Aligning and Shaping Organizational Culture

Aligning and Shaping Organizational Culture

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My last blog identified six employee communication plan components for building a resilient workforce. It was based on the article “4 Keys to Building a More Resilient Workforce” co-authored with my Crowe colleague Lisa Roen Within this blog, I will review the second key to resiliency: Aligning and Shaping Organizational Culture.

Definitions of culture vary among companies and consultants, so my working definition here is how individuals treat each other and their customers during the normal course of business, and under stress due to M&A transactions, business turnaround, or high stakes change transformation events. Working norms and behaviors are often used as a proxy for culture, as they are more directly and frequently observable than values.

For example, I often ask current employees to describe hiring and promotional criteria, former employees to describe the organizational culture they left, and customers or suppliers to describe their experiences to understand working norms. Behavioral patterns typically emerge as hypotheses for further research and are used to explore their validity and predictive value.

I’m intentionally not characterizing organizational culture as good or bad; it depends on the organization’s mission and strategies. For example, a strong hierarchical culture may be considered good for safety aboard a nuclear submarine, but a bad culture for collaboration at a software development company. The cultural characteristic is neutral, the application determines the risks and benefits.

So how does organizational culture help build a more resilient workforce? A strong company culture, employees, customers, and suppliers understand working norms and how to optimize their desired outcomes. In a weaker culture, these stakeholders may become frustrated because decisions and processes seem ad hoc and unpredictable, compared with a strong culture. Most people prefer clarity over ambiguity and unpredictability when they make their employment or purchasing decisions.

Employees are more likely to thrive during a crisis or volatility when they are aligned with their organization’s culture and values because it provides a shared purpose, clear structure, and group identity. If they are misaligned, they may feel like outsiders and resign or reduce their engagement and productivity.

A cultural shaping plan could include:

  • Regular employee communications about the organization’s current or desired values and vision
  • Developing change and resiliency leadership capabilities (more about that in my next blog, as culture is “caught” by observation more than taught)
  • Aligning (or realigning) recruiting, promotion, compensation, and performance criteria. Employees can easily spot misalignment when they meet unqualified new hires, read a promotion announcement for a person who engages in bad behavior, or an incentive plan that that do not reward team achievements within a collaboration-based culture.
  • A culture listening strategy should be an integral part of an employee communications plan, as employee feedback will improve working norm clarity and focus course corrections. For example, a 5-7 question multiple choice survey can provide benchmarks to measure your culture shaping progress.

Please comment on your experience with effective or ineffective culture assessment and shaping practices below. 


Mark Walztoni

Managing Director, M&A HR Due Diligence & Integration & Change Leadership – Crowe