The perception of culture


Many business owners tell me that their company culture is unique or that they have a strong culture, or that there is no culture at all.

Often my first response is “how do you know”?  Even in an environment where you think there is no culture, I can guarantee you there will be. It might not be as tangible as other cultures you’ve worked in, or it could be hiding itself under a bushel – but there is always a culture… in every single business.

What is workplace culture? Culture is the character and personality of your company or organisation. It’s what makes your business unique and is the sum or its values, traditions, beliefs, interactions, behaviours, and attitudes.

Why is workplace culture important? I would say that your culture is just as important as your business strategy because it either strengthens or undermines your objectives. A positive culture will help you attract talent, drive engagement and retention, impacts happiness and job satisfaction, and affects performance. A negative culture can destroy your workplace. It can cause high turnover, bad behaviours, lack of focus and toxicity.

Why do you need to know what culture you have in your workplace? In the past decade, job seekers and employers have become equally interested in company culture. Yet,         most people struggle when asked to define their own company culture. There is a good reason for this: company culture can often be in a fluid state. It can change in almost imperceptible amounts with each new hire, or it could change drastically if an acquisition or a restructure occurs. Culture develops organically, and subculture may exist in each department or location.

So how do you determine what style of culture is manifesting in your workplace?   There are many theories on the different cultures in play; but the four styles defined by Kim Cameron and Robert Quinn from the University of
Michigan are some of the most popular:

a) Clan culture: or collaborative culture – focuses on teamwork. Relationships, participation, and company morale are at the forefront.

b) Adhocracy culture: primarily focuses on innovation and risk-taking.  Many successful start-ups are considered to have this type of culture.  

c) Market culture: in a market culture, the bottom line is the main priority. Everything is gauged with the company’s profitability in mind and it’s all about the results!

d) Hierarchy culture: this one follows the traditional corporate structure and has a clear chain of command. This type of workplace has a specific way of doing things and the focus is on stability and

How can you change your company culture?

Identifying your current cultural type is the first steps. What are its strengths and weaknesses? Is it keeping pace with the changes in the marketplace and demand? For example, the rapid adoption of remote working has changed how many businesses function and shifted the focus for employees on job satisfaction and security. Employee satisfaction surveys and self-assessments can be invaluable here – along with feedback from customers and suppliers.   Once you know where you are – you can think about where you want to be. And you can identify which elements of the different company cultures are best fit for vision. For example, if you’re currently a traditional business and want to be more innovative and creative, you may need to shift the culture in your business. To quote the Harvard Business Review, changing your culture requires a movement, not a mandate.


About Author

Senga Allen

Human Resource Specialist and Managing Director, Everest People. Waikato and BOP people and culture specialists. www.everestpeople.co.nz