How does an organization accurately identify the elements of its own culture?

How does an organization accurately identify the elements of its own culture?

Any Organization mainly consists of employees. When founders or just one founder start a business they start with a mission and a vision, guided by values. Eventually, as more and more people join the organization, the corporate culture develops around the original beliefs, values, and assumptions.

            Corporate culture is usually unique to the organization. And that is why each organization is unique and provides a different experience to customers. And these differences come because of the differences in beliefs, values, and assumptions.

            The leadership can play the key role to identify the organization’s culture. They need to understand what they believe in, and they need to make sure that each employee has the same believes as they do. Everyone should have a common belief. But if the organization grows too big in numbers of employees, there is a possibility that there will be an employee with different believes or values.

            What values do the employees have? Are they customer centric or are they profit-centric? The leadership needs to make sure employees understand the organizational values, and often remind them and empower them. An organization such as Zappos is all about customers, they are customer focused, but Wells Fargo turned out to be profit focused as lately the scandals came out and everybody came to know how Wells Fargo tried to make money cheating their customers. In September 2018 Wells Fargo was fined $480 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit over the unauthorized accounts scandal. But, I believe the reputation damage is far more than the monetary losses (Koren, 2018).

            Personally, I think assumptions in any organization is most misunderstood.  The leadership might assume that they promote or encourage open communication within the team members, but team members, especially the analysts or people at the lowest level, might assume the opposite. They might not find their managers approachable. These assumptions would vary from organizations to organizations, and based on other factors and situations.

The leadership team of the organization need to set up a training program to communicate all these to new joiners and should enforce regular training programs to remind the organizational culture to employees, as employees tend to forget these, and if that happens the organization will struggle to maintain its culture since it consists of the employees.  

How does it go about promoting critical awareness of culture among its personnel? 

            Whenan employee joins the organization, on his or her first they should get an idea about the organizational culture. When someone really new ( fresh out of college) joins, usually he or she is really curious because it has a lot to do with his or her own future, so if the leadership gives an idea about organizational culture, that will stick in their minds.

            For example, in my first company, which was a multinational, we were told not to disclose our salary or bonuses to our coworkers or not use heavily accented English. I personally found these to be very helpful in the 7.5 years I worked for that company.

            When I was joining my current company, the HR gave us a cultural orientation walk through. Among many things, one thing stood out and stuck to my mind. She said not to joke around with coworkers, because people from different countries and different cultural background work here, so we do not want to offend anyone, and I really liked that thought.

But, just one day is not enough to infuse the organizational culture among employees, the leadership team has to remind the values from time to time.

I got a great example in my current organization. There was an incident in a US airline, where the passenger was dragged out of the flight. Our CEO sent out an email to us, reminding out values, which include respecting each other, and pointed out our values do not match with the airline’s value, which could show any respect for its customers. He requested us to consider not flying with that particular airline.

But in my personal experience, I have seen exceptions for lateral herrings. They often ignore the orientation sessions, assuming they already know what the HR person has to say.

So in a nutshell, I believe, training, walk through and reminders from leadership work very well to promote cultural awareness among the employees.

Does cultural awareness play a role in organizational success? 

            I think it is critical. Because, if each employee is culturally aware, they know what they are working towards. As long as that serves the customer well, the organization will do well. But, I believe if the culture is not very customer friendly, or in other words, if the culture itself is not right, in that case, organization success won’t depend on whether or not there is a cultural awareness among the employees. We can think about the audit firm, Arthur Andersen. The culture was so profit oriented that they solely focused on making money out of customers.

Here is one example, McDonald’s spent money on an Ad in China showing that one customer is kneeling before McD to accept his expired coupon and McDonald’s faced caused an uproar as begging is shameful in Chinese culture (Commisceo Global,2016).

Is a global organization, in the 21st century, obligated to provide opportunities for its employees to become more culturally sensitive or increase their cultural awareness through an understanding the cultural system of values, assumptions, and symbols?

            The success of any global organization will depend on if there are cultural awareness and understanding of the cultural system of values, assumptions, and symbols. With the invention and mass use of the internet, distance is not a problem anymore. And for a global company, there will be employees of different nationalities, different regions in the same country. And to work together as a team or at least towards achieving the same goal, they should be respectful to each other. To make that happen the organization needs to promote cultural awareness through an understanding of the cultural systems of values, assumptions, and symbols.

            Organizations, often do not do a good job. In my experience, I was given out a hand note or an internet-based self-learning program pointing out what are the things I should not do when I was traveling to a different country. I think, a class with an instructor explaining to us what and why – would have been better. Otherwise, there is a chance that the employees, do not see the value in learning, and in that case, the training won’t be effective.

What do they stand to lose if they don’t?

            If the employees are not culturally aware or sensitive, while they work with other employees with different cultural background and values, the risk would be their interpersonal relationship would not be better. And a team functions better with people who understand each other better and respects each other. This is one risk aspect and probably comes with a mitigation plan. The managers can step in and make the team members aware of the cultural differences.

            I think the bigger risk is, if the customers are from a different culture and if they have different values. If the employees do not have any understanding or awareness of customers values or culture that might give a signal to the customer that the organization does not value him as a customer. And the organization might lose his business.

Reference:

Koren, James Rofen (Sep, 2018). Judge OKs $480-million settlement with Wells Fargo shareholders over unauthorized-accounts scandal. Retrieved from http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-wells-fargo-settlement-20180905-story.html

COMMISCEO GLOBAL (November,2016). How Lack of Cultural Awareness Can Cost A Business Big. Retrieved from https://www.commisceo-global.com/blog/cultural-sensitivity-in-business-1

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