Organizational Culture: Types and Strengths

Organization or corporate culture refers to the way things are seen and done within organizations. It aims at cultivating a long-term identity and is created through traditions and educational programs. After some period of practicing the resulting culture, players in an organization find themselves with shared basic assumptions about internal and external beliefs that bind them together; this leads to the adoption of similar practices that end up aligning their practices, thus define them as a group (Shafritz, J & Ott 1993).

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The relevant organization end having managers and employees who share similar goals and are aware of expectations bestowed upon them by other stakeholders. Such alignment of thoughts and practice results is expected to create excellent working teams that produce excellent results, because of the set of beliefs that get integrated into employees’ minds. But what is the impact of this culture on employees? This paper will attempt to answer that query in four subsequent sections. It will first explain organizational culture in detail, and then explore the elements and strengths of organizational cultures before defining four types of culture and close by enquiring on the impact of organizational culture on employees.

Corporate culture aims ate creating beliefs and practices that will end up enhancing the company’s comparative advantage. It, therefore, means that what is being practiced must have an impact on the company or organization’s strength in the marketplace. It is therefore up to the senior management to ensure that the culture of their organization is well communicated to all employees and stakeholders. Indeed Ram (2001) found that strong corporate cultures enhance dialog and advance productive business models, which lead to enduring competitive advantages. This is contrary to a popular belief, which holds that it is individual company products are the ones that illustrate the engraved culture.

Ram (2001) further says that competitors can easily company a company’s product and thus acquire the culture in them but no one can copy internal business models and the flow of communication in another company. It is through this dialogue that organizational culture is passed down to employees and stakeholders. Current employees are subjected to vigorous educational programs and are further requested to practice what they learn.

Their practice is meant to keep them reminded of what the company stands for and the goals to be accomplished. New employees are subjected to the training and reminded to keep reciting and practicing the organization’s culture, which, combined with seasoned employees, become a day-to-day practice within the organization. The management should be at the forefront of practicing this culture so they can set an example for junior employees. It is not unique to observe management repeating the culture at the beginning of employee meetings.

Organizational culture could also be regarded as a process used to measure how well companies can establish themselves in society by using the self-developed mechanism. This mechanism involves looking at what the society needs or is demanding and responding by supplying exactly that. It is therefore a system that involves:

  1. inputs from the society in terms of demand
  2. output from organizations in terms of developing ways and means of developing products that will satisfy society’s wants (McManara 2008).

It could therefore be concluded that each company’s culture is determined by the market that it serves as well as the competition’s culture and that best cultures are the ones that fulfill their customers’ needs in the most efficient manner. When designing such winning cultures, organizations and consultancies helping them should remember to consider all stakeholders in their industry.

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Considering only the customers, or competition or employees will lead to half-baked organization cultures that will lead relevant companies astray. Instead, the culture-makers should look at what competition cultures are, so they can try to make even more productive cultures; what customers demand so they can design cultures that will lead to high-quality products; and the type of employees in the organization; all this help in designing stakeholder-driven cultures (Schroeder & Mauriel 2000) that will serve the designing company well in the long run.

Organizational cultures could however change as companies go through various stages of growth. This transition from one culture to the other does not come easy for organizations, especially considering that they had practiced one culture for many years and sometimes decades. The preparations for changing culture take time because doing it suddenly could lead to wrong choices that might impact the organization negatively. Luckily, there exists a large pool of consultants helping companies change from one culture to another or develop new ones. Companies should therefore feel obliged to make use of consultancy services.

This is especially advised when companies are introducing improving their cultures due to change in certain production processes or organizational structures (McManara, 2008) because new cultures can help employees remember the significance of the new ways of performing activities in the organization.

Elements and Strengths of Organisational Culture

Gareth Morgan (1993) acclaimed that should demonstrate seven key elements which include:

  1. Stated and unstated values,
  2. overt and implicit expectations for all members behaviors,
  3. organization’s customs and rituals,
  4. stories and myths about the history of the organization or company,
  5. shop talk, which illustrates typical language used within and outside the organization,
  6. climate, which exemplifies feelings evoked by the way organizations’ members interact with each other, with competitors in the industry, and with their organization’s environment, which includes the facilities they occupy,
  7. metaphors and symbols, which could be conscious or unconscious but are evidently embodied in the organization’s cultural elements.

