The phrase workplace culture is a term that is being used more frequently recently. This phrase, like so many others, dips in and out of fashion, and means different things to different people.

When I refer to work place culture, I am referring to the particular stage of intellectual development of an organisation, the customs, achievements, outlook etc of an organisation.

There are many different types of company culture from command-and-control military style of blind obedience; to informed acquiescence; through to self governance nirvana; and many combinations of the above.

Most organisations I work with strive to have an organisation that is pleasant to work in, promotes productivity, is self-governing, awash with inspiration and driven by values rather than profits. The big question is how does an organisation achieve such a culture? An obvious start is to inspire your staff to react in a particular way.

It is of no surprise to note that academic research repeatedly confirms that different people react in different ways to the treatment they receive. Refer to Dan Pink’s book “Drive”  for further information on this obvious assertion.

For this reason alone, taking one approach in an attempt to achieve a particular type of company culture will not work. Companies must consider the characteristics of those they are wishing to influence. For example, studies repeatedly show that those performing in simple, mechanical, programmed or script task-orientated roles react positively to incentives. If you reinforce behaviours that you want, you get more of such behaviour. However, it is not that simple. If a task requires even rudimentary cognitive skill (commonly called “thinking”), larger rewards lead to poorer performance. Thinking tasks require thinking people and they are motivated by autonomy, mastery and purpose, they need to feel as though they are part of something bigger.

So it seems company culture is like shoes, one pair does not fit all. Different people performing different tasks require different approaches. If an organisation is skilful enough to match the right aspects of culture, to the right person, at the right time, the result is employee engagement. Engaged employees are an organisation’s gold.

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This article is intended as a point of reference and should not be relied on as a substitute for professional advice. Specialist advice should always be sought in relation to any particular circumstances and no liability will be accepted for any losses incurred by those relying solely on this article.

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