Every organization has a culture. Without an intentional strategy, culture will develop on its own and in ways we may not like. Culture is vital to developing and sustaining a healthy, high-performing organization. In fact, respondents to the 2021 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends survey ranked building organizational culture that celebrates growth, adaptability, and resilience as their most important action they are taking or will take to transform work.
Many of us have an unclear understanding of what organizational culture is and how to measure it. Additionally, some people identify components of culture that are actually climate. The first step is to clarify and understand the difference between culture and climate so you can measure the right things.
Climate is shared attitude and perception. Examples of climate are articulation of mission, learning and development, fairness of appraisals, systems, processes, how leaders are leading, rewards systems, goal systems, and how leaders are communicating.
Culture consists of items we cannot see that shape our perceptions, attitudes, beliefs, shared assumptions, tradition, norms, personal values, unwritten rules, stories, and feelings. Desired culture examples are encouraging others, sharing feelings and thoughts, communicating ideas, and thinking ahead and planning. Undesired culture examples are competing rather than cooperating, never making mistakes, opposing things indirectly, playing politics to gain influence, avoiding confrontations, never challenge supervisors, and being non-comital.
As culture and climate are differentiated, it becomes clear that culture drives sustainable performance. Assessing and understanding the culture of your organization is not easy. It involves qualitative and quantitative surveys, focus groups, interviews and observations.
Award-winning organizational culture expert and author, Edgar Schein said, “Don’t focus on culture because culture can be a bottomless pit and a big waste of time.” “Instead, focus on climate, a problem, challenge or goal, and how culture is helping or hindering the progress (it’s always both),” Human Synergistics, 2021. If we work on climate without understanding if culture is evolving then it’s not effective.
Schein said, “Culture is created and evolves through shared learning and mutual experience.” The ultimate goal is making your organization more adaptive so the organization is flexible and responsive no matter what changes may happen in the marketplace. Going into the pandemic, those organizations that were more constructive, effective, and adaptive were able to pivot and make changes more effectively that organizations that were not adaptive.
With an intentional strategy, organizations can measure culture to strengthen performance. Develop an improvement and learning model, show how culture relates to performance, create a baseline to measure progress, and adjust strategies, as needed, to meet goals. HR is uniquely positioned to own the process and can really help to drive results in partnership with the CEO to move things along.
SpruceHR is a human resources consulting firm that is happy to help your organization maximize the potential of your greatest asset, your employees.