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2 – How people’s behaviour in the workplace affects and shapes culture

How people behave in the workplace can significantly impact an organisation’s culture and overall performance. Understanding how people’s behaviour shapes culture is essential for creating a positive and productive work environment. In this module, we will explore the various factors that influence people’s behaviour in the workplace and how these behaviours can shape organisational culture. We will also examine the impact of culture on employee engagement, productivity, and overall organisational performance.

Workplace culture in organisational settings

Workplace culture in organisational settings refers to the shared values, beliefs, customs, practices, and social behaviour of the employees within an organisation. It encompasses the overall atmosphere and environment of the workplace and includes aspects such as communication styles, leadership, teamwork, and the level of employee engagement and satisfaction. Culture can be visible through the organisation’s mission, vision, and values, as well as the behaviours and attitudes of employees.

A positive workplace culture is important because it can significantly impact employee engagement, productivity, and overall organisational performance. A positive culture can lead to the following:

  • Improved employee morale and engagement
  • Increased productivity and job satisfaction
  • Lower employee turnover and absenteeism
  • Improved communication and collaboration among employees
  • Enhanced reputation and attractiveness to potential employees and customers

Leadership plays a crucial role in shaping and maintaining a positive workplace culture. Leaders can create a work environment that fosters engagement, productivity, and overall organisational success by setting a positive example and promoting a culture of open communication, mutual respect, and collaboration.

Understanding cultures

Culture refers to the shared values, beliefs, customs, practices, and social behaviour of a group of people. In an organisational context, culture refers to the employees’ shared values, beliefs, customs, practices, and social behaviour. It encompasses the overall atmosphere and environment of the workplace and includes aspects such as communication styles, leadership, teamwork, and the level of employee engagement and satisfaction.

There are different definitions and types of culture in the organisational context:

  • Corporate culture: refers to the values, norms, and practices that shape an organisation’s identity and guide its behaviour.
  • National culture: refers to the values, norms, and practices that shape a nation’s identity and guide its behaviour.
  • Subculture: refers to a smaller culture within a larger culture. In an organisational context, subcultures can exist within different departments or teams.

Cultural diversity refers to the presence of people from different cultural backgrounds within an organisation. This can lead to a wider range of perspectives, ideas, and ways of working, but it can also lead to challenges in terms of communication, collaboration, and understanding.

The impact of culture can be both positive and negative. A positive culture can lead to improved employee morale and engagement, increased productivity and job satisfaction, lower employee turnover and absenteeism, improved communication and collaboration among employees, and enhanced reputation and attractiveness to potential employees and customers. A negative culture can lead to low employee morale and engagement, high employee turnover and absenteeism, poor communication and collaboration among employees, and a negative reputation.

Values and norms are the unwritten rules shaping how people behave in an organisation. Values are the beliefs and principles that guide the behaviour of an organisation, while norms are the expectations and rules that shape behaviour. Positive cultures are characterised by values and norms that promote collaboration, open communication, respect, and trust. Negative cultures are characterised by values and norms that promote competition, fear, mistrust, and lack of transparency.

Culture plays a significant role in shaping the workplace environment and the behaviour of employees within an organisation. Understanding the different types of cultures and their impact, as well as the values and norms that shape behaviour, is crucial for fostering a positive and productive workplace culture. This includes understanding and valuing cultural diversity and creating an inclusive environment where everyone feels respected and valued. Additionally, leadership plays a crucial role in shaping and maintaining a positive workplace culture by setting a positive example, promoting open communication and collaboration, and fostering a sense of belonging among employees.

The organisation as a holistic system

An organisation can be considered a holistic system where all parts are interconnected and interdependent. This means that changes in one area of the organisation can impact other areas. In this sense, organisational culture cannot be viewed in isolation but rather as something that permeates all aspects of the organisation.

