What is organisational culture?

Posted On: 07 July 2017

What is organisational culture?

Monday. We’ve all been there at some point in our lives. The alarm goes off and the disappointment sets in. The weekend is over and it’s back into the working week. A typical bout of Mondayitis. It passes—usually. But when Mondayitis turns to Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday-itis, it could be a symptom of poor organisational culture. Especially if the rest of the office has caught it too.

Read more: 'Organisational Culture to Enhance Productivity and Profit'

 

What is organisational culture?

Organisational culture, also known as company culture, corporate culture, workplace environment, is focused on the atmosphere (some might say the personality), of your workplace. It is a culmination of the values, beliefs and principles of an organisation—and its members—which governs how people behave at work.

“When you boil it down, organisational culture is the way people work together,” says Greg Allnutt, business strategist and high performance leadership coach at Advisory.Works. “It’s the pattern of behaviour that sets the tone for how everyone works and interacts.”


A brief history

Organisational culture came about in the 1970s, arguably pioneered in a paper by Andrew Pettigrew, and grew in popularity through the 80s and 90s. Today, Deloitte lists it as one of the top priorities for businesses around the world. Why? Because the right work environment not only boosts performance, but also makes for attracting and keeping loyal, long-term employees.

And that’s just the start.

 

What does a positive culture look like?

Organisational culture comes in all shapes and sizes. Some might focus on innovation (such as Google or Xero), others on equality (Facebook), or trust (Adobe, AA)—but no matter the type, all good company cultures share these common characteristics:


  • Diversity of thought—new ideas and different ways of thinking are accepted and encouraged.
  • Fairness—the way people are treated is fair and consistent across the organisation.
  • Autonomy and authority—employees enjoy a reasonable amount of freedom to get on with their work, explore ideas, express themselves, and make decisions in their day job without being unnecessarily micromanaged.
  • Organisational pride—employees take pride in who they work for, and in the work they do and why they are doing it. They feel they are making a difference or an impact as part of something bigger than them.
  • Great communication—good, open, regular and consistent communication through the workplace hierarchy that creates transparency and builds trust.
  • Strong leaders—their vision and guidance gives employees a sense of purpose and meaning in their work.
  • Competitive—they innovate and adapt to stay competitive in their industry.
  • Invest in staff—the value of upskilling, training and developing staff across all levels of the business is recognised because people want the opportunity to learn and grow.
  • Funthe staff at positive organisations actually enjoy coming into work!

“New Zealand businesses quite often don’t know how to have fun, they typically need to celebrate more and enjoy what they do,” says Greg. “Fun is not always ping pong tables and bean bags, it’s about enjoying the company of the people they work with and completing work in a state of flow.”

“A healthy culture is one that can bring different sorts of people together,” says Greg. “You’ll have the jets, the people who are happy steady-eddies, and the people who are just there to do the work. A culture that is able to motivate, inspire and develop all these types of people is one that will be successful – and it starts at the top with the leaders.”

 

What culture is not

It’s important to recognise the difference between ‘culture’ and ‘climate’. As HPC Network describes: if culture is the personality of an organisation, then climate is its mood. Culture is a long-term thing, and takes years to develop, while climate is more to do with the day-to-day, week-to-week, or even month-to-month. A negative climate—created from cuts to funding for example—will, like bad weather, blow over. Negative culture, however, will persist for the long-term unless addressed.

 

Core values: the roadmap for culture

Since an organisational culture is the sum of values and behaviour, a company’s core values play a major role in defining what its culture is––or will be. Core values are the are the attributes you want instilled in your team and pave the way for how employees treat each other and customers. The best core values are usually based on behaviours, such as “We Laugh at Each Other, and Ourselves” or “Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded”.

As Brian Warren, Former CEO of Isaacs Construction, once said: “Our core values are designed to be acted on by everyone in the organisation. They are not corporate statements, but are written in everyday language.”

As a CEO or General Manager, if your core values don’t match the desired behaviours you want to see everyday at the office, it might be a sign to take a closer look at your organisational culture and the core values you’ve based it on.


Learn more about the benefits of a good organisational culture, how to identify poor culture and improve it in our free ebook, 'Organisational Culture to Enhance Productivity and Profit'.

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Topics: Company Culture