Morgan (1993) further explained that successful organizational cultures are empowered by several strengths, which are well incorporated during the process of designing those cultures. These strengths must address the needs of all stakeholders in the industry, which includes employees, shareholders, competitors, customers, and authorities among others—this explains another reason why stakeholders’ views should be sought in the designing process as illustrated earlier in this paper. Most consulting companies know this fact and can be very helpful to organizations. These strengths can be used in various organizations and companies no matter their size or occupation, what matters is that they are incorporated in cultures, which must subsequently be applied. Here are the strengths in detail:

Humane

Organisations’ culture must always concentrate on the human side of the organization’s aspects, that is, they should not be abstracts that will be hard to imagine and thus really difficult for employees to envision and practice. They should also be easier for the management to teach to new members of staff, as well as being the role model to the rest of the organization’s staff. Other stakeholders in the company, especially shareholders, suppliers, and customers should also understand and be able to be part of the culture. A humane and easily understandable culture could even enlarge the company’s client base by inspiring more customers with quality products.

Communication

After designing cultures that are easy to understand, the organization’s leadership should ensure the existence of clear communication systems between them and employees and other stakeholders, that is, it should be easy for the management to share the culture with stakeholders. The management should not be labored into headaches of wondering how to teach other stakeholders about the cultures that will get their organization a new identity. Other than the management understanding and having an easier way of them to educate others, the new culture should also be easy for stakeholders to share and practice it with each other. This involves the development of a mechanism that will help them practice the culture at all times within and without the organization. This step is especially necessary at the beginning stages of exercising their organization’s new identity.

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Self Inquiry

The new culture should succeed in having employees, including the senior management to question their commitment to the culture, values, goals, and mission of their organization. Asking themselves such questions will further encourage these individuals to make more contributions and impact to the organization. Compounding such actions all over an organization will have a greater impact. In addition, the communication channels within the organization will most likely have the employees discussing their self-question with peers, who will respond by saying the same things. This would spark conversations that will result in teamed-up efforts to ensure that the peers encourage each other to the commitment of practicing organizational culture.

Organisation-Environment Relationship

Successful organizational cultures should are the ones that bind their organization and its environment together. This helps stakeholders practice their cultures in a way that will have a positive impact on the environment. This interrelationship keeps reminding employees of the organization they work for, what it does, what are the expectations, who its clients are, who the competitors are, and what regulators and authorities expect of the organization, its employees, products, and facilities.

Such understanding puts an organization at a higher level than its competitors. For a profit-oriented organization, this strength enables it to out out-compete other firms thorough understanding of consumer needs and providing them through the most efficient means. On the other hand, a non-profit organization is able to meet its stakeholders’ needs efficiently and thus live to the expectations of all stakeholders. This is another reason why stakeholders and the environment should be the indicator of the kind of culture that will work best in a certain organization.

Types of Organisational Culture

Though the aforementioned strengths apply equally to all organizations no matter their size or industry, the several types of organizational powers are successful when applied in certain industries and in specific sizes of organizations (The Times 2008). This is because the success of each culture is based on the people working in a team, their experience, authority in the organization, and whether the organization is a business or a non-profit organization. All forms of organizational culture should be or management and consultants’ minds when designing what end up being seen as the said organization’s identity. Failure to do so will bring forth different results than the desired ones. The four types of organizational culture are explained below in detail:

  1. Power Culture: This form of organizational culture is well utilized in small operations, where key decisions are made by few individuals within the organization. It could also be seen in some big organizations and especially in government agencies. Power culture does not come with design; it just crops up in the course of running a business or organization. For instance, small business operators will hardly sit down with consultants to develop a culture to follow. This is even hard when the business employs just the owner and a few members of the family. The same happens in government agencies where the leader makes vital decisions while other civil servants follow instructions.
  2. Role Culture: This type of culture exists in hierarchical organizations that have most of their employees play specific roles assigned to them regularly or were assigned during recruitment. Role culture develops because the employees are provided with their job descriptions during recruitment together with specific procedures for undertaking projects. Since the employees could usually be stick with those roles and procedures as long as they work in the same departments, they end up developing the culture of following the old ways. Creativity hardly plays part in such occasions because incentives are almost non-existent. The culture changes when such employees are transferred to other departments, where it starts all over again. One can argue that role culture increases productivity in the long run due to specialization, though the mutinous could breed boredom.
  3. Task Cultures: This form of culture develops when individuals work in groups to complete assigned tasks. This is an important form because it enhances teamwork within the organization and thus improves employees’ efficiency. It has a higher propensity of improving creativity within the team and the organization because members are supposed to make important contributions during discussions Task culture can be used to increase productivity in the organization by dividing group tasks according to team members’ skill and experience. Such arrangements increase the speed at which projects are accomplished; also the quality of the job done by each team member and the group as a whole.
  4. Person Culture: This form of culture is the one that allows individuals in any organization the liberty to express themselves fully. It also has a higher propensity for productivity and creativity because employees will most likely undertake the assigned projects through the most efficient means they know-how. It could be used together with Task Culture, especially when teams assign duties to each member. Such a combination will bring forth employees who work effectively within a team and efficiently with minimal supervision, which are both qualities of a dream employee. By exercising Person Culture, company employees are able to make their own decisions which will leave the management making the most important decisions regarding the organization—both of which will result in higher productivity.

