Don’t Let Your Culture Be An Accident

Sangita Kasturi

Friday, July 10, 2015

Organizational culture has become a “hot” topic as leaders realize its impact on business, employee engagement, talent development, retention and more. In fact, being a good or poor cultural “fit” is among the top reasons employees give for leaving an organization – along with limited advancement opportunities and lack of rapport with an immediate supervisor. How well a candidate “fits” into an organization or team culture is also high on the list of qualities hiring managers look for when bringing on new employees.

Most people wouldn’t argue that (a) culture exists and (b) it is hard to define, but there is some disagreement on what culture actually comprises. Some believe it is about values, others say it is about how people look and dress and still others may say culture is about all of those things. However, most people do agree that the key ingredients of culture include intangibles such as values, as well as day-to-day practices such as what behaviors get rewarded and how work gets done.

Still, most organizations find that their culture is a result of happenstance, rather than carefully crafted to align with business goals and values. In fact, most companies’ publicly stated values and mission statements are out of sync with the way work really gets done.

For instance, an organization that outwardly states that it values teamwork, but internally rewards the lone ranger who is known for putting out “fires” may be perpetuating a culture in which individual achievement trumps teamwork. Similarly, an organization that claims to value diversity but under-represents women in leadership positions may have some cultural alignment work to do as well.

Misalignment between stated values and actual business practices are discouraging to employees, detrimental to business and negatively impact reputation. The remedy involves opening up conversations around what a company says its culture embodies and comparing that to how work really gets done, what behaviors get rewarded, who is hired and who gets promoted.

These conversations take courage and time, and must include voices from all ranks and areas of the organization. Having these conversations is a step toward avoiding an “accidental” culture and creating one that truly aligns with goals, values and customer needs. Learn more about how to have those tough conversations and create an intentional culture on the Tan270 Consulting Blog.

Sangita Kasturi teaches Executive Success SkillsGlobal Business & Cultural Diversity,and Leading Organizational Change at Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. Sangita is the principal and founder of Tan270, a global consulting firm that builds organizational  effectiveness through programs and consultations in leadership, women in leadership, diversity, cultural intelligence, change management and communication. LinkedIn



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