The key to a successful organisation is to have a culture based on a strongly held and widely shared set of beliefs supported by strategy and structure. This CPD article will outline the importance of understanding and developing organisational culture, as well as explain the main characteristics and how to make improvements to your culture at work.
What is organisational culture?
The culture of an organisation is its personality and character. It consists of shared values, beliefs, and assumptions about how people should behave and interact, how decisions should be made, and how work activities should be carried out. Key factors in an organisation’s culture include its history and environment as well as the people who lead and work for it.
Why is it important to understand organisational culture?
Regardless of whether you have just joined the company and you are overwhelmed with new routines, or you are a seasoned employee who no longer notices the fast-paced environment around you, every business will have and develop its own culture. It is vital for all employees and managers to understand what this culture is if they want to be successful.
A robust organisational culture provides boundaries to ensure everyone acts in a way that reflects its core principles. When there is a strong culture, three things usually happen: Employees know how management wants them to respond to any situation; employees believe that the expected response is the proper one; and they know that they will be benefit from adapting to the organisation's values.
Organisations that utilize a shared culture often see more transparent communication between leadership and employees, and better collaboration among peers. Employees will know what’s going on within the company and why certain decisions are being made, and be ready and eager to help, even when it falls outside their day-to-day responsibilities.
A shared culture will also provide employees with further opportunities for growth, and help to support internal Continuing Professional Development (CPD) training programs and career progression. Employees will feel more supported, valued, and in the know.
Are there different types of organisational culture?
Essentially, organisational culture boils down to four main archetypes. There are different categories of company culture, some of which can be developed organically, and some of which are a conscious choice of the leadership:
Many like to think of their co-workers as a sort of extended family. That can be seen an indication that they are working in what is sometimes called a collaborative culture, also known as a clan culture, where there is a lot of emphasis placed on teamwork and togetherness. Learn more about improving your collaboration skills with our CPD tips.
Ad hoc culture
This type of culture follows the philosophy that has been popular among many start-ups. You might also hear it referred to as the create culture or entrepreneurial culture. Thus, this type of culture fosters a very entrepreneurial type of work environment, where employees are encouraged to take risks and aggressively pursue unconventional ideas.
A market culture is a results culture because, as the name suggests, the emphasis is placed on the end result. Under this culture, people are encouraged to win and accomplish what they set out to do, whatever it takes. Employees are highly goal-focused and leaders are tough and demanding in order to achieve the success metrics the company has defined.
A hierarchy culture applies to work environments that are more structured and process-oriented. Most activities and decisions are dictated by existing procedures, rather than a lot of innovation and freethinking. Leaders are in place to ensure that their teams run like well-oiled machines, and they place the bulk of their focus on stability, results, and reliable delivery.
Although these culture types are all different, one is not inherently better than the others and they are usually created or adapted to suit a certain set of needs within an organisation.
What are the main characteristics of organisational culture?
When it comes to creating an organisational culture, there are a number of main characteristics to be aware of which we have outlined below. Organisations should aim to incorporate at least a few of the following in order to be most effective in developing its own culture.
Prosperous organisations cultures generally have a focus on financial stability; organisational growth, revenues, a growing client base, and profit margins.
The leadership will inevitably shape the culture and determine which, if any, organisational cultural type it falls under. This may be done to suit the leadership’s vision, or it may be due to the needs of the market or the business and the leadership have to adapt.
Unified sense of purpose
The staff, leadership and departments of an organisation all need a unified sense of purpose and a common vision to merge and form a solid organisational culture.
Accountability and autonomy
Different professionals of a company or its various departments may require autonomy and the ability to get on with the aspect of the job under their expertise. However, if there is an effective organisational culture, they should still operate within the goals and ultimately with accountability to the business as a whole.
Recognition and appreciation
To maintain an organisational culture, members of staff need recognition and signs of appreciation. This is a morale booster, but also helps support the community feel that creating a culture requires which is especially important if you seek to have a collaborative culture.
Effective communication is perhaps the most important of all aspects of organisation culture, as it not only gives workers of all levels a clear knowledge of what the culture is and what is expected of them within that, but it also threads the other characteristics together.
Leadership must regularly and accurately communicate with those who work for them to ensure smooth running of the company and shaping of the overall culture, and communication is how aspects such as a unified sense of purpose and appreciative recognition is given to those working for an organisation. If communication is poor, the rest can all fall apart.
A healthy environment means a culture of mutual respect, clear communication up and down the chain of command, and a workforce who feel appreciated and part of a greater whole rather than temporary and disposable.
How can you make improvements to your organisational culture at work?
Whether you are a business owner, a department head or even a regular employee, there are some simple steps you can take and methods you can encourage that will shape, develop and improve your organisational culture at work, such as:
Build strong employee relationships
Connect people to a purpose and shared vision
Encourage frequent employee recognition
Create positive employee experiences
Open up to clear transparency and communication
Welcome feedback for ongoing improvement
Give teams the trust to be autonomous
Schedule regular and meaningful one-to-ones with staff
What CPD Courses exist for developing organisational culture?
If you wish to continue your education into developing a resilient organisational culture, there is an ever-growing amount of relevant CPD learning options available. Within the CPD Courses Catalogue, you can find numerous training courses and events with a focus on creating and maintaining a strong organisational culture.
All of the certified providers, courses and training have been reviewed and recognised as meeting the required industry standards and benchmarks. To find out more about a particular CPD course listed on our website, you can click on each course and there is an enquiry form that will be sent directly to the relevant CPD provider.
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