Culture? 1

Topics: HRExaminer, John Sumser, by John Sumser

Culture is the sum of what it is like to work in an organization. Culture is the aggregate of the experience of all stakeholders. The largest single element, by far, is employee experience.

There are two ways of thinking about culture. One looks at the manifestations of a group’s behavior. This is the view of social science. Let’s call it ‘observed culture’. Key markers of observed culture are values, dress, language, art, common beliefs, social structure, resource flow and diet.

In the end, culture is experienced by its members as a collective sense of purpose and identity.  The feeling of belongingness or ‘fit’ is the very essence of what it means to be a member of a culture. It is an interesting spectrum that ranges from a feeling that is a lot like ownership to something more like being a cherished friend.

Some cultures develop (and need) members who espouse ideas that are antithetical to core thinking. Others pursue a kind of fit that requires an allegiance to very specific ways of thinking and doing. It is important to understand that there is no ‘right way’ to have a culture. Rather, the best culture is the one that satisfies the needs of its members.

Personal development within an organizational culture has many stages. The first is the process of acquiring membership. All employees, contractors, and partners must navigate the path to membership. The end of the membership process is the beginning of fit.

It’s interesting to note that hiring managers consider 39% of their hiring decisions to be mistaken at the end of the first year (according to IBM). From a cultural perspective, this suggests that the process of becoming a fully-fledged member extends well beyond the formal hiring or vetting processes. In other words, onboarding (perhaps better thought of as ‘cultural integration’) extends well into an employee’s life cycle.

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