Organisational Cultures and Employee Engagement

Introduction

Culture can be looked at as a pattern, or general ways of doing things in a community, society, or organization. It consists of fundamental values that people in the organization learned as they solved their problems of external and internal integration. These values worked well enough to be considered valid, and as a result, they are to be taught to new members as the correct way to do things. Cultures are collective beliefs that in turn shape the behavior of employees.

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They are based in part, on emotions, which are particularly prominent when change is to occur. It is also based on a basis of past continuity whereby the potential loss of continuity in part explains the resistance to change. Although cultures resist change, they are constantly changing. This contradictory condition limits the speed of change and consumes large quantities of energy. (Handy1998)

Culture in an organization

An organization’s culture may be hardly noticeable, taken for granted, assumes, a status quo that we live and participate in but do not question. Elements of the culture may be questioned where individual or group expectations do not correspond to the behaviors associated with the prevailing values of those who uphold the culture. Organizational culture, also known as corporate culture, comprises the attitudes, experiences, beliefs, behavior patterns, rituals and traditions, and values of an organization.

It has been defined as “the specific collection of values and norms that are shared by people and groups in an organization and that control the way they interact with each other and with stakeholders outside the organization. Organizational values are beliefs and ideas about what kinds of goals members of an organization should pursue and ideas about the appropriate kinds or standards of behavior organizational members should use to achieve these goals. From organizational values develop organizational norms, guidelines, or expectations that prescribe appropriate kinds of behavior by employees in particular situations and control the behavior of organizational members towards one another. (Hall, 1987)

Culture in an organization generally refers to the social, behavioral expression and experiencing a whole range of issues such as:

  • Work organization and experiences.
  • Distribution and exercise of authority.
  • Rewarding, organizing, and controlling people.
  • Staff values and orientation.
  • The level of formalization standardizations and control through systems there is.
  • The value placed on planning, analysis, logic, fairness, etc.
  • How much initiative, risk-taking, the scope for individuality and expression is given.
  • Rules and expectations about such things as informality in interpersonal relations, dress, personal eccentricity, etc.
  • Differential status.
  • Emphasis given to rules, procedures, specifications of performance and results, team or individual working (Ghoshal 2003).

The perceived impact of organizational culture on employee’s behavior has been articulated for many years. M. P. Carrol observed in 1982 that culture, like morals, laws, and customs; shapes behavior, and is something that older generations hand down to younger ones it is like collective programming of the minds of one group that differentiates them from other groups. Employees must learn the programs of their organization’s culture if they are to make the system work. (Hall, 1987)

The impact of organizational culture on the behavior of employees has been postulated for many years and its impact continues to be demonstrated. The most important factors that influence employee’s engagements in the organizations are: –

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  • The Chief Operating Officer’s vision and values
  • The organization’s strategic plan
  • The operating needs of the line organizations
  • The organization’s culture,
  • The level of motivation of the employees. (Intrinsic and extrinsic).

Much popular attention has been focused on the hypothesis that strong cultures, defined as “a set of norms and values that are widely shared and strongly held throughout the organization” (O’Reilly and Chatman, 1996: 166), enhance firm performance. This hypothesis is based on the intuitively powerful idea that organizations benefit from having highly motivated employees dedicated to common goals (e.g., Peters and Waterman, 1982; Kotter and Heskett, 1992).

In particular, the performance benefits of a strong corporate culture are thought to derive from three consequences of having widely shared and strongly held norms and values:- enhanced coordination and control within the firm, improved goal alignment between the organization and its members, and increased employee effort. In support of this argument, quantitative analyses have shown that firms with strong cultures outperform firms with weak cultures (Kotter and Heskett, 1992; Gordon and DiTomaso, 1992; Burt et al., 1994).

An organization can have a strong or weak culture. Strong culture exists where employees respond to stimuli because of their alignment to organizational values. It also occurs where employees are engaged in decision making particularly on issues concerning their welfare. Organizations with a culture that encourages upward communication always have motivated employees. Weak culture occurs where employees have little alignment with organizational values, and control must be exercised through extensive procedures and bureaucracy. With a strong culture, employees do things because they believe it is the right thing to do. (Donovan2006)

The management may try to determine an organizational culture. They may wish to impose organization values and standards of behavior that specifically reflect the objectives of the organization. In addition, there will also be an extant internal culture within the employees. Work-groups within the organization have their behavioral quirks and interactions which, to an extent, affect the whole system. Culture can be imported from other organizations. For example, computer technicians will have the expertise, language and behaviors gained independently of the organization, but their presence can influence positively the culture of the organization as a whole. Organization cultures that embrace new ideas and innovations from their employees increases the degree of employee’s engagement in the organization

Employee’s engagement

Employee’s needs may be measured in three ways. They are: –

  • Inclusion is the level of contact and prominence an employee desires.
  • Control, this is the amount of power dominance and individual seeks.
  • Affection, this is the level of closeness and individual seeks.

