Organisational or company culture, also referred to as corporate culture, is a key part of the leadership and HR agenda these days – it can make or break a company. Having the right culture to support your plans is not just ‘nice to have’ but a ‘must’ item on the checklist to ensure the workforce helps you move forward rather than being an impediment to progress. Over two-thirds of millennials look to the culture of an organisation over the salary when they are considering joining an employer. Mergers and acquisitions, agile transformation, moving to a hybrid work environment, change in leadership, focus on innovation, attracting the right talent etc. all demand a spotlight being shone on the most effective and compatible culture within an organisation.
At Global Business Culture, we take a data-driven analytical approach to measuring and defining organisational or company culture. Using our world-class Multi Focus Model of organisational culture, we help you measure, analyse and, if needed, change the culture of your company to support and accelerate your strategy execution. Although we work on a vast array of projects, there are four key areas we focus on the most:
Organisational or company culture is a term we hear more and more in the corporate world. It is an increasing part of the conversation of company success and failure. Leaders want to create (or work) in companies with a great culture. Candidates seem to increasingly prioritise company culture over other factors such as salary. Companies use innovative ways to create cultures to stand apart from the competition.
But what do we mean by culture? We define culture as the collective programming of the human mind by which one group differs from another. Whether we are talking about a small start-up or a nation, this collective programming of the group has a major influence on how the group behaves and works. Within organisations, we define it as the way in which members of the organisation relate to each other, their work, and the outside world in comparison to other organisations. It represents the mindset of the workforce, which influences every individual within the organisation directly or indirectly in how they feel, behave and work.
Organisational culture can be broken down into layers to understand it better. Just like an onion, the outer layers are easily visible, and tend to be easier to change. And as you go deeper, it becomes more difficult to see the factors contributing to the culture and these are usually harder to change. Below you can see what each layer constitutes:
Symbols, heroes, and rituals together constitute the organisational or company culture and are also referred to as practices. These can be practised and can be changed with effort. Whereas the innermost values are set in the early years of one’s life and are mostly unchangeable. Someone growing up in the UK will carry British values with them their whole life but can learn or adapt to new organisational cultures as they move from one company to another. So, the national culture of the members and where the company is operating influences the culture of the organisation.
Organisational or company culture can be categorised into four different definitions and manifestations.
Optimal culture is defined as the culture that is needed to realise and support the strategy of the company. It not only looks at the mindset of the workforce but also considers the internal and external environment, market, and other factors. As each organisation is unique, so is the culture needed for that organisation. Optimal culture is tailored for each organisation and the various functions and groups within the organisation which can have different cultures from each other to best support the overall and the local strategies. Your R&D teams may need more room and flexibility to cater for better innovation whereas the finance teams are more likely to need stricter processes. Leadership and HR teams must assess their optimal culture every time they plan a new strategic direction for the organisation or a function.
Actual Culture, as the name suggests, represents the true or ‘as-is’ culture of an organisation. This is the starting point against which all plans should be assessed, and all changes should be planned. To guarantee accuracy and objectivity, actual culture should be measured using a valid and objective method, such as our Multi-Focus Model on Organisational Culture. It is a data-driven platform with decades of research and data from organisations all over the globe.
Perceived culture is the culture that you think your organisation has – and remember that each member of the organisation may perceive a different culture from their unique vantage point. This is a very limited and subjective view of the organisation but is, unfortunately, the one used by many leaders when planning and executing their strategies. This is one of the key reasons why many organisations fail in their cultural transformation projects -they start from the wrong point.
Desired culture is the honeymoon culture described by the survey respondents. This represents the culture they would love to have if there were no restrictions internal or external. This is measured the same way as the actual culture, but respondents describe the culture they would like to have, rather than what they currently have. The desired culture is valuable in assessing the resistance or support of the workforce when change is planned toward the optimal culture. This input can be used to fine-tune and set the change targets and plan.
Organisational culture is defined as the way in which members of an organisation relate to each other, their work, and the outside world in comparison to other organisations. It has a major influence in realising the strategy of any organisation.
Multi-Focus Model on organisational culture is the outcome of the research done on organisations or companies. It concludes that the main differences among the units or functions could be explained by six factors related to organisational sociology. These six factors resulted in the six dimensions of organisational culture. These six dimensions are autonomous, meaning they work independent of each other, but they still reinforce or mitigate the impact of other dimensions.
This dimension measures the effectiveness of the organisation.
In more means-oriented cultures, employees in the organisation identify with the “how” i.e., the way in which work needs to be done. There is tendency to avoid risks and people put limited efforts in getting the job done. Each workday tends to be the same.
In more goal-oriented cultures, people identify with the “what”. Employees focus more on achieving specific internal goals or results, even at higher risks. There is more room for entrepreneurship and creativity to get to the results.
This dimension measures the orientation of the organisation.
In a more internally driven culture, employees believe that they know best what is good for the customer and the world at large. There is more focus on internal procedures and tasks based on the idea that business ethics and honesty matter most.
In a more externally driven culture, the main focus is on meeting the requirements of clients and customers. Results are most important, and a pragmatic approach is preferred, sometimes even at the expense of business ethics in extreme cases.
This dimension measures the level of control in the organisation.
In a more easy-going culture, there tends to be more flexible internal structures, lack of predictability, and less need for control and discipline. The organisation favours a lot of improvisation and innovation.
In a more strict work discipline, there are more rigid internal structures, control, and discipline to improve predictability. People tend to be more cost-conscious, punctual, and serious.
In a more locally-focused company, people tend to identify with their boss or the unit. The loyalty or focus is towards the boss over the job or the role. Workers tend to be short-term and internally focused and there is more affinity to be like everyone else.
In a more professional organisation, the identity of an employee is defined more by the profession and the content of the job. People tend to be long-term focused. There is more emphasis on learning and evolving with the outside world.
This dimension measures the accessibility of the organisation.
In a more open culture, new recruits feel immediately welcomed and quickly integrate into the organisation. People are open to both insiders and outsiders. Employees are given benefit of the doubt and have open access to information and news.
In a more closed organisation, it takes a lot longer for new employees to integrate into the organisation and feel home. You must prove yourself to become a part of the team. Information is more difficult to get, and grapevine becomes more important.
This dimension measures the management philosophy.
In a more employee-oriented organisation, people feel that their personal problems are considered more, and the company is more concerned with the welfare of its employees, sometimes even at the expense of the work.
In a more work-oriented organisation, there is more pressure to perform the task even if this is at the expense of employees. People feel that the management is only interested in the work and may feel constantly worried about losing their jobs.