Important Elements Of Culture (10)


Understanding staff's attitude to the key elements of culture is pivotal in any change process.

Knowing how to foster staff engagement is an important to keeping and attracting staff, ie one study

"...Nearly 2/3 of employees listed corporate culture among the most important reasons they stayed with their current employer - or start looking for another job..."
Harris Poll as quoted by Donald Sull et al, 2021

Another study reinforced this

"... Culture is the single biggest predictor of employee satisfaction, ahead of compensation and work-life balance..."
A. Stansell as quoted by Donald Sull et al, 2021

Evaluating an organisation's culture is very subjective, ie it depends on your personal experience. For example, a risk-adverse person in a risk-taking organisation could feel uncomfortable with the culture.

Most people believe that culture is important in principle but there are divergent views about which elements are the most important.
Linked with culture are the core values of an organisation. However, most core values are more the top executives' cultural aspirations rather than reflecting what matters to most staff.

NB This is based on US research and could vary in different cultures.

Top 10 Elements of Organisational Culture that Matter Most to Staff (see diagram below)

1. Employees Feel Respected (by far the most important one)

2. Supportive Management

3. Management Lives Core Values

4. Toxic Managers

5. Unethical Behaviour

6. Benefits

7. Perks

8. Learning and Development

9. Job Security

10. Reorganisations

How Employees Ranked These 10 Elements (see diagram below)


More details on each element

1. Employees feel respected (they are treated with consideration, courtesy and dignity; their points of view are taken seriously. This is by far the most important element, ie twice as important as the second most predictive factor. Disrespect is shown by

"...Employees describe being demeaned and degraded: viewed as disposable cogs in a wheel or robots; treated like children, second-class citizens, crap, garbage, dirt, trash, scum, idiots, all cattle..."
Donald Sull et al, 2021

Disrespect was more of an issue in industries employing many casuals and less of a problem in more professional/technical organisations)


2. Supportive management (management do everything possible to help their staff to perform their jobs, like responding quickly and effectively to requests, accommodate employees' individual needs, offer encouragement, etc)

3. Management team members live core values ('walk the talk' or 'practise what you preach', ie management's, especially senior management's, actions are consistent with the organisation's values; best managers were described as

"...empowering, organised, emotionally stable, or friendly..."
Donald Sull et al, 2021

There is a fair bit of cynicism about management respecting their organisational core values, ie management 'pay lip' service to them as there is often a wide gap between rhetoric and reality.

"...Employees don't expect leaders to deliver core values, but they appreciate it when they do..."
Donald Sull et al, 2021)

4. Toxic managers (generally abusive, disrespectful, non-inclusive and/or unethical; they create a poisonous, horrible, toxic work environment that is lacking in harmony; create negativity; potential to lose good staff, etc)

5. Unethical behaviour (most organisations mention integrity or ethics as one of their core values; unethical behaviour occurs when staff lack integrity; this create mis-trust and disharmony; potential to lose good staff, etc

"...Problems of unethical behaviour, unfortunately, remain a reality in most organisations. A recent study of managers in brokerage firms found that nearly 10% of them had been involved in financial misconduct, and unethical managers increased the odds that their subordinates would cheat as well..."
 ZT Kowaleski et al as quoted by Donald Sull et al, 2021)

6. Benefits (benefits are more important than compensation, ie wages and salaries, once compensation covers basic living expenses; which benefits matter the most depends upon each employee's job and circumstances, eg

"...Health insurance and benefits are a better predictor of culture rating for front-line workers, while retirement benefits...... matter more for white-collar employees..."
Donald Sull et al, 2021

However, compensation is important in retaining employees, especially among young workers and low-wage earners

"...Compensation matters, but it won't fix a broken culture..."
Donald Sull et al, 2021)

7. Perks (financial and non-financial, such as workplace facilities and amenities, etc; there were around 450 different types of perks mentioned, including organisational-organised social events (like team-building exercises, happy hours, picnics, etc), discounted coffee, unlimited meals, on-site breakfast, free wine, etc

"...The employees don't necessarily expect perks, but they do appreciate them when they're offered..."
Donald Sull et al, 2021)

When more people talk about perks positively, culture ranking improves)

8. Learning and development (opportunities for formal and informal learning for professional and personal development, etc; includes reimbursement of tertiary education; this is more important to knowledge workers than front-line staff)

9. Job security (this is perceived; can include fear of layoffs, retrenchments, outsourcing, disruptive technologies like automation, AI, etc

"...Job insecurity......weighs heavily on employees' minds when they assess corporate culture..."
Donald Sull et al, 2021

The larger the percentage of employees talking about job insecurity, the lower the organisation's ranking on culture)

10. Reorganisations (attitudes depend upon the frequency and quality of re-organisations, eg its consistency with strategy, its clarity, etc ; the fewer people talking about the re-organisations, the higher the organisational cultural score is)


Search For Answers

designed by: bluetinweb

We use cookies to provide you with a better service.
By continuing to use our site, you are agreeing to the use of cookies as set in our policy. I understand