An organization’s culture that seeks to recognize and address these needs improves employees’ performance and enhances their engagement in the organization. Inclusion, control, and affection correspond to positive or negative traits of some organizational cultures. Social Styles describes the behavior of employees in terms of four general categorizations. Each of the styles is expected to work best in a particular set of circumstances that may be directly related to organizational culture. They are: –

  • Amiable,
  • Analytical,
  • Drivers,
  • Expressive.

The amiable style works best when the climate is free of time constraints and pressure. The Analytical style personality works best when the elements of a situation are organized and directions for implementation are provided by others. The Driver style works best when the climate is not constrained and the Expressive style works best in an open climate in which interactions with others are important.

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Employees’ ability to shape an organizational culture is increased by the fact that certain employees tend to group into disciplines and fields of employment. The outcome is that a non-random population of individuals with similar choices inhabits many organizations. This homogeneity provides increased impetus and decreased resistance to the shaping of a desirable culture. (Schein1985)

Organizational culture can be in a way that acts to satisfy and influence employees’ preferences by periodical changes that favors them. Replacing key employees in the organization in a manner that promotes specialization, initiating new forms of communication, establishing new reward and recognition systems, can bring about changes is a good move. This can be achieved by including changes in the behavior that is rewarded and changing management processes, such as meeting frequencies, attendance, and agendas.

These cultural adjustments can increase employees’ engagement in an organization. Although the prerogative to make many of these changes lies principally with the organization’s formal management, there are also many indirect ways for others with less formal power to bring about changes in the organization’s culture that influence their participation. (Donovan2006)

Employees’ effectiveness and ability to manage change would be promoted if they were educated in the way their behavior is influenced by the culture, systems, processes, the physical environment, and supervisory verbal behavior. Most employees do not understand how immediate, real-time consequences influence what they do, how frequently they do it, or whether they stop doing it. They take it as culture or routine.

An organizational culture that regards positive reinforcement through rewards and recognition as necessary but not critical to business success has a low influence on employee engagement in their organization. They often have a vague and incomplete understanding of what drives daily employee behavior; this is a liability to the overall mission of the organization and at best, a risk to profitability. (Charles and Gareth 2001)

Types of organization’s cultures

Changing an organization’s culture takes a long time; the organization’s culture should be able to influence employees by taking the quickest route in improving their performance and hence enhancing their output by change of employee’s behavior. The management should identify the employee behaviors that will help his or her work unit or department excel and reinforce such behaviors in the organization. The management should orientate the organization’s culture, such that these cultures follow behavioral principles that control the factors that govern what the employees’ do always.

An organization that has a culture that allows interactions of seniors and junior employees increases their engagement in organization activities. The key to employee performance and job satisfaction is the frequency and quality of his or her interactions with their supervisor. The communication between the management and other employees should be aimed at either reinforcing positively or negatively the employees’ quality of work accordingly. This should be exercised with a lot of diplomacies so that there is a promotion of good behaviors as well as punishments for undesirable behaviors that may result in poor performances in the workplace. Leaders and all levels of management need to know how they impact employee behavior and use that knowledge for positive influence. (Charles and Gareth 2001)

Organizations with a culture of reward, recognition, and incentive systems boost employees’ morale and their engagement in an organization. All levels of management can become dependent on programmed rewards as replacements for hands-on coaching and supervision. Existing reward systems directly encourage the behavior that leads to the prize, the money, the payoff, or the award. As a result, the set goals and objectives of the organization are met on time.

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The existing reward systems may encourage cost control or productivity. Reward and recognition systems should be evaluated for the impact they have on teamwork, quality, ethics, and many other factors that can be usurped by compelling tangible rewards. Rewards and recognition practices represent an organizational system that influences other systems particularly the social system and human behavior in profound ways.

An organization should develop a culture that meets the need and aspirations of the employees. The following case study of ‘Starbucks’ is a good example of illustrates this argument

‘On Howard Schultz’s first day as CEO of Starbucks, he shared his vision with the employees. Schultz did this to empower the employees to be part of that vision. He enlisted their help in achieving the goal he had set forth for the company he planned to build. During this meeting, Shultz realized to achieve this dream he first had to repair the morale of the people. In the process of expanding the company, Shultz’s wanted to make Starbucks an enjoyable place to work. He strived to attract employees who would enjoy their work and in turn, would perform at higher levels. The management team sought to understand and meet the needs of all the employees.

One of the first steps would be to provide full-time benefits to part-time employees. The employees felt that this provided a commitment from Starbucks to its employees while reducing turnover. The decrease in turnover would in turn provide greater, more personal customer satisfaction. Schultz stated, “Part-timers were vital to Starbucks,” and argued that, “providing them benefits would signal that the company honored their value and contribution” (McGraw-Hill pgs 4-5). Shultz continued to empower the employees by creating a Mission Review team. Employees were to speak up if anyone violated the mission statement of Starbucks. Through hands-on and interactive leadership styles, Starbucks built a company in which the employees shared in the success.’ Tiffany Smith, (TNU 2008)

Organizations with a culture of paying their workers higher salaries have a low turnover rate of their employees. Such employees develop a sense of achievement in their work as a result of their good pay. Therefore challenges within their work serve as motivation. Threats from management, especially in times of economic instability, can cause employees to shut down and adopt a “survival” mode philosophy, which is counter-intuitive to the success of the organization. The management should contain practical suggestions for managing problems during difficult economic conditions.

