Ten ways in which HR can contribute to culture change programmes
ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE DEFINED
Organizational or corporate culture is the pattern of values, norms, beliefs, attitudes and assumptions that may not have been articulated but shape the ways in which people behave.
Organizational culture is often described as ‘the ways things get done around here’.
THE ELEMENTS OF ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE: VALUES
Values are beliefs on what is best or good for the organization, how things should be done and how people should behave. Core values are those fundamental to the organization, which constitute its value set and can mean that it is value driven.
Values can be expressed explicitly or implicitly. If they are explicit and articulated by management they are called espoused values. If espoused values are put into practice (which doesn’t always happen) they are referred to as values in use.The stronger the values the more they will influence behaviour. Values can become real through norms and artefacts
Typical values are concerned with:
performance – hence the phrase ‘a performance culture’
care and consideration for people
THE ELEMENTS OF ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE: NORMS
Norms are the unwritten rules of behaviour – ‘the rules of the game’ that provide unwritten guidelines on how people are expected to behave.
Norms can refer to such aspects of behaviour as:
how managers treat their staff (management style)
the prevailing work effect, eg ‘work hard, play hard’, ‘come in early, stay late’
status – the importance attached to it
professionalism – regarded as the ultimate test of a person’s performance
ambition - naked ambition is approved, or a more subtle approach is the norm
power – recognized as a way of life that can justifiably be achieved by political
means, or depends on expertise and ability
loyalty – expected or discounted
formality – a formal approach is the norm, or informality prevails
approachability – managers are expected to be approachable or everything
happens behind closed doors.
THE ELEMENTS OF ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE: ARTEFACTS
Artefacts are the visible and tangible aspects of an organization that people hear, see and feel. They can include such things as the working environment, the tone and language used in e-mails, the ways in which people talk to one another, the ways in which visitors or telephone callers are dealt with and the appearance of the offices.
Artefacts can be very revealing.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE
‘Organizational culture offers a shared system of meanings which is the basis for communications and mutual understanding. If these functions are not fulfilled in a satisfactory way, culture may significantly reduce the efficiency of an organization.’
The prevailing organizational culture must be taken into account in planning any innovation. If this does not happen or if steps are not taken to change the culture (which can be difficult), the innovation may fail.
HOW ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE DEVELOPS
Organizational culture develops over time in four ways:
By the behaviours and actions of the leaders of the organization, especially if they are visionary leaders and can act as role models.
Through critical incidents – important events from which lessons have been learnt about desirable or undesirable behaviours.
From the need to maintain effective working relationships.
Through environmental influences – the external environment may be dynamic, unstable or stable.
FEATURES OF ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE
is embedded and relatively stable – it has developed over a period of time
is multi-dimensional, with different components
can be general (pervasive) throughout an organization or can vary in different parts
Takes time to establish and therefore time to change.
The term organizational climate describes how people perceive (see and feel about) the culture existing in their organization.
CLASSIFYING ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE
R Harrison (1972) Understanding your organization’s character, Harvard Business Review
Power-Orientated – competitive, responsive to personality, not expertise
People-Orientated – consensual, management control rejected
Task-Orientated – focus on competency, dynamic
Role-Orientated – focus on legality, legitimacy and bureaucracy.
C Handy (1981) Understanding Organizations, Penguin Books
Power Culture – a central power source exercises control
Role Culture – work is controlled by procedures and rules, power is associated with positions, not people
Task Culture – influence based on expert power rather than on position or personal power
Person Culture – the individual is the central point.
E H Schein (1985) Organization Culture and Leadership, Jossey Bass
Power Culture – leadership resides in a few and rests on their ability and tends to be entrepreneurial
Role Orientation –the emphasis is on legality, legitimacy and responsibility
Task Orientation – the focus is on task accomplishment
People Orientation – the organization primarily exists to serve the interests of its people.
ASSESSING ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE
Organizational cultural inventory
Cooke, R and Lafferty, J (1989) Organizational Culture Inventory, Human Synergistic
Humanistic-helpful organizations managed in a participative and person-centred way.
Affiliate organizations that place a high priority on constructive relationships.
Approval organizations in which conflicts are avoided and interpersonal relationships are pleasant – at least superficially.
Conventional conservative, traditional and bureaucratically controlled organizations.
Dependent hierarchically controlled and non-participative organizations.
Avoidance organizations that fail to reward success but punish mistakes.
Oppositional organizations in which confrontation and negativism prevails.
Power organizations structured on the basis of the authority inherent in members’ positions.
Competitive winning is valued and members are rewarded for out-performing one another.
Competence/perfectionist perfectionism, persistence and hard work are rewarded.
Achievement organizations that do things well and value members who set and accomplish challenging but realistic goals.
Self-actualization organizations that value creativity, quality over quantity and both task accomplishment and individual growth.
TEN WAYS IN WHICH HR CAN CONTRIBUTE TO CULTURE CHANGE PROGRAMMES
Analyse the existing culture through questionnaires, surveys and focus groups.
Help to define the desired culture.
Advise on the extent to which the existing culture needs to be reinforced or changed.
Identify what levers for change can be used and how.
Consider the use of programmes to develop a performance culture, incorporating performance management processes and, possibly, some form of contribution-related pay.
Consider what can be done to increase commitment through clarifying the psychological contract, participation programmes, developing a climate of co-operation and trust.
Review and as necessary advise on the re-definition of the core values of the organization and recommend and implement steps to get the redefined values understood, accepted and acted upon, for example, by including them as performance management criteria.
Encourage and support the implementation of total quality and customer care programmes.
Provide guidance and training to line managers on the part they can play in developing a positive culture.
Implement organizational development programmes (see section 10) designed to enhance organizational capability and teamwork.