What is organizational culture and how can I identify it?

What is organizational culture and how can I identify it?

Learn everything about organizational culture: its definition, types, examples and much more!

If someone asked you about your business’s organizational culture, would you be able to answer?

It’s one of the main concepts that has recently emerged in the business world. It has gained space and is becoming an essential factor for an organization’s performance and productivity.

A business’s organizational culture is one of the pillars that lead to a team of employees reaching its full potential, and of the internal structure itself.

Would you like to learn more about this concept, its importance, and how you can identify it? Then keep reading this article to find out about it and much more!

Índice
What is organizational culture? Who defines the organization’s culture? What makes up an organizational culture? What are the levels that make up the organizational culture? What are the types of organizational culture? What does the business gain from building a strong culture? What is the role of leadership in organizational culture? What are some examples of organizational cultures? Is it possible to dovetail the organizational culture when hiring? What is the organizational culture’s relationship with internal communication? Does organizational culture help in people’s development?

What is organizational culture?

A business’s organizational culture can be viewed as an abstract concept and at the same time, as a concept applicable to a business.

It’s a very complex set of values, beliefs, missions and goals that guide the way an organization acts, being shared by all of its employees.

A business with a well-defined organizational culture is based on a system with a solid foundation that makes it unique, valuing the way it relates both internally as well as with the outside public.

Basically, organizational culture is how a business perceives, thinks, feels, and acts through its team and representatives, which is known and practiced by all.

Used since the 18th century, the term was synonymous with the management of groups of people. However, only in 1950 did it start being associated with the business environment.

One of the main names in this line of thought was expert Edgar Schein in his book, Organizational Culture and Leadership, of 1982. According to the author, “culture is to a group what personality or character is to an individual.”

Thus, we can easily make a correlation between what an organizational culture is and how it’s perceived within a business, becoming the moral and ethical compass that guides all precepts of internal and external performance.

Who defines the organization’s culture?

As you might imagine, organizational culture is born from the identity and mentality of a business’s own founders. It’s their worldview that will determine the organization’s values, being strongly based on each founder’s personal beliefs.

Thus, creating and stimulating the growth of organizational culture is to develop a line of thought that will often reflect one’s own thinking.

Of course, it is expected that such values can be followed by a legacy that will survive many generations.

Theoretically, an organizational culture presents this type of definition based on the personal values of its founders. However, in practice, what may happen is the creation and involuntary development of several micro-cultures, especially in large businesses.

In this case, it is the role of managers and leaders to deal with this type of phenomenon, making sure that all internal cultural variations move forward hand in hand and of course, with the main reference of the original organizational culture.

What makes up an organizational culture?

An organizational culture is, as we mentioned earlier, the organization’s character so to speak. It is therefore, guided by a series of precepts that can and should be clearly defined, and even documented.

Thus, every organizational culture starts from three key pillars of establishing a business: mission, vision and values.

It’s from the integration of these pillars that it’s possible to develop a culture with a strong purpose, engaged and inspiring, making all employees work in sync in order to achieve common goals.

Mission

The mission is a clear and concise statement about the organization’s purposes and its responsibilities towards its customers. In order to define your mission statement, try to answer questions such as:

  • Why does the business exist?
  • What does it do?
  • For whom?

From these questions, it becomes easier to find a business’s greater mission, thus assisting in the definition and creation of a cohesive and consistent organizational culture based on the thinking of its founders.

Vision

Vision is the description of the organization’s ideal future. It’s merely a statement that reflects the goals you want to pursue, and that must be achieved through the efforts of each individual and team, with the distribution and use of the available resources.

It’s in your vision that your aspiration and inspiration come in. Every professional and organization aspire to become something greater, with a major goal in view. And consequently, they are inspired by something that guides this trajectory, making the journey worth taking.

The definition of a business’s vision must be a practical and realistic statement so as not to be a simple desire that is impossible to be achieved.

In other words, it must suggest results that can be met. Answering a few questions will help you define your vision. Check them out below:

  • What does your business intend to become?
  • Where will my business be in x years?
  • What will my business be in the future?
  • What are the paths that leadership and employees must take in order to achieve our goals?

Values

Lastly, values are the principles and beliefs that serves as the guide for all behaviors, actions and decisions of employees while they carry out their duties.

Comparatively to the idea of individual character, values guide the execution of the mission according to the direction of the chosen vision, functioning as ethical and moral precepts that delimit the organization’s line of action.

Therefore, they are a set of principles that assist those involved in the commitment to the organization’s ideals both in their internal action and in their attitude towards the community.

