What is it? How important is it? How do you measure it?

Organisational culture is a hot topic. Culture is a word that has been used for decades, we use it to describe our workplace, a good culture is high on employees wish lists, boards and regulators are highlighting that good culture will increase customer service…

A bad culture is blamed for good people leaving companies.

So – pretty important, but what exactly is culture?

According to the Cambridge Dictionary Culture is “the way of life, especially the general customs and beliefs, of a particular group of people at a particular time”.

This translates into the Vision, Mission and Values in an organisational context.

Culture is created equally by systems such as the performance framework, structure of an organisation and its pay and reward structure as well as the leadership style at the higher echelons of the organisation.

With this in mind and the with the world the way it is in 2017 Optimum believe that there are four main areas an organisation should measure to ascertain the organisational culture:

  1. Cohesiveness
  2. Innovation
  3. Commerciality
  4. Structure

Teamwork, cross communication and collaboration in the form of cohesiveness has to exist for an effective culture to exist.

Innovation is critical for survival and future success. A company that embraces critical thinking and new ideas across all levels is an ideal.

Commercial – a business needs to be commercially focused

Structure – it is our view that a successful organisation has to have some form of structure to survive and thrive.

Alongside these four measures, Optimum also believe that Organisational Citizenship / Group identity are beneficial for an organisation to explore. Where do your employees feel most connected to: especially in a matrix structure? Whether they identify with their direct team, their broader business unit or the whole organisation…

The important piece in all this is to remember is that Culture is created over time. Critically as organisations change: culture will change and therefore your culture should be measured regularly. The traditional once a year or bi-annual survey is just not enough as change happens regularly and sub-cultures can be created quickly.

Measure it regularly and you will identify trends or potential risks early.

In addition, those of you in leadership positions or in Human Resources departments who wait for the right time to do a survey….

There is no best time!culture

Be brave, be transparent, and be accountable. Yes, there will be some negative results and confronting comments but if you do not know what is wrong how can you fix it?

Give your employees the opportunity to speak out but if you do please give them feedback and give the feedback quickly and action the items… not all items but 1 or 2 will ensure that staff know you have listened and are actually doing things that will make their life better.

In a world of big data – it is not the amount of data that is the problem (far from it as data analysis / paralysis can occur), it is the outcomes and action plans that are the important aspects to consider.

How important is it really?

I think that companies’ culture and how it attracts employees is critical for future survival.

Why do we work?

Yes, money is a driver, but we work for a high percentage of our week – it is the feel of the place we work, the people we work with, connect with, the feeling of belonging and the feeling of shared values that is intrinsically why we choose to work where we do.

Employees have a choice – good talent is hard to find and is in demand and this will only increase so if your organisation does not have an appealing culture or are not measuring your organisational culture then quite simply you are not going to attract or retain the best talent.

I hope this gets you thinking!

Stephen Cushion – General Manager; Consulting

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