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Characteristics of Organizational Culture in 2021 (& Why They Matter)

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Think about the beliefs, values, and attitudes of the company where you work. These make up what’s known as “organizational culture,” and this term is getting a lot of buzz lately.

What is organizational culture?

There are plenty of definitions out there about organizational culture, but at their core, they come down to the same qualities.

Here’s how acheivers.com defines it: “Organizational culture is the collection of values, expectations, and practices that guide and inform the actions of all team members.”

Ask SHRM.org and they’ll say organizational culture is: “This culture consists of shared beliefs and values established by leaders and then communicated and reinforced through various methods, ultimately shaping employee perceptions, behaviors and understanding. Organizational culture sets the context for everything an enterprise does.”

BDC says: “Organizational culture is generally understood as all of a company’s beliefs, values and attitudes, and how these influence the behaviour of its employees. Culture affects how people experience an organization—that is, what it’s like for a customer to buy from a company or a supplier to work with it. It shows up in company policies such as dress code and office hours. It also informs things such as workspace design and employee perks. Culture is usually set by a company’s leaders.”

And finally, Gotham Culture says: “Organizational culture is defined as the underlying beliefs, assumptions, values and ways of interacting that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organization.”

What are the common threads in all of these definitions? It comes down to the beliefs and values that guide a company.

And as you can imagine, many companies experienced a big shift in their organizational culture over the last year.

Organization culture in 2021 and beyond

Prior to 2020, your company’s culture may have prioritized everyone working closely together in the same space. They valued collaboration–the kind that comes from working around a table and brainstorming together, being able to ask for opinions and feedback on the spot.

But what happens when those companies must transition to a virtual workplace? Those in-person brainstorming sessions now take place virtually (Note: these can be very effective! Here’s how). Meetings take place over Zoom. You use a virtual chat platform to ask questions, or you create SMS and web polls to collect feedback.

How have these changes impacted your organizational culture? Even before the pandemic, organizational culture wasn’t static. It is bound to change and adapt, and it’s important that it does!

Characteristics of organizational culture

If it’s time to actively rethink your company’s culture, here are four key characteristics it might be time to redefine.

Viability

Has your organization faced new challenges in remaining viable this past year? You’re not alone. One of the organizational culture characteristics it might be time to reevaluate is viability. How will your organization survive? Further, how will they remain competitive? Pay bills?

This could look a little different now and it’s time to lay out exactly what that means for your company.

Collaboration

Remember those in-person brainstorming sessions and team meetings we talked about? Those were once a critical form of collaboration in your organization. Out of these sessions came some of the best ideas your business had ever seen. But now, the ways we collaborate at work are going to change.

Have you changed with them?

Get clear about the collaborative values and beliefs in your organization and how they might need to change with a switch to virtual collaboration.

Communication

The same way your team members collaborate differently, they’re bound to communicate differently by switching to virtual interaction. But one thing’s for sure: communication within a company remains just as (if not more) important than ever.

Explain to your team how your expectations for communication have or have not changed. Be sure to provide them with all of the tools they need to communicate from wherever they are.

To start you off, here’s how to manage your remote team with a group chat.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity

If your company has yet to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusivity (DEI) within your corporate culture, this is a grave mistake. With events in 2020, DEI has been pushed to the front of many company’s minds, and this is long overdue.

Does your organization have DEI guidelines, rules, and goals clearly outlined? Are these beliefs and values upheld in your hiring practices? In your marketing? In the standards you hold your team (and yourself) to?

Whether you think you have a handle on DEI or not, it’s time to make triple sure this vital component of corporate culture is thoughtfully considered.

Is it time to reevaluate your organizational culture?

Maybe you’re having an “Aha! moment” that it’s time to define your organizational culture. Or perhaps you’re realizing it’s overdue for an update. Either way, be sure to cover these four characteristics in your new corporate culture plan to make sure all of your bases are covered.

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