The role of people professionals, such as human resources professionals, in facilitating an appropriate and effective organisational culture is crucial. They create and maintain a positive work environment that promotes employee engagement, productivity, and overall organisational performance. Some of the ways in which people professionals can facilitate an appropriate and effective organisational culture include:

  • Developing and implementing policies and procedures that promote a positive culture
  • Communicating the organisation’s mission, vision, and values to employees
  • Recruiting and retaining employees who align with the organisation’s culture
  • Providing training and development opportunities to employees to promote a positive culture
  • Facilitating open communication and collaboration among employees
  • Identifying and addressing issues that may negatively impact the culture
  • Leading by example and modelling the values and behaviours they want to see in the organisation

By creating and maintaining a positive organisational culture, people professionals can help improve employee engagement, productivity, and overall organisational performance. This can lead to increased profitability and competitiveness and a more positive and enjoyable work environment for employees.

Diverse and inclusive environments

Creating a diverse and inclusive environment means fostering an atmosphere where people from different backgrounds and perspectives feel valued, respected, and included. This includes diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, abilities, and socio-economic status, among other factors. It also includes recognising and valuing different perspectives, experiences and ways of thinking.

In a diverse and inclusive environment, individuals feel comfortable being themselves and are able to bring their whole selves to work. This can lead to more creative and innovative work and improved communication, collaboration, and problem-solving. Additionally, a diverse and inclusive environment can also help to attract and retain a diverse workforce, leading to increased competitiveness and better decision-making.

Creating a diverse and inclusive environment requires a proactive and ongoing effort. It involves identifying and eliminating any barriers that may prevent certain groups from feeling included and actively seeking out and valuing different perspectives. This can include offering cultural sensitivity training, creating employee resource groups, and implementing inclusive policies and procedures.

Creating a diverse and inclusive environment is essential to fostering a positive and productive workplace culture. It allows all employees to feel valued and respected, regardless of their background, and it helps to create a more innovative and creative workplace.

How diversity and inclusion principles are built into organisational practices

Diversity and inclusion principles can be built into organisational practices in various ways. Some examples include:

PracticeDescription
Recruiting and hiringImplementing diversity and inclusion principles in the recruiting and hiring process, such as actively recruiting from underrepresented groups, using inclusive language in job postings, and providing training for hiring managers on identifying and overcoming unconscious biases.
Employee development and advancementProviding opportunities for employee development and advancement, such as providing training and development programs that focus on diversity and inclusion and creating employee resource groups that provide support and networking opportunities for underrepresented groups.
Policies and proceduresDeveloping and implementing policies and procedures that promote diversity and inclusion, such as implementing policies that prohibit discrimination and harassment and providing accommodations for employees with disabilities.
Communication and engagementEncouraging open communication and engagement, such as creating a safe space for employees to share their perspectives and experiences and providing opportunities for employees to interact with colleagues from different backgrounds.
Metrics and measurementTracking and measuring progress in diversity and inclusion, such as tracking employee demographics, monitoring employee engagement and retention rates, and conducting regular surveys to assess the level of inclusion in the workplace.

How organisations are whole systems

An organisation can be thought of as a whole system where all parts are interconnected and interdependent. This means that changes in one area of the organisation can impact other areas. For example, changes in the organisational culture can impact employee engagement, productivity, and overall organisational performance. Similarly, changes in recruitment and hiring practices can impact the diversity and inclusion of the workforce.

As a people professional, your work and actions can significantly impact the organisation. Your role is to create and maintain a positive work environment that promotes employee engagement, productivity, and overall organisational performance. This can include developing and implementing policies and procedures that promote a positive culture, recruiting and retaining employees who align with the organisation’s culture, providing employee training and development opportunities, and facilitating open communication and collaboration among employees.

By creating and maintaining a positive organisational culture, people professionals can help improve employee engagement, productivity, and overall organisational performance. This can lead to increased profitability and competitiveness and a more positive and enjoyable work environment for employees. Additionally, by creating a diverse and inclusive environment, people professionals can help attract and retain a diverse workforce, leading to increased competitiveness and better decision-making.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that people professionals should also be aware of the potential unintended consequences of their actions. For example, implementing policies that promote diversity and inclusion but do not consider the cultural sensitivity of certain groups could lead to negative results. Therefore, It’s important to be mindful of the potential impact on other areas of the organisation and to work collaboratively with other departments and teams to ensure that the organisation operates effectively and efficiently.

