By Willie Davis
Faculty Member, School of Business, American Public University
Organizational culture is comprised of shared beliefs and values. It can serve as a guide for an employee’s day-to-day actions and can attract new customers, turning them into repeat business.
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Organizational culture is represented by specific beliefs and values that can be easily recorded in a document to share with employees. However, if those shared beliefs and values are not modeled by company leaders and exhibited by everyone who works at a company, employees can become confused and customers may elect to do business with a more consistent company.
An Employee’s Internal Compass Must Align with an Organization’s Culture
To translate cultural commentary into cultural actions, organizations can empower their employees to sustain and improve organizational culture. However, this empowerment may be futile, if the employee’s “internal compass” does not align with the organization’s cultural values.
This lack of alignment is often manifested as a blind spot through a Johari Window. A blind spot exists when employees display customer service practices to customers that do not align with an organization’s culture.
As organizations swell in size, it can be difficult for leadership to be aware of such blind spots. Due to the lack of awareness, no amount of training or empowerment will make the problem any more visible.
The Johari Window Model
|Known to Organization||Not Known to Organization|
|Known to Customers||Open area or arena||Blind spot|
|Not Known to Customers||Hidden area or façade||Unknown|
Organizational Culture Mismatches Also Appear in Federal Government Jobs
This issue of an organizational culture mismatch is further compounded in the federal government, because the selection and hiring of new employees for federal positions takes longer than non-governmental positions. To ensure fairness in the selection process, the Department of Labor outlines hiring process steps. For instance, additional requirements, such as a security clearance or background check, can make the process even longer.
This federal hiring process has been proven to work, and it enables millions of American citizens to apply for thousands of federal positions at dozens of federal agencies. However, the length of the federal hiring process underscores the importance of hiring the “right” employees the first time.
Those “right” employees will have a history of practicing what they believe in. As a result, their belief in the shared values that form your organizational culture is paramount to improving organizational culture.
Employees Are the Face of Your Organizational Culture
As employees are often the face of the organization, customers will see their actions and form their own opinion of your organizational culture. With the “right” employees in place, companies are then able to focus on empowering employees to be themselves with intrinsic motivation approaches through these strategies:
- Focus on internal and external customer relationships versus the individual customer transaction
- Give employees the latitude to modify product or service delivery to customers
- Encourage employees to introduce new customs and traditions that keep your culture modern
- Reward employees with ownership of the culture
With the right employees, the implementation of cultural practices will be automatic and your organizational culture will be sustainable. Consequently, your organizational culture will improve over time.
About the Author
Willie Davis is a former USAF Officer and a faculty member at American Public University. When he’s not facilitating business courses, Willie provides Lean Six Sigma and management-analysis support to the U.S. government. He holds a B.S. degree in industrial engineering from Clemson University and a M.S. degree in human resource management from Troy State University. Additionally, Willie is an American Society for Quality-Certified Manager of Quality/Organizational Excellence, a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt, and a Project Management Professional.
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