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. 

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Mike Cooke



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Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.