Importance of Organisational Culture

As indicated in the previous section, practicing organizational culture is very instrumental in a company or any organization’s operations. For a profit-oriented organization, culture helps in increasing its economic performance and organizational viability (Holistic Management 2000). This is because employees understand the expectations of the management, thus perform accordingly and with minimal supervision.

Coupled with a division of labor in line with employee experience and skills, it makes it easy for department heads to control their areas and be productive without constant clarifications from the senior management. The departments thus run smoothly and the organization easily attains its laid down goals. The organization can therefore continue to perform well even after senior management moves from their positions. Processes, not individuals, become the most important production function of the organization.

Such smooth production processes are therefore capable of fast implementation of projects such as new products and services, or when undertaking structural change within the organization. All that the organization requires is for employees to start to operate organizational systems that will provide good results. Innovation will also be possible because of the task and person cultures that are instituted with the organization’s overall cultures.

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This will make the employees cooperate with each other in crucial times of innovation. Since organizational culture teaches employees the needs of customers, they are able to take care of production processes when some of them have moved on to other careers or are not present. Thus the organization’s activities will never be affected by the unexpected shortage of labor.

Organizational culture further helps in attaining higher levels of organizational effectiveness, especially in the non-profit sector (Willcoxson & Millett 2000), because all the stakeholders are well aware of what the organization they are dealing with, that is, the organization’s demands of them. Suppliers will for instance understand that untimely delivery is against their clients’ culture and thus ensure that goods are delivered on time. Employees will also understand that dedication in their duties is a key component of their employer’s culture and should thus do their best in helping achieve the goal of satisfying clients and with quality products, failure of which could mean the end of their careers with the said organization.

Organizational culture further helps employees of a profit-oriented company to get connected to their employer’s goals, mission, values, and mission. This is aided by the repeated choruses of company culture by the management, board of directors as well as long-serving employees. It could also be achieved through a way of displaying company culture all over their premises, on strategic areas, or miniature items. Such ease of helping employees get connected to the company’s goal should always be the dream of all managers of all firms because it will translate to higher productivity at all among company employees (Khan 2005).

Since culture will enable employees to be aware of their employers’ expectations, it shall be possible for them to remind each other of what they are supposed to be doing in order to help the company reach its goals, all of which will be done through the company’s culture system. This will be enabled by the fact that all employees’ goals would have been aligned (Sorensen 2002) with those of the company, which will make them talk to each other when they see any behavior that is not consistent with what is held commonly with other stakeholders. This will make management’s activities easier because monitoring employees will be minimal.

It shall be easy for stakeholders to share issues regarding the company because of the culture that is cultivated. This open communication between parties makes them aware of the goings in the organization. Problems within the organization are thus easily detected. Rectifications are therefore done before things get out of hand. As a result of the increased openness employees can easily air their concerns regarding certain processes, and actions are taken on time, which would lead to greater job satisfaction on their part and greater productivity for the firm, because of the resulting efficiencies (Chow, Harrison, McKinnon & Wu 2001).

Employees’ satisfaction with their occupations will however leave them with self-inquiry questions, such as what can I do to serve this organization better. The self-evaluation will most likely lead to answers directly related to increased productivity, which would lead to more sales and revenue for the firm. Further attention to employee needs by senior management will keep this cycle going round and round for long durations of time—something that will keep company sales rising compared to the competition. Such a scenario goes hand in hand with Devis (2007) claim that successful organizational culture provides enabling environments for employees to evaluate the impact of their conduct or their employers’ goals.

