Organizational culture has been defined as “the specific collection of values and norms that are shared by people and groups in an organization, and that control the way they interact with each other and with outside stakeholders and/or customers.”
Organizations can have strong cultures or weak cultures. An organization with a strong culture operates like a well-oiled machine, cruising along with a strong set of values and norms that actively guide the way it operates. Organizations with weak cultures have little alignment with organizational values, and controls are exercised through extensive procedures and bureaucracy.
An unhealthy culture can inhibit growth and even contribute to the organization’s eventual failure. In many cases employees perform only the minimal necessary tasks without putting in extra effort. Productivity and service decline and growth comes to a halt. If entrepreneurs don’t see the signals and fail to act, it may be too late to make needed changes. Sometimes failure comes by way of a slow business death.
Some of the warning signs of an unhealthy organizational culture include increased turnover, difficulty hiring talented people, people coming in late to work, lack of attendance in company events and an “us-versus-them” mentality between employees and management.
In contrast, a strong culture can contribute significantly to a business, but is particularly important to a small business. Culture affects many areas of a company’s operations, helping determine its overall ethics and attitude toward public service. It can increase employees’ commitment and productivity.
It’s not easy to build a strong culture; it takes commitment and hard work. Shawn Parr, an expert blogger mentions some of the basic things that should be considered.
- Dynamic and engaged leadership
- Living values
- Responsibility and accountability
- Celebrating success and failure
Yet since very company is different, there are different ways to develop a culture that works. Additional things to be considered include:
- The prevailing culture should begin at the top
- All employees should be treated equally
- Hiring decisions should reflect desired company culture
- Two way communication is essential
Some of the companies with expert corporate cultures are Zappos, Google, Virgin, Whole Foods and Southwest Airlines.
If you are not investing time in building a strong company culture then you may not be getting the best from your employees, and you may be hindering the growth of your company.
Coaching and organizational development programs can help identify weaknesses in your company while developing a vibrant culture.
If I be of assistance in helping you lead your organization to a vibrant culture, contact me.
Until then, take care.