Further Thoughts on Fostering a For All Culture

Last month, The Workforce Institute Weigh-In posed the thought-provoking prompt: “What’s the best way to foster a great company culture for all people? 
 
When contemplating this question, one can often benefit from framing the discussion before jumping into a solution. To help visualize this type of framing, I discuss my extended thoughts below. 
 
First, consider the likelihood that each industry will have similar cultural attributes within their organizations, while those in other industries may look completely different within their respective industries. For example, the culture in a manufacturing environment will often look and feel different than what one might experience in a hospital environment, even though they could have some cultural aspects in common. 
 
Second, even within a given industry, the type of culture within a specific organization can be substantially different, because there is not necessarily a need, or desire, to follow the general status quo culture model for an industry. Common examples of specific types of cultures include: market culture, which is built on competition; clan culture, a highly collaborative form; hierarchy culture, with top-down decision making; and adhocracy culture, where decisions are made on an ad hoc basis. If the organization is comfortably defined within one of these types of cultures, it is important to decide if that culture type is preferred going forward, or if another type of culture might be more desirable. 
 
Third, one must be intentional about differentiating “culture” from “climate.” While these two terms are often used interchangeably, there are differences that need to be defined at the beginning of the discussion to help stay focused on culture or climate. Because of the differences in these terms, obtaining clarity on how they apply to your specific organization at the onset of the discussion will also aid in developing and executing an action plan toward the desired outcomes. 
 
For example, “organizational culture” is commonly described as a shared set of attitudes, values, beliefs, and practices that characterize an organization. Culture, which is abstract, is based on belief systems held by leadership. As a result, culture sets the stage for employee expectations and actions, shapes individual behavior, and is usually quite challenging to change. 
 
Conversely, “organizational climate” is often described as the set of general feelings and emotions related to a given work environment. Climate is linked directly to how an employee perceives the work environment. Things that impact climate include strategies that leaders use to motivate employees, the common language used throughout the company, how employees perceive the work environment, and how customers are treated. Climate can be impacted and shaped by many things — such as leadership styles, individual experiences, performance evaluations, and attitudes at work related to policies and practices. 
 
As mentioned, culture is difficult to change (much like belief systems) and, as such, when culture does change, it is often a slow process. Conversely, climate is something that is typically fluid and can change frequently based on a wide range of individual experiences and emotions. 
 
Using the above framework, the best way to foster a great company culture for all people is deeply connected to the belief and value system of the company. One solution will not work in all companies.  However, shifting the belief systems and values is the ideal option to shift or change culture, and this will often require the addition of new leadership with different beliefs and different values. Conversely, climate can be changed by asking employees (and customers) for feedback on what they value most, and then developing and implementing solutions to address that feedback. 
 
To learn more about how to foster a great workplace culture for your people, register for the UKG HR and Payroll eSymposium on June 7.