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A Graduate's take on Organisational Culture

Insight

03 July 2015

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How can Organisations begin to Create a Sense of Belonging for their Employees?

Having graduated in 2014 and reached my one year milestone at Lane4, I’ve noticed how my discussions with my friends around our working lives have changed. At this current time, we couldn’t be experiencing more diverse working situations from academia to large London based organisations to small independent companies. Having had not much experience within the business world, I have recently been thinking about what draws an individual to work for a company. This thought particularly resonated with me when I read in the CIPD Spring 2015 Employee Outlook report, that 55% of people said they wanted to work for “an organisation with a family feel, held together by loyalty and tradition”. As I develop and think of my own and my peers’ future’s, the culture of a company is unveiling itself to me as one of the most important factors in our working lives.

 

Having first joined Lane4 between my second and third year of university, the decision to apply to Lane4 again on a permanent basis after my studies was an easy one. At the time I thought this was due to the link to performance psychology, however, despite having been previously somewhat sceptical to the concept of a ‘family-feel’ culture at work, on reflection, the community which is both unique and captivating is really what drew me back. I feel this will probably be the deciding factor in any future organisations I work for. It is particularly evident when I compare my experience to the working lives of my peers who work for formalised and structured organisations and also to some of the organisations we work with where the environment is so restrictive that individuals have little hope of feeling part of a community.

When I think of one of my peers’ first working experience, they were in a corporate environment working with incredibly results-driven colleagues and had limited interactions with others as they were seen as ‘the inexperienced graduate’. I can imagine that they might feel a little bit out of their depth having moved straight from the university environment where community is everywhere (both academic and non-academic) to a sterile office where motivation is sapped and where working relationships are ignored. Compare this to my experience where I consistently feel empowered yet supported; I understand what my role is and how it directly relates to the company’s strategy and the working relationships that I’ve developed that allow us to have fun whilst also not shying away from difficult conversations.

 

Organisational culture is a large and curious topic, underpinned by the dichotomy between what is ‘designed’ and what ‘emerges’. By saying this I mean that a leader of an organisation can describe the culture of their organisation in any way they want, but it is in the actions and behaviours of the employees in the organisation which dictate the reality. Large organisations are experiencing even more difficulty in ‘controlling’ culture where expansion into global markets can dictate the culture that develops. How does a large organisation who has multiple offices in multiple markets create one consistent ‘family-feel’ culture?

Google Moderator is a nice example of how a large organisation have attempted to create a community within their culture. Moderator was developed as a management tool to collate and bring together innovations and creations which could then be rated by the entire company to produce a number of ideas to be discussed at their ‘Thank God It’s Friday’ sessions. Although this tool was developed for innovation, it has become a method for individuals to be heard to feel like they are contributing to the greater good.

 

This example lead me to consider whether it was the ‘family-feel’ that we are looking for in the organisation we work for, or whether it is to be a considered,  valued individual contributor in a wider community where there is a true sense of belonging. The idea that no matter what your background or experience, your opinion will be listened to by all you work with is one which smaller companies seem to be able to get their hands around. This tends to be because the size of the company lends itself to people being able to build rapport with those around them quicker and easier which is aided by the ability to conduct regular meetings with their teams.

The CIPD report states that nearly 50% of respondents described their workplace as “a formalised and structured place to work, where procedures govern what people do and hold people together”.

 

So how can large corporations begin to create a sense of belonging for their employees?

  • Those in a senior position need to role model the behaviour they would like to see in their employees.
  • To have frequent and informal conversations without the standard rituals and clichés. This leads to building rapport and create more trust and involved relationships.
  • Infuse the workplace with a compelling vision which can motivate employees.
  • Create an environment where each individual feels like they are working to a greater purpose thus feeling a sense of community and belonging.

 

Interestingly, the CIPD finding that over half wanted a more family-feel environment was a consistent first choice across all age groups. They believed that this more relaxed, involved environment was one which would be more dynamic, entrepreneurial and creative. Comparing my experience thus far against others at the same stage, I can see the importance organisational culture has not only on working behaviours, but also its influence on what roles and what organisations are chosen in the future when considering a change in career. This is something which organisations need to be aware of when considering what is attracting or deterring talent from them.

If having read this you are feeling like you could have described your workplace as ‘structured’ or ‘governed’ but want it to be more ‘family-feel’, think about how you can start to role model some differences in your behaviour. Hopefully in a few years’ time, the CIPD will find that the majority of employees are working in the culture and environment which they feel is right for them not only to enhance and sustain motivation, but to also allow for creativity to encourage businesses to consistently evolve and survive.

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