Employees are greatly impacted by the internal culture of an organization. Understanding how companies function and live out their values can help you decide where you want to work and what type of culture best suits your personality, skill level and work methods. Many different cultures exist within the workplace and organizations often embody more than one type as they function within a set of values and expectations. In this article, we define organizational culture, describe the types of culture common in companies and offer tips to improve the workplace environment.
What is organizational culture?
Organizational culture is a way to describe the overall environment within a workplace. Organizational culture happens naturally or is strategically planned by upper-level management through various initiatives and attitudes. The culture of an organization can make a big impact on employees and whether they feel comfortable and supported in the workplace.
Workplace culture reflects the values of company leadership and can also shape the interactions and motivations of employees. Organizational culture can impact the success of a business, which is why many companies dedicate time and thought to understanding the way their workplace environment functions and ways to improve their culture.
What factors affect an organizational culture?
Many factors can affect the way a business environment is formed. Here are some of the main elements that help make up a company’s culture:
Company policy: The organizational practices set up by senior management can impact the overall culture of an organization because they establish the governing principles that employees follow to perform their jobs.
Company mission: Company culture is often formed by a common mission. If a company sets clear goals that staff members believe in, they are more likely to form a specific environment in the workplace based on those objectives.
Company history: An organization’s background can impact the type of culture that’s formed in the workplace. Startup companies usually create a different environment than an established corporate firm.
Leadership: The leadership style of an organization’s management can greatly impact the culture. Leadership sets the tone for an organization’s values and interactions within the workplace.
Motivational tools: How an organization chooses to acknowledge and reward staff can also contribute to the culture. Praise, monetary bonuses or other incentives can affect the cultural environment by increasing enthusiasm and productivity. Motivation can be used to drive success but can also contribute to competition.
Location: The way an organization operates whether in a physical building or as a remote business plays a role in determining the company culture. Metropolitan and rural organizations as well as regions can also differ in their environments both outside and within the workplace, affecting their values and attributes.
Industry: The type of business a company engages in can help determine the culture due to differing standards, employee skill sets and industry standards.
Communication: How ideas are communicated within an organization has an impact on the way staff members function within the environment. Transparency and honesty are often big concerns for employees. Organizations that communicate effectively are more likely to have a positive work culture.
Types of organizational cultures
Although organizational cultures vary, most can be summed up by a few different categories. Workplace environments usually fit into a quadrant that emphasizes these different workplace ideals:
Results, competition, success, goal-oriented
Authority, order, safety and control
Creativity, learning, flexibility and curiosity
Collaboration and teamwork
While some types of organizations naturally operate under a specific quadrant, many mix parts of each to form a unique environment for staff. Here are the most common organizational cultures that are prevalent in the workplace:
In a normative culture, employees adhere to clear guidelines. The workplace is structured so that employees follow specific tasks for their roles. Work is compartmentalized and staff members know exactly what is expected of their position. Employees rarely deviate from established policies and are encouraged to uphold company standards. Their adherence to the rules is valued and can be rewarded. This culture is considered the most common within many organizations.
Traditional corporate office institutions and banks often fit this type of culture. Employees are instructed in procedures once they are hired and are expected to follow these guidelines. If you value structure and stability, you may be very comfortable working in this environment.
A pragmatic culture puts the customer first and above all drives workplace decisions. There are no specific rules or set of standards beyond serving the customer. Pragmatic organizations are flexible to fit the needs of their clients. Rules and structures are minimal and employees have more freedom to make decisions regarding customer service than in other more traditional workplace environments.
Some sales and marketing firms encourage this type of culture. They allow the client to become the main focus for success by giving employees a higher level of autonomy than many other organizations. Those who enjoy self-direction and creating solutions are well-suited to this environment.
The academy culture values learning as one of the top priorities for team members. New hires are sought for their high skill level and are expected to grow in knowledge and practice within their position. In an academy culture, the management creates an environment where employees are encouraged to learn to keep up with current knowledge and research.
