Why organisational culture is about more than just everyone getting on

By September 13, 2016September 14th, 2018Staff


Having looked in detail at scores of businesses in recent years, I remain convinced of the benefits of a healthy organisational culture. It’s something we test for in our business health check because companies which have it tend to be stable and pleasant workplaces. That helps staff retention and, in the long run, profitability.

However the term “organisational culture” can mean different things to different people. For me, it encompasses a range of things, some of which are easier to spot than others.

It’s not just about having everyone in your company getting along, as desirable as that is. There are plenty of organisations around where everyone gets along, but not much work gets done, so having a shared work ethic is important.

I’d also suggest that mutual respect is more important for a healthy organisational culture than workplace harmony. Some high performing teams are built around a respect for the abilities of each member, rather than each member being the best of friends. And respect must be earned over time, so it can take a while to achieve.

How staff positions are structured is also important. The right structure will reflect the functional units of a business. It will have the right number of team members reporting to the right number of supervisors. The positions themselves will be neither overpaid or underpaid and work will be fairly distributed throughout the staffing structure. In these fundamental logistical ways, the potential for resentment and discord among staff is minimised.

Another component is suggested by this NYT article about the importance of “psychological safety” within teams. This is where team members feel secure enough to voice their views and to make mistakes, knowing that their fellow team members support a culture where a variety of voices are heard and brainstorming is encouraged. These unspoken norms, the article suggests, have a tangible impact on the performance of teams.

In summary, don’t mistake workplace harmony for a healthy organisational culture. Also think about:

  • work ethic
  • mutual respect
  • staffing structure and
  • the unspoken workplace norms.

Want to talk more about your workplace culture, what’s working and what’s not? Drop us a line at Generate. We’d love to help.