Organizational Culture

Organizational culture is defined as the underlying beliefs, assumptions, values, and ways of interacting that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organization.

Organizational culture represents the collective expectations, experiences, philosophy, as well as the values that guide member behaviour, and is a product of factors such as history, product, market, technology, and strategy, type of employees, management style, and national culture.“At its worst, culture can be a drag on productivity. At its best, it is an emotional energizer”– Jon Katzenbach.

Culture also includes the organization’s vision, values, norms, systems, symbols, language, assumptions, beliefs, and habits (Needle, 2004).

Organizational Culture Types

Kim Cameron and Robert Quinn (1999) conducted research on organizational effectiveness and success. Based on the Competing Values Framework, they developed the Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument that distinguishes four culture types.

Clan Culture
A friendly one! The leaders or the executives are seen as mentors, facilitators, or team builders. Loyalty and tradition are the key factors that drive these organizations. There is great involvement of the members. The organization bonds colleagues by morals. Success is defined within the framework of addressing the needs of the clients and caring for the people. Commitment, communication, development are the value drivers.

Adhocracy Culture

This is a dynamic and creative working environment. Employees take risks. Leaders are seen as innovators, entrepreneurs, and visionaries. Prominence is emphasized. The long-term goal is to grow and create new resources. The organization promotes individual initiative and freedom. Surprise and delight, creating new standards, anticipating needs, continuous improvement, finding creative solutions are a few quality improvement strategies.

Market Culture
This is a results-based organization that emphasizes finishing work and getting things done. People are competitive and focused on goals. Leaders are hard drivers, are tough and have high expectations. The emphasis on winning keeps the organization together. Reputation and success are the most important. Competitive prices and market leadership are important.

Hierarchy Culture
This is a formalized and structured work environment. Procedures decide what people do. Leaders are proud of their efficiency-based coordination and organization. Keeping the organization functioning smoothly is most crucial. Formal rules and policy keep the organization together. The long-term goals are stability and results, paired with efficient and smooth execution of tasks. Trustful delivery, smooth planning, and low costs define success.

How to create a good workplace culture?

Employees are vital to the creation and communication of their workplace culture. Organizational leadership is the principal architect of culture, and an established culture influences what kind of leadership is possible.

A deeply embedded and established culture illustrates how people should behave. This behavioural framework, in turn, maintains workplace decorum. Also, good leadership ensures higher job satisfaction. From this perspective, organizational culture, leadership, and job satisfaction are all inextricably linked.

Ways for mobilizing organizational culture

There are three aspects of corporate culture and these three affect its alignment: symbolic reminders (artefacts that are entirely visible), keystone behaviours (recurring acts that trigger other behaviours and that are both visible and invisible), and mind-sets (attitudes and beliefs that are widely shared but exclusively invisible).  Of these, behaviours are the most powerful determinant of real change. The broad principles that can help in mobilizing an organization's culture can be stated as:

  • Grow off your current culture. Deeply embedded cultures can neither be scrapped completely nor be swapped out for a new. The approach should be to understand and recognize the traits that are preeminent and consistent, and ask employees what they do and don’t like about their current culture and work environment. Leaders should use these suggestions to help create a positive corporate culture that’s appropriate for their workforce.
  • Leaders act as a key force in creating an organization’s culture. Any major cultural transformation starts with the leaders. Behaviours portrayed by them provides a good example to the employees, and demonstrate that these changes are not temporary. Everyone required to make the change (leaders, managers, and employees) must be supported to act in pre-determined new ways for the change to take root and last. 
  • Behavioural changes lead up to mental shifts. Changing the mind-sets (and ultimately behaviour) by communicating values such as integrity, ethics, respect, loyalty, morality, etc would mobilize the organizational culture in favour of the system. Changes that are tangible, actionable, repeatable, observable, and measurable — are thus a good place to start.
  • Identify the impactful behaviours. The key is to focus on what we call “the critical few,” a small number of important behaviors that would have a great impact on others. These behaviours may be good or bad. Adopt and implement the righteous ones and try to eliminate the inadequate ones.
  • Link behaviors to business objectives. Motivation and values —  are the vital elements of strong cultures. Business can be improved by selecting the behaviours that are aimed specifically towards productive values and can achieve the organizational goals. 
  • Create a culture of Recognition. We all want and need recognition. When we move to the workplace, this orientation is no different. It is key that employers focus on how they can make authentic and meaningful recognition part of their management philosophy in order to retain top talent and encourage high performance.
  • Actively manage your cultural situation over time. Companies that have had great success working with culture actively monitor, manage, care for, and update their cultural forces. Even if you have a highly effective culture today, it may not be good enough for tomorrow.

The benefits of cultivating a strong workplace culture include

  • Attracting top talent
  • Bringing out the best in your employees
  • Increasing employee retention
  • Increasing employee engagement and productivity
  • Increasing employee levels of satisfaction and teamwork


There is widespread agreement that organizational cultures do exist and that they are a key driver in shaping organizational behaviors. A deep understanding would allow not only for a more rigorous study of organizational culture, but also increase our understanding of how it influences other organizational outcomes such as productivity, employee engagement, and commitment.


Geeta sharma

Geeta Sharma
An HR professional & management graduate having a keen interest in Human Resources, encouraging good inter-personal relations, and being interactive. Currently working as Senior Executive –HR with eWandzDigital Services, in employee recruitment, induction, and employee relationship management.

Tags: HR, HRM, Organization, Cuture, Organizational Culture, Workplace, Workplace culture