Other than increasing employee job satisfaction and general productivity of an organization, organizational culture can be used to improve on other areas of employees’ lives that do not really to on the company activities or goals abut are essential on the general welfare of employees. For instance, Erickson (2000) notes that companies should include safety in their cultures because it would lead to a situation where employees are concerned with risk issues, and thus ensure they wear protective gear and that tools are working well. This benefits both the organization and employees; the organization will escape insurance expenses and employees will be safe at all times.

Employees of the firms exercising organizational culture become part and parcel of their employer; they take pride as part owners of the culture since they were involved during the development and implementations stages. This results in a highly motivated employment force that helps the organization reach goals and lives by its mission and values. Indeed Eikenberry (2008) observes that successful organization culture helps the practicing organization attract, retain, engage, synergize, energize, talents as well as changing view of work, and creating a sense of success in the entire team that ranges from senior management to the newest employee. Such a team is the heart of every successful organization no matter its industry or size.

The job satisfaction experienced by members of staff acts as a magnet that draws new employees into the company. This is a good thing for the organization practicing culture because it shall be able to filter potential employees and thus get the most qualified and skilled employees, whereas the competition gets the rest. When the new members of staff get on board, they are welcomed by their colleagues and taught how to uphold the organization’s culture as they are now part of the winning team. Researchers have actually found that new employees of organizations practicing organizational culture portrayed high levels of adaptability and involvement with company activities (Christensen & Gordon 1999), which enables them to make quicker contributions to their new employer’s activities.

Organizational culture comes in handy when there is a major transition in management. Whether the new employees are source within the organization or from outside, systems that have been made possible by culture will aid them well. The main force for this success will come from the existing labor force. Their understanding of company processes will be used to advise the new management where necessary. Besides, the new management will not have to manage the affairs of company employees, because they already know what is expected of them. This new management will therefore focus efforts on getting oriented to the company and starting with their normal activities.

In the case of recently privatized state-owned enterprises, organizational culture helps management and employees to change from their old ways of performing activities to new ways that are competitive in their markets. Failure to do this leads to uncompetitiveness, which will lead the company to be edged from the market by other market players. Organizational culture is very important in these organizations because some of them could already be serving large markets, which they never afforded to service well due to inefficiencies.

Developing competitive organizational culture makes it possible for the former civil servants to start having their clients in mind, which will increase productivity. It is therefore important for the formerly state-owned firms to consider developing cultures that will help them establish themselves within the market.

Other than its importance in privatization programs, organizational culture also helps employees during mergers and acquisitions. Employees of the merging companies could undergo some tough times when their employers are forming one single entity. The merging companies also have to merge their organizational cultures so as to make one that befits their new company. As it happens, employees who have had experience working in companies with organizational cultures have an easy time coping with the changes. Indeed, the change from culture to culture or working in the same culture under different leadership will happen naturally to them. They will also be useful in teaching other employees ways to practice their company’s culture efficiently.

Organizational culture helps employees to understand organizations and vital processes. This makes them valuable employees who keep increasing value to the company. Their continued stay means vibrant company growth that will be there for a long time because the tradition of culture will keep flowing from one generation of the workforce to the other. The management will have an easy time training new employees because the culture that has been cultivated for a long time will perform that role efficiently. As a result, each employee that joins the workforce takes little time to be of value to the company, which rapidly increases his/her productivity to the benefit of his team and the company.

Organizational cultures make it easy for potential employees to choose the company they would like to work with, that is, the company whose culture could easily be aligned with personal goals. When the employees finally identify the company and join its workforce, it becomes easier for them to conform to the inside culture, because they had a clue of how it works. In addition, help from their peers will be beneficial and encouraging, because the old employees will find it easy to teach culture to their new counterparts. The quick learning exemplified by the new employees creates rapport with the old ones; this results in good working relationships that will enhance employees’ experience in the company.

New employees’ experience with the company helps them adapt quickly, as well as learning all the necessary processes required in their respective lines of work. The quick learning of processes and commitment to their works attract the attention of the management who could respond by encouraging employees to keep up their efforts, as well as asking the employees what could be done to increase their efficiency. The management could further respond by providing incentives that would make employees work extra hard. Such recognition helps employees to quickly climb through the organizational ladder, which encourages their colleagues to start to follow that hard work example.