The healthcare industry, academic institutions and other sectors where continual knowledge is essential to maintain a position function in this kind of culture. They often incorporate professional development as a part of the workday and require continued certification through training and assessments. Professionals with a desire to consistently grow and develop their abilities can thrive in this kind of culture.
Baseball team culture centers around employees. Perks like food and beverage in the office, incentives for meeting short-term goals, production bonuses and even social outings are part of the normal workflow for staff members. Companies that encourage this culture often believe that if employees are happy in their work environment, they will be more productive, thus leading the company to further success.
Tech companies that thrive on creativity and teamwork often maintain this kind of culture. They allow employees the freedom to build a workplace that inspires and motivates them. If you want to be part of an environment that focuses on making employees feel valued and encouraged through rewards and positive affirmation, this is an ideal workplace for you.
Club culture is built around highly skilled professionals. Many organizations that follow this approach follow a rigorous hiring process to find the best possible candidates who match their high standards for company employees. Staff members often receive a high reward for good work but also face frequent scrutiny for their performance. As the name suggests, this kind of environment values exclusivity and productivity once members join the organization.
Club culture may be instituted in industries with a highly specialized training process like legal professions or investing. The daily operations of this kind of work environment can be somewhat mysterious to those outside of the industry due to the specialized rules that professionals learn on the job. If you enjoy being part of a selective group of skilled experts and have the confidence to maintain excellence in your role, you can succeed in the club culture.
Also considered a “results” culture, the fortress environment focuses on success. Productivity is expected and employees who don’t meet quotas are often let go. However, employees who perform at or above company expectations are typically valued and rewarded. Companies that follow this culture see a lot of employee turnover and must be prepared for continual hiring and training in hopes that new employees will perform better in their role.
Industries that rely on productivity to deliver contractual goals like sales and real estate firms or inbound marketing centers often rely on this type of environment to motivate employees. They set clear goals for what they want employees to produce and schedule regular meetings to review numbers with staff members. If you are organized and able to work efficiently to meet goals, you may find success in a fortress culture.
A constructive culture is built on collaboration. In this environment, employees work in teams to complete tasks. Constructive culture asserts that team success is more important than individual success. Positive results come from working together to overcome challenges, making each employee grow in their knowledge and skill.
Constructive cultures exist in industries where many staff members work on the same project to achieve a goal. This is relevant in software development and engineering-based fields. If you excel in communicating ideas and motivating others in a team setting, consider working for an organization or industry that follows a constructive culture.
Organizations that work towards a common cause are purpose-culture environments. Within these organizations, employees are motivated by an intrinsic desire to help others. They are often team oriented and staff members are treated as part of a community.
Non-profits are often part of this category as are businesses that function for a specific charity. The business model for a purpose-driven organization may be to donate a maximum amount of profits to a charitable cause. Non-profits exist to serve a certain group without retaining any revenue for the company. If you feel passionate about serving others and making a difference for a certain cause, an organization with a culture of purpose would be a good fit for you.
Tips to improve your work environment
Here are some ideas to help make plans if you desire to grow your organization to a more effective or positive organizational culture:
Identify the company culture
Understanding the kind of environment the company policies, leadership and employees create is important if you plan to implement any changes. Assessing how your staff works toward common goals and how company values are lived out on a daily basis can help you decide the type of culture your organization follows.
Get employee input
Regular feedback from staff members is essential to determine both your current atmosphere and how you can shape your organizational culture in the future. Online survey tools are a quick and anonymous way for employees to share their thoughts on the workplace environment. You can also encourage comments during reviews. It’s important to gather feedback from all employees from senior-level management to entry-level staff members.
After you make a plan for measuring success, you’ll need to implement changes that will move the culture toward your ideal work environment. Share your ideas with leadership so they can begin to set the tone for the company culture. Set initiatives that involve all staff whether you want to become a more collaborative culture or an employee-focused environment. Revise or restate your mission statement so all staff can see the vision for your organizational culture.
I hope you find this article helpful.