Building organisational culture – one employee at a time

You walk out of the interview and you think you got the job. The skills matched, the experience matched and you felt that it would be a great place to work. When you hear that you did not get the job – you are devastated. When you enquire you are told that they did not think you would fit into the company CULTURE.


It begs the question – what is the role of culture in employment and is it simply a punching bag to not employ people that are not like us? Even the original people that started investigating the link between performance and culture later changed their story to values – so we have to ask what is this phenomena called corporate culture and how do we make the most of it.


Researchers have for an exceedingly long time tried to prove the link between organisational culture and performance and the interesting fact is that your national culture and labour environment has more of an impact on performance than the specific team culture.


Research shows that a leader determines team and organisational culture. The interesting fact is that this leader will emerge internally or externally to the team – no matter what external culture you impose. So if you want to change culture you need a ready group of leaders that have shared values and that transmit these to the teams that they manage and form part of.


Even organisational development experts will tell you that after you have taken care of hygiene factors and built basic values in an organisation – you are stuck with the reality that you can do very little about culture, except change the leaders. Leaders tend to hire in their own image – a phenomena that many experts warn against. If you need another boss exactly like your boss – then you are undermining the value of diversity and may also mess up your company’s ability to innovate.


The key differentiators of culture that have been found to impact on organisational performance are competitiveness and innovation due to the ability of these factors to increase the ability of the organisation to respond to external challenges and change.


We also know that some things do not work. There have been studies to show that rigid structure and processes in an organisational culture leads to poor financial performance. A recent survey showed that people that have a helping orientation perform better in customer facing role. We also know that if every person in an organisation gets paid exactly the same then they do not peform.


So culture as a measure is more often than not a way to determine if you will be able to work with the boss – more so than being an objective measure of how you will improve the performance of the organisation. Objective performance in the organisation is not linked to the culture of the organisation but how leaders manage the organisation – which some will argue is then the culture of the organisation.


This begs the question if there is any value in building cultural employee or personality types into your hiring practice and if there is an ideal team that would produce more than a team that is not ideal.


More companies are using psychometric profiling; personality profiling and other preference based relative scoring methods to assess if a candidate is balanced and potentially stable in a position. These are often administered quickly and the results are usually the determining factor in seeing if the candidate goes forward at all.


Behavioural profiling will tell you what type of employee you will get. The challenge is to be able to manage all types of employees in an organisation – else you may have unbalanced delivery and may be missing out on some different perspective. People also tend to adopt roles in teams linked to the roles that others are fulfilling and you may find that in one team a person is a lion and in another they are, a mouse.


So if you are looking for the x-factor in your next interview situation it may be interesting to go off the beaten path and ask your candidate what time they get up in the morning, how tolerant and helpful they are to others and how competitive they are. It does not matter at the end of the day what your personality type is – but on how you execute on this holistically as a package. We would all love to be “perfect” but somehow we each have our own contribution to make and the recruiter and performance manager must always ask that contribution can this person potentially make to the organisation.