The culture of your organization impacts everything, from customer satisfaction and employee engagement to overall sales.
By David Hite
The one constant that I’ve experienced in every organization and industry that I’ve worked in is that change is inevitable. Today, organizations must change frequently to keep up with competition, workforce diversity, technology and regulatory pressures.
Because of this need to adapt, it’s vital to frequently assess and make changes to our company culture. Often, culture is one of the most overlooked aspects of a business strategy.
Culture has deep roots in various industries, but they are especially deep in manufacturing and service areas. Unfortunately, it’s not an area that leaders want to assess, much less change.
In the c-store industry many top leaders assume that their culture is derived from their history, the founder, or some unique brand fragment from the past. They view culture as ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it and that’s the way we do it.’ But actually, culture goes beyond just certain beliefs and motivational sayings hung on a wall.
WHAT ARE YOU?
Culture can include underlying assumptions, attitudes, values and expectations that are shared by the entire organization.
An organizational culture should help define the following for all employees:
- corporate strategy and workplace climate;
- the relationship with customers, employees, shareholders, vendors, media and the community;
- what constitutes successful and unsuccessful performance; and
- management styles.
Considering your culture and what makes it effective can take work. Ask a few coworkers and top leaders how they would define your culture, as well as what they think it should be. Recognizing common business configurations can help you get a better understanding of not only which type of organization you work in, but how each influences performance.
In an article I read, “Changing the Corporate Culture to Ensure Success,” which appeared in the “National Productivity Review,” discussed five major types of culture models that most companies employ:
- Father-Founder. Organizations in this mode usually have a strong leader: “the boss.” Career development, promotions, pay, work hours and other systems are dependent on that person. This organization culture type is mainly informal, flexible and adaptable.
- These are geared toward cost efficiency and respect for proper procedures. Systems are highly procedural, roles specifically defined and work is predictable.
- These value cohesion and loyalty to the group. Productivity is measured by member commitment, involvement and motivation. Careers focus on job enrichment and enlargement and avoid career “paths” as being legalistic.
- These are based on expertise. Members of these cultures identify with the occupation, rather than the employing organization. These organizations disdain hierarchies and career advancement is based on increasing expertise.
- Managerial-entrepreneurial. These organizations concentrate on the customer or client. Adaptability to the customer’s needs is the organization’s preoccupation. Advocates of this culture favor small, autonomous units organized as cost or product centers in a flat structure that is simple in form and employs a lean staff.
VALUES AND BELIEFS
As a training manager, I recognize that we must do a better job ‘training culture’ instead of just ‘training skills.’ Training, however, has a specific and unique role in the growth, manipulation and maintenance of culture. Many corporate values and beliefs are disseminated through training programs, through orientation programs and coaching store leaders.
One thing that many leaders overlook is how the many sub-cultures and countercultures have a major influence on the business because they are hidden in the form of day-to-day operations. A sub-culture grows out of the different worker levels, geographic locations or different product/service mixes.
Some examples of these subcultures or countercultures: Employees are constantly challenging policies and procedures, business decisions, work-flows and power responsibility. These factors all contribute to their own sub-culture that they’ve adapted as part of the dominant culture.
In my next column, we’ll look at techniques to assess your culture.
David Hite is the manager of training and organizational development for Roadrunner Markets/Mountain Empire Oil, based in Johnson City, Tenn.