Understanding Organizational Cultures

Hande Genc

Culture is the pattern of behaviors formulated by people in response to their environment. It includes customs, attitudes, ethics, values, traditions, and morals, and it has an impact on the way people live.

It is difficult to separate an organizational or corporate culture from the larger cultural environment in which it operates. However, it is important to do this because understanding corporate culture can offer significant contributions to companies.

Corporate culture:

  • Creates a distinction between one organization and others
  • Gives members an organizational identity
  • Facilitates the generation of commitment to something larger than one’s individual self-interest
  • Enhances social stability by providing standards for what people say and do

In successful organizations, people have a good understanding of organizational culture. The following nine characteristics help to capture the essence of companies’ culture:

  1. Innovation and risk-taking: Employees are encouraged to be innovative and take risks
  1. Attention to detail: Employees are expected to exhibit precision, analyses, and attention to detail
  1. Outcome orientation: Management focuses on results and outcome rather than techniques and processes to achieve this outcome
  1. People orientation: Management decisions take into consideration the effect of outcomes on people within the organization
  1. Team orientation: Work activities are organized around teams rather than individuals (more details on teams can be found in my last LinkedIn blog)
  1. Aggressiveness: People are aggressive and competitive rather than collaborative
  1. Stability: Organizational activities emphasize maintaining the status quo rather than growth
  1. Strength: Team members agree on the importance of specific values and have behavioral consistency. Strong company cultures are associated with high organizational performance.
  1. Dominant culture and subculture: dominant and subcultures differ from each other. Dominant culture expresses the core values that are shared by the majority of the organizations’ members on a global scale and gives the organization its distinct personality. Subcultures tend to reflect common experiences, situations, and sometimes problems that members face in different department designations or geographies

An organization’s current customs, traditions, and general way of doing things are largely due to what it has done before and its success doing those things. It’s important to pass along that which brought success to the organization’s culture. Here are some quick tips on how to do this:

  • Develop a sense of history through communication
  • Create a sense of oneness: provide leadership and role modeling and communicate roles and values
  • Promote a sense of leadership: provide appropriate recruitment experience followed by socialization and career management activities. The presence of rewards systems, job security, training, and development programs also help newcomers develop a sense of leadership
  • Increase exchanges among members: provide employees opportunities to have contact with one another and make decisions that foster exchanges among members

Organizational culture is a social glue that binds members of the organization together; thus it is important for engagement. It helps improve companies’ performance, productivity, and service to the customers. Therefore, creating and sustaining a corporate culture is vital. However, an organization’s culture may not always align with its needs and environment. In such cases, it is worth investing time to change it!

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse

For more on creating a corporate culture, read “Establishing A Digital Culture With A Chief Digital Officer.”


Hande Genc

About Hande Genc

Hande Genc is the Director of Human Resources in Turkey at SAP. In addition to that, she also works as HRBP for Digital Business Services, EMEA South and HRBP for Innovation Team, EMEA South. She supporting Leadership Development programs at SAP as a steering committee member for Global Leadership Development Program. Hande is also responsible for the start-up of the SAP HANA Development Lab initiative in Turkey, demonstrating her experience in startups, mergers and acquisitions, change and transformation management, organizational design, employer branding, diversity, and leadership.