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Organisational Culture & HR

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What is organisational culture?

Organisational culture is made up an established set of shared beliefs, shared values and shared behaviours which are communicated and reinforced in various ways, such as through training, employee wellbeing schemes and mission statements. These usually begin with HR departments, moulding employee expectations and behaviours, but it is the priority of all members of the team to reinforce a positive organisational culture.

Are the four types of organisational culture still valid, or have these expanded and evolved into different culture types?

The four types of organisation culture; Clan Culture, Adhocracy Culture, Market Culture and Hierarchy Culture are evolving and adapting as employees’ views change.

Traditionally, organisational culture shapes employee behaviours and expectations, but as these expectations evolve, we can see the reverse at play with expectations now determining what an organisations shared values and beliefs look like.

For example, this is particularly clear when looking at diversity and inclusion. Employees now expect companies to have a sustained commitment to improving diversity in the workplace and for it to form part of the shared values of a company.

When asked how important a diverse culture would be to applicants, our ‘How the Pandemic has Impacted Employee Expectations’ report returned an average result of 7.4 out of 10, revealing that whilst it may not be the defining issue that decides whether a role is accepted, organisations that demonstrate awareness and a policy around this will certainly be at a competitive advantage over those that do not.

The traditional notions of workplace hierarchies are not as highly sought after or as relevant as they used to be. In fact, organisations are increasingly eager to facilitate collaboration of ideas from all levels and implement a much flatter structure. Inevitably there will always be some structure of seniority, but it is likely to be given far less weight as time goes on.

How is HR defining, supporting, and nurturing company culture?

The role of HR is evolving with titles changing to ‘People and Culture’ professionals and a greater emphasis being placed on aligning culture to goals.

The culture of a company is understood to go further than just establishing accepted behaviour and should be created and nurtured via training, mentorship, development and progression.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is also transforming, the desire to have a positive influence on the world is no longer just an issue of company reputation. It has transitioned into a social and HR issue that can impact the culture of an organisation and how aligned an employee feels to its values.

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are also playing a part. After all, how you treat your employees and what support systems are in place, ultimately demonstrates your values and priorities and defines your business’ culture.

How has the pandemic impacted company culture? How are HRs coping with these changes?

In recent years, the buzz around employee wellbeing and the focus on mental health has escalated, with the pandemic acting as a catalyst. Changing employee expectations around EAPs and mental health provisions have resulted in the issue gaining traction and becoming an expected bare minimum for employers to provide. For example, many feel that every organisation should be obliged to supply Mental Health First Aiders.

To give them credit where credit is due, HRs have largely risen to the challenge. Our own research revealed that 68 per cent of employers and HRs took steps to combat mental health. But how this has impacted overall staff welfare is hard to say.

When asked if staff welfare improved since 2019, 38 per cent of employees believed it had improved, 32 per cent felt it hadn’t and 30 per cent were unsure – not the most convincing of results.

How can HRs create an effective organisational structure in your businesses?

By joining company boards or becoming part of Senior Leadership teams, HR and ‘People and Culture’ professionals will have greater opportunity to steer and develop an effective organisational structure. This could include dissolving hierarchal barriers or ensuring that diversity and inclusion considerations are embedded into hiring strategies and therefore translated into more diverse organisational structures.

In these positions, HRs also have a better chance of influencing how leaders manage their staff, for instance putting greater emphasis on outputs and completion of tasks than simply hours worked, or the pattern of those hours.

Does hybrid work need a hybrid organisational culture? What does this look like and how do you build this culture?

In our research we reported that as result of a lack of time spent in the office, 51 per cent felt that the culture of their organisation had been affected negatively.

Employers can no longer rely on culture developing organically as a result of office-based rapport. They must find other ways to build culture in their team.

Our research revealed that the main challenge of remote working came from a lack of communication. Employers must work hard to maintain a sense of team unity via regular meetings, whether that be in person or over a screen.

Organising team-building events that are accessible to all, such free zoom fitness classes and virtual social events will also help to cultivate relationships and cohesion. Involving the team in a communal effort that can bridge the hybrid gap, such as an online fundraising event, could also be effective.

How can HRs help managers and other business leaders define and support their business’s culture?

Business leaders must better harness the value of HRs by involving them in leadership teams and on boards. After all it is their area of expertise and their ability to define a business’s culture should be recognised. In these positions of influence, HRs can more easily and effectively shape and improve their business’ culture, particularly by being involved in employee wellbeing strategies from the get-go.

They can also ensure management training is tailored to the new hybrid world and establish a standard of regular communication between the leadership team and team members.

What does the future of business culture look like from an HR point of view?

HRs and ‘People and Culture’ professionals will become increasingly involved in curating the culture of the business. Their sphere of influence has expanded into areas which has implications on organisational culture and are increasingly in positions whereby they can influence decisions.

In these positions, HRs will begin to take a much more active role in driving initiatives around improving organisational culture such as mental health provisions, EAPs and diversity and inclusion strategies.


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