What does Organizational Culture Mean?
Organizational Culture…what makes a great place to work?
Written by: Robert Moran
One of the best ways to find out what an organization’s culture is about is to ask someone who has worked there for about 3-6 months – At this point they have seen what it’s like to be there but have not yet become part of the culture. The way people describe an organization’s culture may be driven by nine key elements.
Vision, Mission, Values – Does the organization have a clear vision (who we want to be – where we want to go)? Is the Mission (What we do) meaningful and inspiring? Can people connect to it and find purpose in it? Are the values (what we believe) real? Do people really live them in their daily interactions at work? Those are all questions that an organization with a positive culture can answer with a Yes!
Behaviors – Patterns of behavior come from somewhere. They are often taught to new hires by leaders and employees within the first six months on the job. Organizations with a positive culture have behaviors where people respectfully provide excellent service to each other and, ultimately, the external customers. In a negative culture, where fear is driving force, people may do only what is minimally required and no more – they may finger point and place blame.
Standards – Expectations of everyone who works here. Positive cultures often have clear universal standards for behavior and practices. These universal standards clarify the details – they are the specific behaviors that bring the values to life.
Accountability – Organizations with a positive culture empower people to make good decisions and they do not turn the other cheek to poor behavior. In a negative culture, employees with poor behaviors go unaddressed – therefore the good employees who want to be engaged become demoralized.
Measurement – What gets measured gets improved. When a culture understands what is most important to the customer and measures that routinely, performance increases and staff are more engaged.
Working Systems and Processes – Organizations have customers. Those customers are served by staff and leaders. Positive cultures have continuously improving systems and processes that work for the customer. By involving the front line in this work of streamlining processes, employees are set up for success and they like their jobs.
Managing Feedback – Organizations with a positive culture manage feedback well – they close the loop. Listening to feedback coming from customers or employees and following up by responding back is a huge trust builder in an organization’s culture.
Recognition – It is typically the informal acknowledgement of employees for a job well done, giving credit where credit is due, and a thank you that go a long way. Leaders of organizations with a positive culture get that and live by it.
Communication – The glue that ties the culture together. In positive cultures, employees feel well informed. Communication takes the form of not only formal venues such as newsletters and publications but the informal channels of managing the rumor mill in daily stand up meetings and water cooler chats.
And yes, it all starts at the top of the organization. Inspired leaders are the ones that care about the culture and make these things happen.