Sunday, February 26, 2017

Is a Positive Organizational Culture Important?

Organizations have cultures that define them. In years past organizations would actually spend time trying to create a positive organizational culture that helped ensure employee satisfaction which then, in turn, positively supported optimal organizational performance.
It was recognised as a simple mathematical equation – a positive culture = a positive employee experience = optimal performance in the short and long term for the company.
The positive employee experience meant so many things to organizations. (1) That they could attract and retain the best talent; (2) that their culture encouraged, not least, inspiration and innovation amongst its employees; (3) they would have ‘natural’ leaders who would support their teams success (i.e. the employees are self-motivated to continuously improve individual and organizational performance); and (4) the culture would create positive energy that would be felt inside and outside of the organization, as the organizational culture supported not just their employees but their family lives as well.
Now in 2017 this concept of a positive organizational culture seems more of a legendary myth than reality on the ground – where for some reason the concept of organizational culture seems to be viewed dimly as if being concerned about it is a sign of a weak leader. Where in fact not being concerned about your culture is not only the sign of a weak leader, but a naive one as well.
Whether you believe in organizational culture and/or believe you can change it for the good – the fact is every organization has one. Sadly, in many cases today it seems that there are different views on culture within the same organisation – where leaders are often in blind denial about the culture they have created.
This type of ‘blind’ leadership will believe that they run a tight ship – directing their employees to achieve the goals they want to achieve. Innovation is considered ‘mutiny’ if it isn’t innovation from the top. Innovation from anywhere else is viewed as dissent and disrespectful behaviour towards the leadership elite – which over a short period of time drowns out all forms of innovative thinking from the mass of employees at the coal face, who actually are the only people who really know what the real problems are – and could offer solutions if only someone within the leadership would be prepared to get over their own ego and listen.
This leadership is command and control based – employees are simply there to serve their purpose, retention is ‘nice’ but not essential, employees can easily be replaced by other warm bodies desperate for employment, who will do as they are told to ensure they can put food on the table back home.
In fact these kind of employees are perfect as they will do as they are told and won’t make intelligent suggestions that may show up the incumbent leadership – who usually have been over-promoted for their ‘yes sir’ mentality, rather than their leadership experience and knowledge. Within these misdirected organizations there is usually a sad, negative culture of double standards – one set of rules for the leadership and another for the slaves, sorry that should be employees. Isn’t this the kind of culture that exists in dictatorships?
Organizational culture is important and should be something organizations focus on in the 21st Century – the benefits are actually huge for everyone involved. It takes a great leader with great insight and vision to see the benefits; and to be honest an idiot not to see it.
Although shareholders are often only short term focused these days – even for them, picking an organization with a genuine positive culture will pay-off more than an organization that has a negative culture; and for those looking for those long term sustainable returns, organizational culture is everything – or should be.
Sadly, as with ‘customer service’, experiencing positive organizational cultures are so rare in today’s world many employees have given up on the belief that they can or do exist anymore – but they do and they can; and it doesn’t take fairy dust to create them.
Leaders have become so myopic that too many focus inwardly on themselves and ‘how they look’ rather than embracing true leadership and creating structures that are self-driven, transparent and areas of true excellence.
We need academics and most importantly owners of businesses to draw a line in the sand now and invest the time and energy into their respective corporate cultures – it will be one of the best investments that they have ever made.