This can be achieved by involving all the employees in looking for the best solution for this impeccable. Monetary rewards should only be linked to performance. Exemplary work should be praised. Management should discover and help employees achieve personal goals. It should treat them fairly and honestly when making decisions to prevent de-motivation This encourages employees to help improve their feelings about work during difficult times. The culture that has avenues for negotiating for benefits, networking, maintaining visibility, and adopting a long-range vision will always influence employees’ engagement in the organization. (Charles and Gareth 2001)

Organizations should facilitate the alignment of management and employee goals. Management and employee alignment is critical for employee motivation and participation. The company will be better equipped to succeed with managerial and employee goals aligned to each other. All employees must agree with the purpose of the goals within the organization. Attitudes have to align with organizational goals or the company will never reach its complete potential.

A company wants to make sure everyone is on the same page and working together toward a common goal. Organizations with an Employee Alignment culture allow management to ensure all company views cascade across the company. All employees need to understand the work they perform. If the company’s goals and employee’s goals are not in alignment, then the company is unfocused. The non-involvement of upper levels of management can attribute to the failure of the organization when company strategy and employee views are not in alignment. The non-involvement of upper management can lead to the demotivation of other employees. Organizations properly aligned have measurements in place to hold upper management accountable. (Charles and Gareth 2001)

Each position within an organization uses certain tools to better accomplish goals. These tools may range from business models to the necessary financial means to operate a department or division. It is the responsibility of each organization to provide these necessities to their employees. The responsibility of the employees is to utilize these tools to reach organizational goals. Organizations face the challenges of understanding the job and the tools necessary for the workforce. The management should successfully give employees the tools necessary to perform their duties. A majority of these relate to the training provided by the company.

The training of employees is possibly the most important capability a company can provide in the pursuit of greater motivation and productivity. An organization with a training culture can retain its employees. According to Christopher S. Fringes, the positive effects of employee training are far-reaching. He states, “My observation during the past 35 years is that employees who receive regular training from their employers are more productive, develop a stronger sense of company loyalty, have higher morale, and tend to stay with an organization longer.”

Conclusion

An organizational culture that allows the employee the opportunity to voice his/her opinions is likely to positively influence the employee. If an employee does not have the opportunity to voice his opinions, he will be less motivated to do his job. It is through engagement that a company can find areas needing improvement. “Gallup published research proves that engaged employees are more productive employees.

It also proved that engaged employees are more profitable, more customer-focused, safer, and more likely to withstand temptations to leave’’. Many have suspected a connection between employees’ level of engagement and the quality of their performances. Management should also ensure that their organizations have a culture of fair promotions, which are dependent on merit. That is, one’s academic performance and experiences. (Donovan2006)

Environmental perception plays a vital role in an employee’s hopes. It helps them to achieve their individual goals. On the other hand, employees are demotivated when they are frustrated in attaining their goals. Management that includes the use of threats fosters discord between management and labor and results in a de-motivated workforce. Employees look for more than monetary rewards within the work experience.

Most employees, who are competent in their field, are not motivated by good salaries but are motivated by their good work accomplished. Attainable challenges and a sense of capability act as strong motivating factors for such employees. Honesty and a sense of fair play on the part of management help to build an atmosphere in which employees are motivated. Motivated employees will appreciate increased responsibilities in their work and greater authority in making decisions relating to their jobs. (Charles and Gareth 2001)

A company can become successful because of its organizational culture. An organization that fosters a spirit of comradeship and cooperation among its team members encourages top performance. They are thus very successful. If the company culture encourages their employees to think freely and be creative, they feel part of the organization and hence enhance organizations’ performances. (Charles and Gareth 2001)

Other factors that into-operates employees in their organizations include physical buildings; the canteen, parking garage, and other recreational facilities improves the atmosphere of the work environment. Organizations with an extraordinary culture that cultivate an entire workplace with conditions that are conducive to effectively creating happy and productive workers can generate enthusiasm and pride in a company that will translate into a company that is more productive and wealthier on many levels, this increases employees participation in the organization.(Deal and Kennedy1982)

Theories regarding motivation in the workplace suggest several driving forces ranging from physiological, safety, social, esteem, and self-actualization needs. According to Maslow, “Man’s behavior is seen as dominated by his unsatisfied needs”. Goals and incentives are the central components of motivation. People work first and foremost in their self-enlightened interest, for they are truly happy and mentally healthy through work accomplishment. Hershey, Blanchard, and Johnson 73 (‘’Motivation’’). Maslow and Herzberg suggest that people generally seek “security, social systems, and personal growth”. For an employee to be effective in his workplace, he will look for ways to meet those basic needs in his workforce and motivate his people to accomplish corporate goals. Motivation is critical to employee performance. An organization with a culture that highly motivates its employees retains them.

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