“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” is a famous quotation attributed to the late business management guru Peter Drucker. So, why did Drucker make this statement? Because workplace culture is the operationalizing of an organization’s values. Culture guides employee decisions on their technical needs and plans, and how employees interact with others. Good culture creates an internal coherence (logic and consistency) in actions taken by a very diverse group of employees.
Some may believe that culture cannot be “engineered,” and that it just happens. It is true that culture happens whether you want it to or not. It is the DNA of the company and is in large part created by the founders – not by their words so much as their actions. So, the very decision to not try to create a corporate culture, or worse, to not have company values, is in fact your choice of what culture will prevail – and often this is not for the better.
Workplace Culture is the behavior that results when a group arrives at a set of, rules that are generally unspoken and unwritten rules for working together. It is also made up of all the life experiences each employee brings to the organization and is especially influenced by the organization’s founder, executives, and other managerial staff because of their decision-making role and strategic direction. However, every employee has an impact on the culture developed at work. A simpler way to describe workplace culture is that culture is to an organization what personality is to an individual.
In 2015 Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business published a report on the impact of culture in an organization. From the 1,800 plus executives interviewed across the US and Canada, they reported that more than 90 percent of executives said culture is important at their firms, and 78 percent said culture is among the top five things that make their company valuable. But only 15 percent said their own corporate culture is exactly where it needs to be, and 92 percent said they believe improving their firm’s corporate culture would improve the value and success of the company.
Workplace culture is important because it links company culture with things like employee engagement, happiness, productivity, retention rate and positive recruitment efforts and more. Workplace culture can be just as important as your overall business strategy because it can either bolster or erode your organization and your long-term objectives.
You might be asking just how one can go about evaluating the culture in their organization. There are any number of ways to look at the cultural characteristics of your organization. I wrote a blog on this titled “Characteristics of Workplace culture.” In that blog I provided a brief outline of the seven characteristics of successful company cultures. These are great clues to the culture of your organization. Another way to look at your organization’s culture is to conduct an assessment. I would recommend this is best handled and conducted by a third party.
One simple way you can assess and observe the culture in your organization is to take a walk around the building and look at some of the physical signs of culture.
- How is the space allocated?
- Where are the offices located?
- How much space is given to whom?
- Look where people are located?
- What is posted on bulletin boards or displayed on walls?
- What is displayed on desks or in other areas of the building? In the work groups? On lockers or closets?
- How are common areas utilized?
- What do people write to one another? What is said in memos or email? What is the tone of the messages (formal or informal, pleasant or hostile, etc.)?
- How often do people communicate with one another?
- Is all communication written, or do people communicate verbally?
- What interaction do you see between employees?
- How much emotion is expressed during the interaction?
These are just a few of the questions to answer when you observe and assess your organizational culture. Take a culture walk frequently to observe organizational culture in action. A frequent walk-about will provide you with a good picture of your culture and allow you to reach a point where you will be able to feel and assess the subtle differences you observe over your multiple trips through the organization.
So, once you have a good idea of your organization’s culture, the question is, how do you go about changing it?
This is not an easy task done in a week or two. The culture in your organization has developed and evolved over several years to decades. Any change will take it time. But here are the various steps in creating an organizational change.
We often hear about the various companies that are re-organizing every year or two. In part, this is designed to bring a new ISSUE or CHANGE into the mix, requiring more change and adjustment to the organization’s culture. There is a thought that a regular adjustment to the organization is good as it keeps the workplace culture growing, changing and adjusting and not being permitted to get old, stale or abused.
If you desire assistance in either understanding or determining your workplace culture, feel free to contact Invista Performance Solutions. We have a variety of tools, assessments and people available that can help you better understand your organization’s culture.
This blog is part 3 of a 3-part series. Please find the links to part 1 and part 2 below:
1st Blog: The Origins of Organizational Culture
2nd Blog: Characteristics of Workplace Culture