Organisational types, structures, designs and systems

There are several different types of organisational structures, designs, and systems that organisations can adopt. Some of the most common include:

  • Functional structure: This structure is based on specialised functions or departments, such as finance, marketing, and operations. Each department is focused on a specific aspect of the business and is managed by a functional manager. This structure is best suited for relatively stable organisations with a clear division of labour.
  • Divisional structure: This type of structure is based on products, services, or geographic regions. It is also known as product structure or customer structure. Each division is responsible for a specific product, service, or geographic region and is managed by a divisional manager. This type of structure is best suited for organisations that have diverse product lines or serve different geographic regions.
  • Matrix structure: This type of structure combines the functional and divisional structures by having employees report to both a functional manager and a product or project manager. This structure best suits organisations with project-based work and a diverse product line.
  • Flat structure: This type of structure has fewer management layers, making it more efficient and flexible. This type of structure is best suited for relatively small organisations with a relatively simple organisational structure.
  • Virtual structure: This type of structure is based on technology and enables organisations to operate in different locations. It is best suited for organisations operating in different geographic regions and with a high level of autonomy.
  • Holacratic structure: This type of structure is based on self-management, where authority and decision-making are distributed among the employees rather than being centralised. This type of structure is best suited for relatively flat organisations with a high level of autonomy and encourages innovation.

Each type of organisational structure has its advantages and disadvantages, and the best structure for a particular organisation will depend on its size, complexity, and goals.

Organisations as organic living systems

Organisations can be considered organic living systems in that they constantly change and adapt to their environment. Organisations can adapt and grow like living organisms in response to environmental changes. The concept of organisations as organic living systems emphasises the importance of synergy and interdependence within the organisation.

Synergy refers to the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In an organisation, this means that the collective efforts of all employees can achieve more than the efforts of each employee working alone. This is why fostering a culture of collaboration, and teamwork is important, where employees feel encouraged to work together and share ideas.

Interdependence refers to the idea that different parts of the organisation are dependent on each other to function effectively. This means that different departments, teams, and individuals within the organisation must work together to achieve common goals. This is why fostering a culture of open communication and collaboration is important, where employees feel encouraged to share information and ideas.

Interconnected practices refer to the idea that different practices within the organisation are interconnected and affect one another. For example, a change in recruitment and hiring practices can impact the diversity and inclusion of the workforce, which in turn can impact the overall organisational culture. This is why it’s important for organisations to take a holistic view of their practices and to ensure that different practices are aligned with one another and support the organisation’s overall goals.

Understanding organisations as organic living systems emphasise the importance of synergy, interdependence, and interconnected practices within the organisation. By fostering a culture of collaboration and open communication and taking a holistic view of practices, organisations can improve their ability to adapt to changing environments and achieve their goals.

An effective holistic systems approach

There are several different approaches that organisations can take to achieve an effective holistic systems approach:

  1. Communication and collaboration: Encouraging open communication and collaboration among employees can help ensure that all parts of the organisation work together towards common goals. This includes creating a culture of transparency and trust where employees feel comfortable sharing ideas and information.
  2. Integrated planning: Implementing integrated planning across different departments and teams can help ensure that all parts of the organisation are aligned with one another and support the organisation’s overall goals. This can include developing and implementing a strategic plan aligned with the organisation’s mission, vision, and values.
  3. Holistic view: A holistic view of the organisation can help ensure that different practices are aligned and support the organisation’s overall goals. This can include conducting regular reviews of different practices and assessing their alignment with the organisation’s mission, vision, and values.
  4. Empowerment: Empowering employees with the necessary knowledge, skills, and resources to take ownership of their work can help ensure that all parts of the organisation work together towards common goals. This can include providing employees with training and development opportunities and giving them autonomy to make decisions and solve problems.
  5. Leadership: Strong leadership is crucial in achieving a holistic systems approach. Leaders should be able to create a vision for the organisation, align different practices and departments, and inspire the team to work together. Leaders should also be able to create a culture that welcomes new ideas and fosters collaboration, creativity and teamwork.
  6. Monitoring and measurement: Regularly monitoring and measuring the organisation’s performance can help ensure that all parts work together towards common goals. This can include tracking key performance indicators, conducting regular surveys to assess employee engagement, and conducting regular reviews of different practices.

