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Cultivating your organization’s culture

Organizational culture has been defined as the unique social and psychological manifestation of a system of shared values, beliefs, principles and behaviors. It represents the collective experience of a group and embodies the core of employee experience.

One may say that culture is just another construct to explain the dynamics of employee engagement and productivity. Somehow, this misses the point that culture plays a greater part. According to Trice and Beyer, sustainable success emanates from the unique organizational culture which reduces collective uncertainties, creates social order and continuity across members, builds a collective identity and commitment and elucidates a clear vision for the future. These bind and energize your employees to move forward.

For example, as a former employee of a Fortune 100 company, I witnessed an organization, that had been dominant in its field for decades and had essentially operated in the same way for years. Its mantra had always been: “This is how things are done here.” However, this company would eventually face the inevitable question: How do you stay relevant when the tastes and habits of your customers start to shift?

To add more variables to the equation: Members of Generation Y started to dominate the workplace by practically changing the ways and structures of the “old dispensation.” The older leaders (the Baby Boomers) who had been so used to steering success suddenly became perplexed when such a shift took place. They thought capital machinery, technology and innovation were enough keys to adapt to changing scenarios in the work place. They commissioned exhaustive market surveys in an effort to justify the re-engineering processes of their business model.

Still, they did not see much improvement. When they realized this and looked in the direction of Culture Change initiatives, tangible progress and improvements became manifest. This led to the conclusion that strategic sense provides direction but Culture gives meaning and depth to an organization’s purpose.

Understandably, changing culture takes commitment and sustained effort. Therefore, it is imperative to start any initiative from the top. Executives should know how to harness positive culture forces and sync it with business objectives. This, in turn, accelerates both operational and strategic imperatives which later translates into competitive and distinctive advantage.

To ascertain your corporate culture, consider the following questions:

a. How well do teams collaborate and work with one another?

b. Are company values articulated and incorporated into the “language” of the organization? Describe your company in one word, for example.

c. How are employees rewarded?

d. In your hiring and sourcing process, is there an “employee brand” that you observe?

e. What behaviors would you correct and sustain?

Your response to these questions basically would tell and describe the kind the culture of your organization. It would as also imply behaviors that contribute and affect your business performance.

Culture is an instinctive, repetitive habit that renews and evolves through time. Therefore, it vital that when an organization links behavior to objectives, it must ensure that employee mechanisms are built according to and aligned around the values that form the totality of your corporate culture. Here is a sample checklist to see if the guiding principles you have set are aligned to the organizational culture that you aspire to institutionalize:

A. Sourcing and Hiring of Talents – The moment they step into your office or view your online web page, what do they see? How is the environment? Is it “cold” or “warm”? Organized or in disarray? Do you see any corporate values posted on the walls?

Depending on your response, these manifestations of the company ethos form the critical impressions about the organization and its culture. If you value flexibility, your workstations, for example, should be both mobile- and tech-ready (plug-and-play). Constant use of the word “team” in your brand messaging implies a more collaborative environment, as the word “employee” may tend to be more individualistic.

B. Rewards and Recognition – How does your company reward performance? How do you treat your top performers compared to those at the bottom? Does your reward system reinforce certain behaviors?

Having a distinct mechanism that would clearly differentiate high achievers from low performers; providing more premiums and merit incentives to high performing or achieving employees promote a behavior that is closely linked to productivity. Incentives are good predictors of behaviors that are being formed over time.

C. Retention and Engagement – Does the culture alleviate stress or cause stress? How do you sustain enthusiasm in the workplace? What kind of specific activities or events are lined up for employees? What benefit options are available to employees?

Health options, offered to employees and their dependents regardless of status, may in a way signify how the company values family. Flexible time-off programs or arrangements may imply the company’s stance towards work-life integration. Quarterly dialogues suggest a culture where inputs are valued and concerns are acted on. When you speak of autonomy, personal expression or empowered decision-making becomes critical.

Organizational culture involves emotional influence, intellectual dexterity and energy. This shared awareness is essential in promoting the right mindset and a common platform across the organization. Leaders who encourage their employees to “act their way into believing rather than thinking their way into acting” create a distinctively aspirational culture.

Rhia Dee is a Director, People & Culture, P&A Grant Thornton. P&A Grant Thornton is one of the leading Audit, Tax, Advisory, and Outsourcing firms in the Philippines, with 21 Partners and over 800 staff members. We’d like to hear from you! Tweet us: @PAGrantThornton, like us on Facebook: P&A Grant Thornton, and email your comments to or For more information, visit our Website:


As published in The Manila Times, dated on 19 Apirl 2017