For HR leaders, corporate culture is a conundrum. On the one hand, it’s vital. Happy, motivated employees working toward shared values deliver a consistent experience to customers, bringing tangible financial rewards.
Brand perceptions stem from an organization’s culture. Employees want a good cultural fit—they want viable work/life solutions. Organizations that want employees to bring their whole selves to work need to demonstrate an open and adaptive culture.
On the other hand, it’s hard to change culture. It cannot be spoken into existence; it’s a product of behaviors, symbols, and mindsets. The tone at the top is critical. Ultimately, culture is a product of behaviors learned and passed down from the CEO and board. But departments, divisions, and subsidiaries also set their own tone, and it shifts as people, products, and customers evolve.
For organizations that want to change—to adapt to new business models, new markets, new employee expectations—culture ought to be a powerful lever. But leaders can only use culture to transform the organization if they understand these interrelationships.
But we can say with certainty that culture is a function of people. And that, if nothing else, makes the management of organizational culture a central issue for HR leaders.