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A nice, tight cultural fit

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

If you understand your organizational culture, you’re way ahead of those managers who lack a firm grasp of where they work. Assessing your employer’s cultural environment helps you motivate employees, boost productivity and hire winners.

Culture isn’t some vague, shapeless concept that’s constantly in flux. It’s actually a concrete, measurable set of characteristics, says Nat Stoddard, chairman of Crenshaw Associates, an executive development firm in New York. Co-author of The Right Leader, Stoddard tells Managing People at Work how to decipher your culture and use it to your advantage:

MPAW: Isn’t an organization’s culture hard to pin down?

Stoddard: If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. You need to understand the culture, and that requires measuring different aspects of it such as degree of employee alignment, internal communication and whether people work in silos or in collaborative teams.

MPAW: Why is it important to measure culture?

Stoddard: Years ago, I was an Air Force pilot. Pilots are taught to rely on their instruments and not to trust their gut. That’s why I’m into quantifying culture: It’s like the instruments in the plane that you must rely on. Only then can you allow gut feel to come into play.

MPAW: How can you ensure your employees share your perception of the culture?

Stoddard: Periodically bring in each of your top employees and identify the 10 or 12 points that you’ve quantified to measure your culture. Together, go over each point and ask for their thoughts. They may point out how you can improve the culture so that it resonates more for everyone.

MPAW: How can you hire people who fit the culture?

Stoddard: Look for candidates who possess the traits and behaviors that complement your culture. Their values and beliefs must be similar. In the interview, discuss a specific project they’ve worked on and ask, “What decisions did you make and how did you make those decisions?”

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