In an integrated manner, we can then define values as the set of basic and unchangeable rules that will guide all employee behavior and attitude, in such a way that, by carrying out the mission, the previously defined vision and goals are achieved.

What are the levels that make up the organizational culture?

We can divide the organizational culture into three distinct levels: Artifacts, shared values, and assumptions.

Artifacts – What the public sees

In the first (and outermost) layer are those characteristics that are easily identified by the public, being considered the first level of an organizational culture.

The organizational chart, the existing hierarchy, the levels of formality in internal and external treatment, the product catalog, symbols and branding (development of the brand) are examples of items that make up the artifact layer.

Shared values – What the business says

The second organizational culture level is made up by the shared values, present in a deeper layer than the first, but not completely hidden.

As an example of shared values, we can mention the values established by the business, its behavior rules, the organization’s philosophy and everything that justifies its operation in the market.

Assumptions – What the business believes

Lastly, in the third and deepest organizational culture level are the assumptions, inserted in the organization’s core, acting intrinsically in everything done within it and that will hardly be changed.

Impossible to be seen from the outside, the assumption level is made up of the unconscious feelings and beliefs of its founders. It is here that we find the real purpose of any organization.

What are the types of organizational culture?

Finding out the cultural characteristics of your business is very important in order to build teams that are aligned with the organization’s purpose. Thus, it is also essential to understand the type of organizational culture being practiced or the one you intend to apply.

According to Irish philosopher Charles Handy, specialized in organizational behavior, there are four different types of organizational culture: power, role, task, and person.

The power culture

In business of this type, the organizational culture is oriented to the power exercised and maintained by only a few leaders who end up influencing everyone else involved.

It’s quite common in small organizations where all the decision-making power is centered on the business’s owner and founder.

An organization with this type of culture will hardly have well-established rules and norms, being mainly guided by the results obtained in the short and medium-term.

The role of culture

Unlike the culture of power, the culture of roles is responsible for the performance of organizations in which there are extremely well-defined guidelines, rules, positions, and duties. In this case, the decision-making power is determined by the highest position.

Generally, organizations that work with the culture of roles present a hierarchical and extremely bureaucratic structure, avoiding risk-taking and acting within its limitations pre-established by clear, and often, harsh rules.

The task culture

In this type of organizational culture, the focus is on the business’s projects, leaving the decision making in the hands of the workers solving the problems. The business may also have specific teams for the solution of issues.

Thus, this type of business is usually more flexible, allowing changes in the organization of power and giving much more leeway so that employees can act creatively.

The person culture

Lastly, organizations that act according to a culture of people always consider each employee first, regardless of the positions they occupy.

The performance of this type of organization is always seeking to listen to everyone’s ideas, considering them when acting.

The organization is sufficiently aware to understand that it only exists because each person acts to do so. Therefore, encouraging and valuing employees is one of its main actions.

In addition to the four types described above, Charles Handy also names organizational culture as being strong, weak, adaptive or conservative.

Strong culture

In businesses that have a strong organizational culture, each value is present in the performance and mindset of all members. The culture is organized and structured, and is capable of easily influencing the team’s behaviors and actions.

In addition, it’s part of all levels of the productive chain, present from the hiring of an employee to the completion of a contract.

Weak culture

On the other hand, organizational cultures considered weak are those that allow constant changes to their values and how they act. This usually happens with new business in the market and that are still figuring out their form of operating.

Adaptive culture

Strong or weak, an adaptive culture is open to changes and innovation. An organization with this type of culture is usually quite flexible, constantly updating its values and characteristics.

Guided especially by a sense of innovation and by applying creative decisions, they are in constant transition. However, they present sufficient stability to ensure that their identity remains unchanged.

Conservative culture

Unlike businesses that are organized in a flexible manner, those who have a conservative culture hardly open up to changes to their habits, let alone their values.

Bureaucratic and conservative, they have such deep-rooted rules and customs that, regardless of any changes in the outside world, they remain unaltered for a long time.

What does the business gain from building a strong culture?

As we’ve just explained, a strong organizational culture is one that is completely embedded in the business’s reality, and is capable of influencing all actions taken towards the organization’s mission.

Thus, it’s much easier to apply its precepts to all levels of the productive chain, since the culture itself presents possibilities of understanding and application by each employee.

Building a strong culture has the result that the values, mission, and vision are followed according to the precepts defined by the founders in a much more organic and natural manner.

A strong culture is also responsible for a well-established performance scenario, which is responsible for a clarity in everyone’s work that facilitates the fulfillment of the goals.

