What is Organizational Culture?
A healthy organizational culture helps in laying the groundwork to create and maintain a vibrant, collaborative, supportive work environment. It will help to engage employees and create a positive work environment. But can anyone in your organization express the essence of your culture if asked to describe it? If not, you will have a harder time knowing what adjustments are needed to build a better culture.
Organizational culture is not your mission statement. Organizational culture will affect what you do and how you do it, driven by why you do it. A positive culture helps you make better products and provide better services. You also help to instill that culture by attracting and retaining top talent.
In one of my past positions I saw a drastic change in our culture that affected our team effectiveness and profitability. New management and HR personnel brought in a couple of people with average skills and no self motivation. They were to provide sales support in a multi-million dollar sales division. Within 6 months the new hires began to change our culture for the worse.
The division of exceptional talent, motivated, high performers began to suffer greatly. Peers had to cover for higher than normal absenteeism. Fixing repeat errors and spending time in an effort to mentor these individuals utilized precious time each day. Customers saw the decline in service and support and began to warn of potentially looking at competitive suppliers. Internal complaints rose to supervisor and upper management levels as moral dipped to never before seen lows.
Most successful organizations put a high priority on building and maintaining a strong organizational culture by bringing in people with attributes that align with the existing culture. These attributes can be unselfishness, being a team player, having a desire to always learn, a problem solving attitude and a high prioritization to provide strong customer service.
Let’s look at another potential feature of a strong organizational culture.
Smuckers, the large producer of such products as jams, jellies, peanut butter and ice cream toppings, shapes its culture on family values. It will not advertise on shows with violent or sexual content. The late Paul Smucker gave advise to all supervisors and managers. That advise was to say thank you for as job well done and to to listen to others with their complete attention. Smuckers also hires people not just on their skills but based on their positive attitude. You can teach someone how to do a job but attitude and a professional demeanor are difficult to teach someone.
In 2010 Smuckers had sales of $4.6B. In 2016 they had revenues of $7.81B. Besides manufacturing high quality products, they have a good people formula for maintaining a successful, positive work culture which adds to their success.
A healthy culture in a healthcare organization must support open and transparent communication between co-workers and departments. Trust between managers and employees is also a key factor. Taking actions based on the goal of creating an excellent experience for the patient and family members should be a high priority for all staff members.
Some describe culture as “how things are done” or “the right way” to do things. I believe that is true but is only a partial representation of what organizational culture is.
- Organizational culture is driven by management.
- Organizational culture has instilled shared beliefs that direct decisions and actions of all employees from parking lot attendant to doctors.
- Organizational culture support, challenge, motivate, engage, and lift employees to reach maximum potential.
Some of the most successful organizations put employees first. Results follow. Many successful cultures are based on core values like trust, integrity and recognition of individuals.
Michael Watkins, professor at IMD, shared some of his thoughts in a 2013 Harvard Business Review article. He noted that organizational culture was like an immune system preventing the wrong thinking and wrong people from entering the company. So you see, a healthy organizational culture is made up of many small but important criteria that add up to a very vibrant, real, and positive work environment.
A final thought from David Novak, former CEO of YUM Brands. If you are not familiar with YUM Brands, you may be more acquainted with the company names under their umbrella such as Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and Pepsi. David was a strong proponent of giving recognition to employees and listening to their input.
In 2011 under his reign, he was managing 1.4 million employees in 120 countries with revenues of $12.6B. In the Harvard article David noted:
“Great companies talk about their work environment and the cultures they have. Making the culture your number one priority is the biggest single thing you can do.”
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