Who Owns Organizational Culture?

Conversations and articles about organizational culture have become more prevalent in the past few years, especially as organizations begin to compete in the global marketplace. What is organizational culture and why is it important? And what can we do as HR professionals to help strengthen organization culture?

Ed Schein, a former professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and an expert in the field of organizational development defines culture as:

A pattern of shared basic assumptions learned by a group as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration… a product of joint learning.

Culture is the way organizations work. It’s how they accomplish their objectives and the environment in which people work. It’s the company values – its code of conduct. It is how an organization works together to achieve its business objectives. Organizational culture has a huge impact on an organization’s bottom line.

A strong culture should be tied to organizational strategy and the execution of that strategy. It should inspire employees to work hard in both good and bad times. It helps attract new talent to an organization and retain existing talent.It’s visible in group dynamics – how they deal with change and unexpected issues. Those observable patterns permeate throughout the organization and influence how an organization does business.

Culture is a living organism. A strong culture changes and adapts to an organization’s strategy and business objectives. Employees in a strong culture are confident and empowered to play an active role in pushing the organization forward. A weak culture creates many obstacles and affects employee morale and impacts the bottom line. It can affect the very core of an organization.

HR can have a positive or negative impact on corporate culture. The way the HR team interacts with employees and leadership, and the communication between HR and the rest of the organization can affect culture. The way HR responds to issues in the workplace demonstrates how employees are valued. Is the organization doing all it can to attract new talent and retain their current talent? If not, it’s important for HR to advise leadership on ways to improve employee attraction and retention. Are leaders “walking the walk” or only “talking the talk?” Organizational leaders should be setting the setting the example of what a positive culture looks like.

Consider your organization and its culture. What’s the current impact of your culture on employees? Do your employees feel safe and energized and are they motivated to stay with the organization? Are they proud of where they work and are they excited to recommend your organization to perspective employees? An organization must continually take a good look at their culture and understand the impact on its employees and the organization’s bottom line.


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