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Study Notes

What is Organisational Culture?

AS, A-Level
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

Although most of us understand in our own minds what is meant by , it is a slightly woolly concept that is hard to define precisely. We know (and can often sense) a "culture" exists when we visit a business as a customer or work there, but how can this be explained?

A great way to describe business or corporate culture is:

"The way we do things around here"

Culture consists of factors such as:

  • The shared values of a business
  • The beliefs and norms that affect every aspect of work life
  • The behaviours typical of day-to-day behaviour
  • The strength of a culture determines how difficult or easy it is to know how to behave in the business

The culture of a business is reflected in many ways – including the following:

  • How employees are recruited – the cultural factors that make one applicant more suitable than another
  • The way that visitors and guests are looked after
  • How the working space is organised
  • The degree of delegation & individual responsibility
  • How long new employees stay in a business
  • How contracts are negotiated and agreed
  • The personality and style of the sales force
  • The responsiveness of communication
  • The methods used for communication
  • How staff call each other (e.g. first name)
  • The nature and style of marketing materials
  • The speed with which decisions are taken
  • The number of layers in the management hierarchy

Strong v Weak Culture

When you visit a range of businesses you soon get a sense of the strength of the business culture. If a culture can be measured as then how might this show itself?

Signs of a strong organisational culture include:

  • Staff understand and respond to culture
  • Little need for policies and procedures
  • Consistent behaviour
  • Culture is embedded

Evidence that points to a weak organisational culture include:

  • Little alignment with business values
  • Inconsistent behaviour
  • A need for extensive bureaucracy & procedures

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