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Viewing an Organization: The importance of understanding Organizational Culture

Brought to you by Nicola Turner, Organizational Psychology at Human Relations Institute & Clinics (HRIC)

Organizational Culture refers to the shared values and practices of the organization’s employees. Organizations with an adaptive culture that is aligned to their business goals regularly outperform their competitors (Hastings, 2011; Speshock, 2010). It is important for organizations to define their company culture or decide what it should be, and then move employees toward the desired culture.

Individuals blithely use the term culture; however, it is important to really understand it within an organizational context. Three levels of culture have been suggested by a leading psychologist in this field, Edgar Schein, these include understanding visible artifacts / tangible objects (e.g., dress code, furniture), beliefs and values (e.g., how the members represent the organization both to themselves and to others) and basic underlying assumptions (taken for granted behaviors).

Understanding the company culture is significant on many levels. This concept is useful to take into account for leaders, current employees, the selection of new employees and those looking to join an organization. It is imperative for an organization to recognize the company culture and align the culture to business goals; if leaders advocate ideas that do not match the deeper values of the company then trouble may arise. According to studies when leaders work to align visions of the organization within their employees, employee metrics, such as satisfaction; and employee retention, are markedly higher than those who do not (e.g., Right Management- A Manpower Company, 2009). Furthermore, understanding the company culture and seeing if the company resonates with the future employees’ own beliefs and goals is important not only in terms of satisfaction but also in terms work engagement, productively and longevity within the company.

Organizational culture is essentially the personality of a company and defines what a company stands for from an employee standpoint. This includes the company goals, values, mission, ethics, expectations and work environment. It is important to mention that when assessing company culture there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ culture as such, for example some companies favor a more casual working environment versus a formal one. What matters is the alignment between the company culture and businesses goals.

“The business and organizational psychology arm of HRIC focuses on helping an organization define their company culture and what constitutes it,” said Dr. Raymond Hamden, Chairman at HRIC. “Through our practices we have enhanced the way employees interact with each other and bring them all together on a common platform. It has also helped in creating a brand image for a company, giving people an identity by which it is known.”

Handy Hints:

• When looking to join a new organization, try to understand the company culture using the information available- you may want to look online or use your network. It is important that you feel it is right for you as well as you being a good ‘fit’ for the potential company.

• During the first few months on the job, actively learn as much about company culture from the dress code to management styles to values. This will help you integrate into the company more successfully.

• If you are in a leadership position, make sure not to dismiss company culture when deciding business goals.

Photo credit: nist6ss / Foter / CC BY-SA

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