The task cultures in organizations help employees to discover their strengths and those of their group mates. The creation of efficient working groups helps in increasing the productivity of different working teams in the company. Employees also enjoy working in successful groups. This enriches their experience within the company, which increases the chances of staying with the organization for a long period of time. Such a cycle is a boon to the company because the productivity of employees will be directly collated with their experience. The team culture also helps in sharpening the person culture, especially when individuals are assigned specific tasks within their teams.

This expansion of individual culture serves employees well because they are able to cultivate their best areas of performance. In other words, they are able to enhance their comparative advantage against fellow teammates. This is good for the team because members will be competing against each other. This intra-group competition brings the best out of their work. Productivity of the group is enhanced and leads to better company performance. Organizations should thus establish task cultures, which will foster the presence of individual culture. This will lead to a spiral of productivity from the individual, to the team, and finally to the entire organization.

Works in teams further create an efficient feedback system between employees working in a team, which is also extended to the management through regular reports from group leaders. First, team-mates in a group are able to tell each other of their strengths attaining organizational goals. This makes it possible to engage in constructive criticism, which will spark discussions on how to best practice organizational culture and ensure that such practices contribute to the organization’s productivity. Continuation of such practices leads to a situation where individual organization establishes smooth feedback the helps employees improve their performance by adhering to the laid down rules and procedures, which make it possible to attain goals.

In situations where organizations establish employee-owner cultures, it becomes possible to increase productivity because of dividend incentives. This is mostly done through stock options that have become so popular since their establishment in the 1970s. Profit-sharing arrangements make the employee see their organization from both employee and owner viewpoints. As part-owners, employees will be keen to check activities that are not operating inefficient manner.

This will force them to take responsibility for reforming those activities. Their recommendations will help the company to cuts costs on inefficient operations. These worker-owners will also focus of looking on expanding market opportunities for their organization—all because they will benefit through dividends as shareholders and with bonuses or pay hikes as employees.

The enhancement of owner-employee culture also helps establish a can-do-attitude within the organization. This is because as double beneficiaries, employees recognize that any downturn in company performance will hit them hard. They, therefore, feel obliged to take responsibility for controlling waste in the company and increasing market share at the expense of competition. The employees, therefore, gain the confidence to deal with such pressure and perform beyond management’s expectations. This can-do-attitude helps employees while working in the company or in their own private activities. Benefits are therefore both short-term and long-term.

The many activities performed by owner-employees helps in understanding the company and its inner operations, and thus are in a position to answer any questions that may arise. This helps with the training of new employees, who do not have to bother the management or their trainers with questions regarding their assignments. Further, understanding the entire organization helps when employees are moved from one department to the other because just a few steps will have to be learned; they will not be under pressure to learn new ways of performing duties in their new areas of work. This reduces any lag time that could be lost in the process of transition.

Organizational help organizations’ employees have productive experiences in the company and beyond, especially when they retire and start their own ventures. It can therefore be argued that companies that use organizational culture prepare their employees for life after living the company. Employees who stay in organizations with such cultures would have therefore invested their energies in good causes for their employer and even productive causes for their future. Thus the organizational culture does not start and end at the organization’s gate; it goes into employees’ homes and retirement places. It further goes in those employees’ social circles as they influence their peers to behave, think, and act in productive ways. Such organizational cultures end up having beneficiaries that are widely scattered.

The spread of organizational culture into the social circles of its employees has a positive impact on the organization. It has the capacity to change consumer behavior in those circles and thus lead to the expansion of the customer base, which would lead to more sales and prosperity in the company, its employees, and shareholders. Another larger impact would originate from tapping highly qualified and skilled employees that want to be part of the winning team.

These employees are easily sourced from current or retired employees’ social circles. It is not unique to find a family that has worked with one organization for generations, just because they were served well and the organizational culture has greater benefits on employee lives. Such families also have the tendency to encourage children of their families to seek employment with the culturally rich organization. Since the family and its friends had been in the company for many generations and know what kind of ethic is needed in the job, only the most qualified and skilled individuals would be seconded for employment.

And that will be the initial stage for the employees to make a long-lasting contribution to the company; the company on its part will again succeed in molding other individuals’ lives for the benefit of his circle of influence and the generations to come. The end result: continued productivity in the company, which will benefit its customers with high-quality products, continued increase of company earnings for the benefit of its stakeholders, and unending employee work ethic that will make the organization a dream working place. Organizational culture is therefore not an option for organizations; it is a vital part of a day to day activities.

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