What are the Components of Organizational Culture

By Posted in - General HR Topics & Organizational Culture on November 29th, 2011 1 Comments

In previous white papers, I described an approach for evaluating job/talent fit: The Science of Finding the Right People and Succession Management – What’s Missing. In this blog, I wanted to share my thoughts on “culture fit.”

Six Core Elements of an Organization’s Culture

A variety of experts have provided different models of organizational culture in the literature. While different, they all agree that organizational culture is a multi-dimensional construct comprised of a variety of elements. I would like to propose a simple model that consists of six core elements:

History/Folklore – The early years of a company have an enduring effect on culture. The early leaders of a company leave a legacy through stories and legends that are passed on through the years. The tone and message of these stories helps underscore what is valued in the organization.

Communications/Symbols – Communications are both formal (e.g., employee newsletter) and informal (what is discussed in the break room). Symbols are communication short cuts that are usually visual (e.g., placing ample visitor parking next to the main entrance is a visual symbol of the importance of customers and partners)

Metrics/Rewards/Recognition – What is measured is what matters in an organization. Likewise, what individuals are recognized and reward for is also a clear indication of what is important in the organization.

Behavioral Rules/Norms – Behavioral rules evolve over time. These rules define how individuals are expected to interact with each other and how work should be approached in the organization. They are typically unspoken or recorded rules that are evident in the day to day behavior of employees.

Valued Skills – What skills are most evident in senior leaders? What skills are most important for promotions? These are the skills that are most valued.

Valued Traits – Similarly, what traits are most evident in senior leaders? What traits are most important for promotions? These are the traits that are most valued.

Example of a Model of Organizational Culture

Let’s look at an example that illustrates the model: Suppose you work in a culture that is best described as agile and dynamic.  Valued traits would likely include traits like openness, energy, initiative and risk-taking. Valued skills would likely include skills like adaptability, creativity and strategic thinking. History and folklore would likely include a history of market successes seeing opportunities before competitors and stories of amazing speed in execution. The rules of behavior would include behavioral norms like “allowing and encouraging individuals to pursue intrapreneural activities” and “not punishing failures but considering them as learning opportunities.” There might be annual awards for individuals with the greatest innovations or game changing achievements. Internal communications would likely highlight speed in execution and innovation and past awards and photos of key players might be displayed as symbols of success in the hallways and walls.

Understand Your Organization’s Culture

Understanding your culture will help you make better talent management decisions. It is a key factor in deciding which individuals are placed or promoted into a given environment and should guide the criticality of traits and skills that are to be evaluated.

If you are interested in learning how OMNIview can assist you in making better talent management decisions, please call us at 877.426.6222 or request a demo for more information.

Patrick Hauenstein, Ph.D.

About Patrick Hauenstein, Ph.D.

Patrick Hauenstein is the President and Chief Science Officer for OMNIview. During his free time Pat likes to cook. He is particularly fond of traditional southern cuisine. Pat is also an animal lover ...
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