Tenet 2: Everyone Contributes to the Culture

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Last Week we discussed Tenet 1. Culture is Defined by Actions. For this week and next, we are going to talk about how everyone that walks through the front door contributes to company culture with Tenet 2.

Tenet 2: Everyone Contributes to the Culture

Leadership has historically been thought of as the team that determines the values within a company. And while it is important for leadership to identify where we want to be (the aspirational values for the organization, how we want to function as a company), it’s not enough for them to make that isolated decision and then mandate those to the organization.

Leaders crafting values in isolation can be a precursor to challenges within an organization’s culture unless those leaders are in tune with their people. Culture is driven on a day-to-day basis by the values that are held by the people who make up the company. So the act of having the leadership team craft values independently and then deliver them to the organization has a really good chance of being at odds with how the people who make up the company are actually wired. And in that case, that culture that has been crafted may fail, regardless of how much thought and effort was put into the initiative by leadership.

It’s very important for leadership to do the work to understand where they want to be with their cultural values. But even more important than that is for them to do the work of understanding where they are with the ones that are already present within the people who make up the organization – and focus on bringing those two pieces together.

Values are what drive how work gets done, and every individual in your organization has a personal values system. Every interaction an employee has paints part of the picture of how things get done. And the worker’s personal values dictate their role within the interaction.

Thus, everyone’s values matter.

Every interaction between every employee, from bottom to top and vice versa, is a thread in the cultural tapestry. Every employee allows their personal values to dictate how they read and react to others.

Culture sets formal or informal rules for how things get done. So it makes sense that a functional culture has clearly understood norms for how decisions should be made.

How an individual’s personal values mesh with the value sets of the others with whom they interact dictates their feelings toward the company, the team and their manager. This is at the root of the research behind Person-Environment Fit, led by Dr. Amy Kristof-Brown. The research demonstrably shows that if individuals are a good fit with the company culture, team sub-cultures and manager values, they will perform better, stay longer and be more engaged.

Person-Environment fit

Person-Environment has been studied for over a century, making it one of the most studied areas of psychology. Until recently, however, it had largely been a qualitative exercise only exacerbating the ‘squishiness’ of culture.

Dr. Amy Kristof-Brown from the University of Iowa has been one of the foremost researchers in the topic and, along with her team, has led the charge to quantitatively assess the relationship of a worker’s it to their vocation, organization, team, job and manager, and to the positive outcomes sought by the organization, length of tenure, performance, commitment (aka engagement), job satisfaction, etc.

The results of Dr. Kristof-Brown’s meta-analysis are clear. In her words, “we present conclusive evidence that it matters to applicants, recruiters, and employees. It influences their attitudes, decisions, and behaviors in the work domain.”1

The effort, therefore, must be to understand the worker’s values in order to align them throughout the organization rather than on identifying the right perks to motivate them.

March Madness reaching the finale! Later this week we’ll look at how everyone on a winning basketball team contributes to culture

  1. Kristof-Brown, Dr. Amy, et al., “Consequences of Individuals’ Fit at Work: A Meta-Analysis of Person-Job, Person-Organization, Person-Group, and Person-Supervisor Fit,” Personnel Psychology, 2005, Volume 58 pages 281-342.
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