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Organizational Culture

Based on Human Resource Management, 4th edition, by Alan Price

Corporate culture

It has long been recognized that the organization cannot simply be described in terms of its formal structure (...) The concept of corporate culture is a central theme of the 'excellence' literature as well as HRM and total quality management. Its major exponents presented a 'strong' corporate culture as a key factor in enhancing competitive performance through greater employee commitment and flexibility. Employees in strong cultures know what is expected of them. Conversely, staff in weak cultures waste time trying to discover what is required. According to this argument employees identify with a strong culture and take pride in their organization.

The Deal and Kennedy model of corporate culture

Deal and Kennedy's Corporate Cultures (1982) was inspirational and incorporated five critical elements:

  1. The business environment - the orientation of organizations within this environment - for example a focus on sales or concentration on research and development - leads to specific cultural styles.
  2. Values - are at the heart of corporate culture. They are made up of the key beliefs and concepts shared by an organization's employees. Successful managers are clear about these values and their managers publicly reinforce them.
  3. Heroes - personifications of the organization's values, achievers who provide role models for success within the company. (...) Heroes have vision and go against the existing order if necessary in order to achieve that vision.
  4. Rites and rituals - ceremonies and routine behavioural rituals reinforce the culture (product launches, sales conferences, employee birthday celebrations...)
  5. The cultural network - the carrier of stories and gossip which spread information about valued behaviour and 'heroic myths' around the organization.

Corporate culture and people management

This section of Human Resource Management, 4th edition provides a critique of the simplistic approach to corporate culture.



(...) Commitment is one of the original 4-Cs featured in the influential Harvard model of HRM (Beer et al., 1984). It is regarded as an immediate and, perhaps, the most critical outcome of human resource strategy since employee commitment is seen as the key factor in achieving competitive performance. (...) For Hendry (1995) commitment 'implies an enhancement of the individual and his or her skills, and not simply what this can deliver to the organization'. Goss (1994) wonders if commitment is 'HRM's Holy Grail?'

Commitment and culture

According to this viewpoint, commitment to the mission and values of the organization is a fundamental principle. As a concept it is clearly related to that of 'strong' corporate culture. Commitment goes further than simple compliance: it is an emotional attachment to the organization. 

Commitment strategies

Commitment is an element of the 'psychological contract' between employer and employee.

Justifying commitment

There are a number of contradictions inherent in the notion of commitment. (...) As a combination of these, commitment can range from affective identification, a real intellectual and emotional identification with the organization, to mere behavioural compliance, simply presenting an appearance of the attitudes and behaviours expected by senior managers (Legge, 1995).

The softening economy and accompanying layoffs has workers feeling insecure and defensive, which manifests in negative behavior such as pessimistic talk and bad attitudes.

Committed to what?

Individuals may identify with their work at a variety of levels: their job, profession, department, boss or organization. realistically, commitment may be  diverse and divided between any or all of these. (...) Commitment conflicts with the notion of flexibility. Numerical flexibility has been a predominant feature of recent years, with 'downsizing' and 'delayering' being an obsession of many large companies. A climate of fear has been created for those people remaining.(...) 

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