Culture always wins!

Mike Allan - Livingstones - link to page here 

Why does an employee work for your organisation? We want to believe it’s because of our brand or employee value proposition (EVP) is different in someway from our competitors, but recent evidence has indicated that it’s because employees identify with your organisation and they like the culture of the organisation. The ‘way’ you do things.

The decision to work for a particular bank, or airline or estate agent is often because a prospective employee has seen or heard that the organisation operates or behaves in a certain way. Most organisations have at some point identified the behaviours or the ‘way we do things around here’ even if it is informally, and over time these behaviours become the norm and recognised as part of the ‘culture’ of the organisation.

It’s never too early to pay attention to the culture (the way you do things) even if you are a sole trader.  The ‘way you do’ what it is you do is most probably why people rehire or recommend your service. Identifying the behaviours which keep your customers coming back is key to growing and developing any business. As you grow your business, new employees will copy the way you do things because that’s how we ‘do things around here’. This is easier when you are a small company, but once people are not in direct contact with the owner, CEO etc, maintaining these behavioural norms, can be problematic, especially if you have not identified them.

Recent Royal Commissions have highlighted the cost of neglecting or ignoring the impact that leadership, governance and decision making have on culture and how this can be detrimental to organisations. It is not by accident that the commissions have often singled out the leaders of organisations for criticism.  Evidence indicates that when leaders fail to deal with emerging dysfunctional/detrimental behaviours, these behaviours start to become part of the cultural norm.

Leaders have the biggest impact on culture.  Like a parent, the behaviour you display will be copied by your child, equally research in this area indicates that the behaviours a leader consistently demonstrates is most likely to be adopted by their reports. The evidence indicates that this is because we want approval from our leaders/boss/CEO (given they can reward/punish us both financially and psychologically). This explains how cultural norms both good and bad are created and why good quality leadership has the biggest impact on maintaining and developing a great culture in an organisation. The quality of an organisations culture is often dictated by the quality of their leaders and it is not by chance that research and evidence (including royal commissions) have found that failures in everything from finance to religious organisations are primarily failures in the leadership.

The culture of an organisation is a powerful and valuable commercial asset and it takes quality skilled leaders to maintain or change a culture. It’s never too early to invest in your culture through investing in your leaders. ‘It’s just how we do things around here’’.

If you would like to know more about investing in your culture or leadership please contact any of the Organisational psychology and advisors team or Dr Mike Allan directly, on +61 7 3833 1200 or

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