I remember the first time I heard the term “organizational culture” in introduction to HR. The concept seemed huge, hard to get my mind around. A positive organizational culture is critical to a strong organizational culture, where leaders and followers share the same vision and mission, and all departments have goals that support them.
Now I believe that organizational culture has everything to do with healthy (supporting physical, mental, and spiritual health), happy, productive, and according to studies, way more profitable businesses. The really important piece is that the “C Suite,” where culture is driven from with the brainstorming, discussion and creation of a mission and vision that accurately establishes the purpose of the organization and how they are operating in the marketplace.
If there is a disconnect between the “C Suite” and the frontline, more than often this organization is not hitting their targets-sales, production, and delivery. I call this EFILE Tower Syndrome (not a medical term…lol) where the Senior leaders of the organization stay in their office or work in a head office, there is a disconnect right from the get-go with hiring, as we are not vetting the candidates for our core values to ensure they are an” organizational fit.” The disconnect can cause sub-culturing, often by shifts, where frontline leaders make critical decisions daily that have a major impact on product, customer service and sales. These environments are often ripe with toxic employees who, frankly, are working for a paycheck and completely miss the purpose of what they are doing. This creates lower employee engagement and do not support a positive workplace culture.
The next few paragraphs describe organizational culture from academic studies and subject matter experts. I hope that it helps to explain the link between organizational culture and performance, engagement and fulfilling organizational goals.
Organizational culture was described by Rousseau (1990) as the common elements that create a “framework including fundamental assumptions, values, behavioural norms and expectations and a larger pattern of behaviour” (Reilly III, 1991). A value is an enduring belief that specific conduct by the employee, either personally or socially, is preferable to another conduct leading to internalized normative beliefs that can guide behaviour (Reilly III, 1991). When organization or team members share values, they form the basis for social expectations or norms (Reilly III, 1991). This puts an emphasis on the meaning of events that happen in the organization and how values and norms influence the way things are done.
Leadership in organizations start the culture formation by inspiring and promoting their assumptions and expectations on followers (Belias, 2014). Schein (2004) states that as an organization starts to accomplish primary tasks the leader’s values, assumptions, and expectations about what the organization stands for become the foundation of core values of the organization and become embedded in socializing new members (Belias, 2014). Organizational leaders are the key source of influence on organizational culture. (Kotter, 2007).
The organization’s vision, mission, culture, and values should empower employees to evolve to a higher-performance and engage participation (Bell, 1999). Collins and Porras describe organizational culture, vision, and values as the “bonding glue that keep a fluid organization from evolving beyond recognition” (Tetenbaum, 1998). Jim Clifton, the CEO of Gallup Corporation, has stated that a “winning culture is one of engagement and individual consideration to an important mission or purpose” (Clifton, 2014)
Engagement is higher in a culture that values continuous learning and innovation. Continuous learning is a process through which leaders try to increase followers’ capabilities to better understand and lead the organization and its environment to accept decisions that increase organizational performance on a continual basis. Employees that are engaged in continuous learning feel that they have more opportunity, empowerment, system connection and are more engaged by strategic leadership and initiatives (Safari, 2011).
Organizational culture underpins positive, healthy and productive organizations and has everything to do with great workplaces.
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