What is the role of leadership in organizational culture?

Organizational culture and leadership are concepts that are closely connected. Responsible for the creation and application of the culture, leaders play an extremely important role in its success.

As you’ve seen earlier, as founders of the organization, they should be responsible for the development of their own culture, establishing the mission, vision and values.

When they play a team and sector management role, leaders are responsible for the dissemination of the culture, helping employees understand its precepts and in its daily application.

Leaders must be clearly and fully aware of the organizational culture’s importance and all of the elements that make it up, since they are responsible for replicating it to all those involved in the organization’s different processes.

What are some examples of organizational cultures?

São vários os exemplos de cultura organizacional presentes em negócios famosos do mundo inteiro. A seguir, listamos alguns exemplos.

Twitter

Twitter focuses on its passion for the organization, where each person feels motivated to collaborate with its goals.

With a laid-back atmosphere, rooftop meetings, free meals, yoga classes, and unlimited vacations are common.

When you talk to Twitter employees, you find that they love working with smart and engaged people. They all feel they’re part of a bigger and more important project.

Google

Google has been a market standard in organizational culture for many years now, also influencing many organizations around the world.

In addition to offering free meals, trips, and parties, it was also one of the first organizations to adopt pet-friendly concepts, which has also been adopted by many businesses.

It’s worth mentioning that even with Google’s rapid growth as a global organization, its organizational culture remains steadfast.

This is admirable, since the more a business grows, the harder it is to maintain a strong and well-established culture. And Google is, in this sense, an example for everyone.

Is it possible to dovetail the organizational culture when hiring?

One of the main challenges of any business is maintaining your organizational culture’s clarity, creating an environment in which it develops organically and naturally.

A strong culture must be present in all steps of the organization, especially when hiring new employees and in training those who have already been hired.

In order to do this successfully, carefully selecting new members of the organization is key. There’s no other way of doing this than by means of a careful analysis of each job applicant’s profile and experience.

There’s no use in hiring super-qualified employees if their own ideas and aspirations differ greatly from the organization’s culture.

Therefore, when hiring, the leader responsible for this task must have the ability to read the characteristics that bring possible job applicants closer, or move them farther away from the organizational culture advocated in the business.

In this sense, the selection process is an extremely important tool. Investing in steps that make each of the organizational culture’s precepts clear makes it easier to find those job applicants who are a better fit for the available job openings.

In addition, during the selection process, the person in charge must always emphasize the key points of the culture practiced, providing examples and making it clear for job applicants how things work internally and what the organization’s goals are.

What is the organizational culture’s relationship with internal communication?

The success of applying and conveying a business’s organizational culture depends on good internal communication.

Therefore, there’s no use in having good precepts and values if they aren’t correctly conveyed to employees.

The culture always needs to be communicated to everyone involved, and in all sectors. Conveying it satisfactorily is one of the major challenges of organizations, and internal communication practices are essential for the success of this task.

In order to do it efficiently, it is necessary to pay attention to 3 important steps.

Know your team

The most important step in being able to communicate and convey the organizational culture to all employees is to really get to know them. Analyze teams’ profiles, identify the listeners, and find the means of communication that work better for each one.

Involve the leaders

Leaders have an important role in a business’s internal communication. In addition to the founder, managers, officers and others that occupy positions of leadership are responsible for the connecting link between each sector of an organization.

Aligning what you intend to convey with your leaders will give you the assurance that the message will be conveyed correctly. Therefore, make your organization’s leaders act according to their positions, thus making them reliable cultural sources for all other employees.

Develop your communication channels

You cannot apply an efficient internal communication without the correct channels. Therefore, identifying those that are more attractive for each type of employee and those that work best is essential.

Creating focus groups, developing open dialogue practices with each employee, encouraging the exchange of ideas and especially, reinforcing the precepts advocated by the organizational culture in each of these actions, are great ways of establishing active and effective communication.

For larger organizations, it’s also possible to use specific and official channels, thus facilitating communication with all those involved.

Internal emails, message boards and even internal publications are great channels to disseminate organizational culture ideas.

Does organizational culture help in people’s development?

While organizations seek to apply an effective organizational culture, capable of achieving goals, those doing the work also have their own goals.

Thus, finding common ground in the development of people and a business’s success is extremely important so that each party can achieve their goals.

Therefore, developing a mutual sense that the organizational culture is moving forward hand in hand with each party is the best way to find effective and efficient productivity.

Did you enjoy this article and would like to know more about the subject? Then check out our special article on how to develop the people in your company!

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