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Defining Organizational Culture

Organizational culture can be referred to as the glue that keeps an organization together. It is the silent code of conduct; it’s more about how things get done, rather than what gets done. It can also be referred to as white noise, the background static that may affect you but goes unnoticed. When a new employee is learning the ropes, they are learning the culture.

Culture is not a thing. It’s not something an organization has or doesn’t have. Culture is something an organization is. Your organization could be assessed today, and you would be able to define your culture in specific terms and even identify subcultures. The challenge for you, as a leader, is to recognize that it exists and that it molds reality for your employees. Your job is to ensure that the culture does not become dysfunctional. When this happens, culture, especially if it’s a strong one, can be a liability. A cultural assessment allows you to continuously examine your culture and to determine how healthy it is. It will identify where your incongruencies lie, determine what effect they are having on your business, and help you develop a plan to rectify the situation.

Excerpted from Lizz Pellet, The Cultural Fit Factor: Creating an Employment Brand That Attracts, Retains, and Repels the Right Employees (SHRM, 2009).


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