What We Mean When We Talk About Workplace Culture

In a recent Quantum Workplace KnowledgeGraphic, one of the key takeaways was that organizations seeking to prepare their workplace culture for the future of work should start by defining what culture means for their organization.

First, let’s start with what we mean by “organizational culture”. A lot of times the term organizational culture is used to talk about the broad sense of how an organization gets things done. Organizations can be high-energy, traditional (“stuck in their ways”), extremely laid back, etc. In fact, Brandon Hall Group has identified 4 common overarching organizational cultural types, and while it is not an all-encompassing list it may be helpful to determine which of these archetypes your organization falls under (if any):

  • Collaborative culture: Open and friendly place to work where people share a lot of themselves. Leaders are incentivized to be mentors or support roles. Group loyalty and sense of tradition are strong. The organization places a premium on teamwork, participation and consensus.
  • Creating culture: A dynamic, entrepreneurial and creative place to work. Innovation and risk-taking are embraced by employees and leaders. A commitment to experimentation and thinking differently are incented within the organization. Leaders strive to be on the cutting edge. Individual initiative and freedom are encouraged.
  • Controlling culture: A highly-structured and formal place to work. Rules and procedures govern behavior. Maintaining a smooth-running organization is incented. Stability, performance and efficient operations are the long-term goals. Success is based on dependable delivery, smooth scheduling, and low cost. Management supports security and predictability.
  • Competing culture: A results-driven organization focused on job completion. People are competitive and goal-oriented. Leaders are demanding, hard-driving, and productive. The emphasis on winning is incented in the organization. Success means market share and penetration. Competitive pricing and market leadership are important.

Now it should be noted that this is just the broad type of culture your organization may have. The true differentiator for your organization is in identifying what makes your organization a desirable place for people to work – why they want to be hired and why they stay. In this way, culture ties directly to the employer value proposition (EVP), although this is not the entire definition of culture.

Your unique culture is the values, norms, language, and sense of history that creates bonds between co-workers and can foster innovation, a sense of belonging, and a connection to the larger community. Of course, the flip side of that coin exists also – some cultures are not aligned with the customer or employee base, are incompatible with the organization’s stated goals, or are even toxic to the people working. 
It is important to start any workplace culture transformation project by measuring your current culture, and then determining what your ideal future state would look like. Cultural change requires defining what culture is at your organization, understanding the metrics and data, and how the organization plans to make meaningful changes that better the employee experience. That is why the first step is to understand what makes up your workplace culture so you can be more intentional with it. 

Like what you see? Share with a friend.

Related Content