than growth. Companies who do not value stability, will regularly adapt their processes and practices.
The importance of organisational culture
A strong organisational culture will ensure that everyone aligns with the company’s values. This will positively impact on every part of business.
Here are some ways organisational culture can improve business:
An organisation’s identity is under-pinned by its culture. The processes and values of an organisation will contribute to its brand image. Employees, clients, customers and the public will all have their own perceptions of your organisation. This is largely determined by its culture.
A company with a clear organisational culture will easily be able to align new starters to the company’s goals, and values. They will have a clear set of practices and beliefs. This will encourage new starters to adhere to their processes and rules of engagement.
If your employees view themselves as part of the culture, they will make decisions for the greater good of the organisation. It will also ensure your people will remain loyal during periods of organisational change and won’t consider jumping ship.
When your people are aware of the company goals and vision – they will have a clearer sense of what is expected of them and why. This provides everyone with direction, which will keep your people on-task.
Strong organisational cultures create a sense of community and cohesion. This will help to unite all your people – irrespective of their backgrounds. By encouraging a shared culture within your workplace, you will create a sense of acceptance and diversity. This will promote better communication, thus improving collaborative projects and reducing conflicts.
Tips to improve organisational culture
Even the best company cultures still have room for improvement. If organisational culture is not on the agenda, or you let your standards slip then you risk both retention and recruitment declining.
This is evidenced by best-selling author and ‘personal branding guru’ Dan Schawbel, who suggests “The only thing that companies can do to increase retention rates is to create a superior work culture where employees have friends, are engaged in their work and get perks.”
Let’s examine how you can improve your organisation’s culture:
It is vital to listen to your employees and create dialogue with them. By creating an environment where your people feel comfortable enough to reach out to you – you will promote honesty and transparency. This will help you to learn how everyone is feeling, so you can remedy concerns and build on successes.
This comes hand-in-hand with listening. Clear communication means sharing your thoughts, plans and targets whilst accepting open feedback. This will ensure your people feel motivated, valued and engaged. This will noticeably improve productivity.
Talk to your people regularly and create systems so everyone knows how to contact you. Consider adopting regular pulse surveys. They will help you accurately gauge how your people are feeling, whilst creating two-way conversations. This will highlight what needs to stop, start, change and continue to improve culture and ultimately profits.
Empower and trust:
It is impossible to know everything that goes on within your organisation. It is therefore essential to trust your workers and empower them to make the right call. This may seem quite daunting, but the benefits for your organisation and its culture are huge.
Manish Goel, from computer software company Aerospike Inc says “It is important for the entire company to know that they are an integral part of the company’s success.” Before adding, “Control outcomes, not behaviours.”
A strong organisational culture will promote a sense of community and provide a platform for everyone to contribute towards shared goals.
When done correctly, it will breed a culture of trust, engagement and productivity. This will make your organisation a better place to work, which will improve retention, recruitment and profit.