Organisational Culture – The Importance of Core Values
As each business tries to differentiate itself externally to its clients and customers by projecting a specific brand with its own intrinsic values and culture, it also needs to build these values into its internal organisational culture. In essence, organisational culture encompasses all the social norms and structures within a company that drives the behaviour of employees on a day to day basis. It is the personality of an organisation.
Core values are extremely important in creating an organisational culture. One company may decide to place special importance on attention to detail, whilst another may choose to focus on exemplary customer service. With these core values in place, the organisation can implement policies to promote them. Organisational culture dictates how the business is run and how it interacts with customers, employees and society. It also guides the decision-making process in terms of how much freedom is allowed for the creation of new ideas and for employee expression. The way that the decision-making power is arranged and information is circulated in the company is also part of the organizational culture.
With the emerging start-up scene, companies are now paying much more attention to their organisational culture and that of competitors. Companies like Zappos, for example, even make it part of the recruiting process, conducting a “cultural fit” interview that guides half the hiring decision process (Heathfield, 2016). They even offer employees $2,000 if they decide to quit after the first week of training, to make sure that everyone they hire fits in with their culture. Measures like this ensure that all employees subscribe fully to the social structure of a company, which results in lower employee turnover rates, increased efficiency, and fewer internal conflicts.
Another aspect of organisational culture is its ability to build morale. Warby Parker, an online spectacles retailer, places great emphasis on positive work culture (Big Spaceship, 2016). They have a special ‘culture team’ that organises lunches, company events and after-work programs. There is always something for employees to look forward to. These events promote a sense of community between employees.
A weak organisational culture can arise from vague or unrealistic values that can lead to inconsistent decision-making. If employees aren’t quickly made aware of the kind of decision-making and work that the company expects, they will have difficulty acting in a coherent way with each other. If values are very obvious and followed strictly within a company, new employees quickly grasp the kind of behaviour that is expected from them, creating a more coherent and effective organisational unit that meets its clients needs.
As well as facilitating consistency in aims and objectives, a strong organisational culture also provides informal direction – meaning that even when employees aren’t specifically told to do something by supervisors, they know what is expected of them. This creates stability in an organisation and is especially important when it functions as an’ organisational immune system’ during hard times. Indeed, building a sense of community means that obstacles can be conquered more easily with teamwork. It also creates a sense of identity in employees as they believe they belong to a greater whole that is well defined in its values and direction.
However, it is also important to recognise that a strong organisational culture can be an impediment to progress. It may hinder change, for example, leading companies to stagnate. The stronger the organisational culture, the harder it is to change and the more difficult it is to incorporate new values. It can also create very uniform and consistent behaviour in employees, where new ideas and innovation are hard to come by.
The key to a strong organisational culture is the creation of a realistic and specific set of values. It is important to choose employees who share a belief in these values and create programs and policies that promote these values. The result is a coherent unit where decision-making is consistent and underpinned by the core values.
Big Spaceship (2016) We have a culture crush on Warby Parker. Big Spaceship. Available from: http://www.bigspaceship.com/warby-parker-culture/ [Last accessed 12/01/2016].
Heathfield, S.M. (2016) 20 ways Zappos reinforces its company culture. About.com. Available from: http://humanresources.about.com/od/organizationalculture/a/how-zappos-reinforces-its-company-culture.htm [Last accessed 12/01/2016].