Culture is talked about a lot, but defining it simply is a challenge. Most leaders indicate it plays a part in organisational health. Most people acknowledge the benefits of a positive culture. But what are the aspects that determine whether a culture is strong or weak…good or poor?

I have recently been researching dimensions of culture to develop support tools for our clients. In the process, it became clear that while there is plenty of material around staff engagement – and, yes, staff have a lot to do with creating a culture – there is not much available that easily defines key attributes. With that in mind, we set out to develop a simple framework to help organisations tease out their culture.

The upshot – culture is formed by the beliefs and behaviours that influence how an organisation’s people interact internally, and the flow-on effect for external relationships. My findings, including insights from our own experiences across more than 25 years, are summarised in the slideshow below:

The key take-outs for leaders – they need to:

  • Realise the impact they can have on staff by articulating the organisation’s vision and each person’s part in that vision, and then acknowledging their contribution along the journey
  • Empower autonomy, let ideas flow and encourage diversity of thought, as these give individuals a stronger sense of having made a difference within a bigger picture
  • Recognise the role of socialisation, including encouraging people to make friends in the organisation (after all, some may spend more time with work colleagues than family)
  • Show an interest in their people, be understanding, build on their strengths and support them with development plans that help them grow – Peter Baeklund is being quoted a lot at the moment for this insight:

CFO asks CEO: “What happens if we invest in developing our people and they leave?”

CEO: “What happens if we don’t, and they stay?”

I’d value your feedback on the 10 factors we’ve presented in our slideshow, and the ones you see as critical to organisational culture.