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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

BEYOND THE CUBICLE - CORPORATE CULTURE: Culturally speaking...are you where you need to be?

Beyond The Cubicle - Corporate Culture

with Teri Aulph

Whether we want to admit it or not, everyone wants to be valued, appropriately compensated and a strong fit for the organizations in which we spend 40+ hours per week.

Organizational culture is the most influential aspect of a company that can make or break it’s success. At the same time, it is probably one of the most misunderstood. There is not doubt, if you find yourself in an organization whose values don’t align with your own values; you are not as productive, supportive or satisfied. At the same time, in today’s job market, smart companies base over 50% of their hiring decisions on cultural fit – all other things (i.e. skill set, experience, credentials, etc.) being equal. So, why is it misunderstood and difficult to define and/or control?

Organizational culture is an intangible entity that can be compared to an individual’s personality. It is defined and developed by how a company makes decisions, leads from the top, treats suppliers, employers and employees. Leadership often defines culture. If they are diplomatic and strong communicators, this often trickles down and is evident in how the day-to-day work happens internally. If top leadership is dictatorial and volatile, this will also be emulated in the same way.

In the second example above, the combative behavior that will systemically find it’s way throughout the organization. Companies with cultures that promote and encourage volatility among their employees will look up one day and find that it has cannibalized itself. This culture is fear based. This culture is built upon the old adage – lead or get out of the way – eat or be eaten – win at ALL costs. Those left standing will have no supporting team, suppliers they can trust or customers who trust them. This is not a sustainable culture and there are examples daily of why this culture isn’t successful in the long term.

If a company has weak leadership at the top that isn’t visible and doesn’t communicate well or often, it is not unusual for informal leaders to step up and take control. In this type of culture, you often see an insecure workforce who doesn’t trust the decisions made at the top. These companies may suffer high turnover and have a difficult time competing for talent. Without a culture that promotes and supports strong decision making, effective team building and smart strategy will never survive economic crisis. Employees in these cultures often have one foot out the door and loyalty deteriorates as time passes. Obviously, this takes a toll on the overall company performance.

While these examples appear clear-cut, organizational culture is not that easy to get your arms around. However, it is important to understand what your company values and if there are any serious gaps in alignment with what you value. If you are collaborative and have a strong affiliation need, you may be most successful in an environment that supports and values these aspects. If you desire to be an individual contributor and work on projects with as little human input as necessary, you should seek cultures that understand and allow this type of work.

Culture can shift depending on who the major decision makers are and how they behave. Essentially, organizational culture can be defined as the way in which a company consistently behaves and reacts over time. That being said, shifting a culture takes a long time and must support the demonstration of new behaviors going forward. All this being true, as an employee, you should take responsibility for where you find yourself. This isn’t an easy job market and certainly isn’t the time to job hop for greener grass. However, be true to yourself and take steps to ensure you stand in a place that allows and nurtures the best of you today and tomorrow.

For more information, please visit Teri's TNNW Bio.

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Dave Meyer said...

I agree with Terri about the importance of company culture. But I do not believe that many companies use culture (or the employees personality) as a basis for hiring. If they did you would find your workforce to much more highly engaged. To me, the company culture is one of the 3 primary ingredients of an engaged workforce. The other two are the leadership styles practiced in the organization and the employee expectations.

Thanks for a well done article...

Rick Weaver said...

Dave, you are correct in saying few companies use corporate culture as a criteria when hiring. Too many look only at the resume and the professionalism of the interview. Employee assessments are available (I sell them) that measure how well someone will fit in based on culture, including whether the company is managed using traditional or contemporary styles.

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