Achieving an effective holistic systems approach requires a proactive and ongoing effort. It requires leadership commitment, ongoing monitoring, and making necessary adjustments to ensure that all parts of the organisation are aligned with one another and support the organisation’s overall goals.

Models of organisation design

There are several different models of organisational design that organisations can use to structure their operations and achieve their goals. Some of the most common models include:

  1. Bureaucratic model: This model is based on a hierarchical structure and a clear division of labour. A formalised set of rules and procedures and a centralised decision-making process characterises it. This model is best suited for relatively stable organisations with a clear division of labour.
  2. Market-based model: This model is based on a decentralised structure and a clear focus on customers and market competition. It is characterised by a customer-centric approach, a flatter organisational structure, and a more flexible decision-making process. This model is best suited for organisations that operate in highly competitive markets and need to respond quickly to changes in customer demand.
  3. Network model: This model is based on a loosely-coupled structure and focuses on external relationships. It is characterised by a high degree of autonomy and a decentralised decision-making process. This model is best suited for organisations that operate in rapidly changing environments and need to be able to adapt quickly to changes in the external environment.
  4. Entrepreneurial model: This model is based on a flat structure and focuses on innovation and risk-taking. It is characterised by a high degree of autonomy, a decentralised decision-making process, and a strong focus on innovation and growth. This model is best suited for organisations that operate in rapidly changing environments and need to be able to adapt quickly to changes in the external environment.
  5. Holacratic model: This model is based on a flat structure, self-management and a focus on autonomy and empowerment. It is characterised by a high degree of autonomy, a decentralised decision-making process, and a system of governance based on circles, roles, and domains rather than a traditional hierarchy. This model is best suited for organisations that operate in rapidly changing environments and need to be able to adapt quickly to changes in the external environment.

Each organisation design model has advantages and disadvantages, and the best model for a particular organisation will depend on its size, complexity, and goals. Organisations can also adopt a hybrid model that combines elements of different models to best suit their unique needs and environment.

Impact on organisational and people strategies, policies and procedures

The organisational structure and design can significantly impact organisational and people strategies, policies, and procedures. Here are a few examples of how organisational structure and design can impact these areas:

  1. Organisational strategies: The organisational structure and design can impact an organisation’s strategies. For example, a bureaucratic structure may be better suited for implementing a cost-cutting strategy, while a market-based structure may be better suited for implementing a growth strategy.
  2. People strategies: The organisational structure and design can also impact an organisation’s strategies to attract, retain, and motivate employees. For example, a flat structure may be better suited for implementing a strategy emphasising employee empowerment and autonomy. In contrast, a hierarchical structure may be better suited for implementing a strategy emphasising clear lines of authority and control.
  3. Policies and procedures: The organisational structure and design can also impact the policies and procedures that an organisation can implement. For example, a bureaucratic structure may be better suited for implementing policies and procedures that emphasise compliance and control. In contrast, a market-based structure may be better suited for implementing policies and procedures emphasising flexibility and customer focus.
  4. Decision-making: The organisational structure and design can also impact the decision-making process within the organisation. For example, a bureaucratic structure may be better suited for a centralised decision-making process, while a market-based structure may be better suited for a decentralised decision-making process.
  5. Communication: The organisational structure and design can also impact organisational communication. For example, a flat structure may be better suited for more open and informal communication. In contrast, a hierarchical structure may be better suited for more formal and controlled communication.

It’s important for organisations to carefully consider the impact of their organisational structure and design on their organisational and people strategies, policies, and procedures and to adjust them as necessary to ensure that they are aligned with the organisation’s overall goals.

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