Firms Grapple With Workplace Culture

The prevailing sentiment among hiring managers these days is that finding the right employee is as much about culture as it is skills. Nevertheless, fewer than half of organizations say they actually take culture into consideration when hiring.

Only 44 percent of human resources practitioners say their organizations hire for cultural fit, according to a 2015 survey from the Human Capital Media Advisory Group, the research arm of Talent Management magazine.

Although roughly 70 percent of respondents said their organizations aim to build culture, missions and values through communication and onboarding, only about a third of respondents reported that culture is built into the work itself (Figure 1).

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Most respondents (83 percent) defined workforce culture as the missions and values of a company, and nearly 70 percent defined it as “how we do things around here.” Sixty-one percent said that work environment defines workplace culture.

Despite respondents’ high value on workplace culture, some said they were not satisfied with the culture at their organization, according to the survey. Nearly 58 percent said they were satisfied with the workplace culture, while 42 percent said they weren’t.  

Talent managers looking to change workplace culture are often doing so to improve engagement and collaboration.

Many companies (68 percent) said they seek to change company culture to improve employee engagement, according to the survey. They also said they may seek to create a more collaborative environment (54 percent), increase employee retention (44 percent) or innovation (41 percent).  

Additionally, almost two-thirds of the companies surveyed said HR is tasked with changing workplace culture, while about 70 percent said management style is the most common barrier to culture change (Figure 2). Other common barriers to change include budgetary restraints, management structure and work environment.

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Changing culture is a time-consuming process. About 55 percent of the companies surveyed said it took three years or more to change workplace culture; about 16 percent said it took less than a year.

Although just 12 percent of respondents reported that their culture change strategy was not successful, an even smaller percentage (9 percent) said they considered their strategy to be “extremely successful.” Most companies said they fell somewhere in between, reporting that efforts to change culture have been slightly or moderately successful. 

When it comes to the strategic side of culture change, most companies said they weren’t very far along. About 53 percent of respondents said their companies hadn’t even started their culture change initiatives or were only in the initial stages, the survey said. Only 18 percent had successfully implemented one or more initiatives. 

Moreover, leaders tend to be separated from the implementation of workplace culture, the survey showed. Leaders are more strategically involved than actively involved.

When asked how senior leaders are involved in fostering culture, 64 percent of respondents said leaders set the strategy, 60 percent said they set the communication tone and 59 percent said they establish a clear vision, according to the survey. Fewer respondents reported active involvement from leaders, such as participating in overseeing critical areas (36 percent), soliciting feedback (36 percent) and training (26 percent).

Certain qualities make executives more effective as fostering workplace culture, the survey showed. Effective leaders are good communicators, open to change and respectful, according to the survey. Respondents also reported that effective leaders are collaborative (Figure 3).

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To promote collaboration at work, companies use a variety of technologies that allow employees to share information with each other and to communicate easily and effectively. Popular technologies include file-sharing (51 percent), group calendars (41 percent) and instant messaging (30 percent).

Less popular technologies include social networking (11 percent), photo or video-sharing (12 percent) or company blogs (12 percent), according to the survey.  

Companies also use a variety of incentives or programs to promote collaboration. These include cross-functional teams, public recognition and company values (Figure 4).

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The survey, administered in July and August, collected data from 134 organizations of varying sizes and industries. About 44 percent of respondents held positions of director level or above, and 83 percent of the participating organizations are located in the United States.