Principles for Designing a High Performing Organizational Culture
Word on the street is that to keep the best and brightest employees at your company, you must dazzle them: Provide unlimited time off, catered meals, laundry services, or something else novel and equally enticing. If you’re trying to attract top-tier talent, adding these benefits seems tantalizing, but research recommends to first look to your culture (Kontoghiorghes, 2015). Organizational culture is becoming more and more popular as a form of talent retention and attraction, especially during the ongoing war for talent. Companies are realizing the business benefits of consciously forming and maintaining an attractive organizational culture; there have been hundreds of books written on the subject, and it has been searched online thousands of times. While many trends come and go, organizations should think twice before dismissing the focus on culture as a fleeting craze. Research shows that reinforced and communally shared organizational culture is linked to desirable business outcomes, including productivity, organizational effectiveness, talent attraction, and talent retention (Hause, 2000; Nikolic et al., 2011; Kontoghiorghes, 2015). Additionally, culture is linked to positive individual outcomes such as employee satisfaction and motivation (Kontoghiorghes, 2015).
Organizational culture, however, can be a fickle beast. It can be tempting to copy and paste the culture of organizations such as Facebook and Zappos that have paved the way to success. Cultural trends such as creative workplaces for millennials or creating “flat” organizations can also be tempting for bringing in those top employees. However, every organization faces specific circumstances, and the cultures that other companies create may not be transferrable. This is because effective culture is completely dependent on the unique climate and leadership within an organization. Instead of mimicking others directly, it is important to ask what general principles and current trends are transferrable across organizations.
Kontoghiorghes (2015) answers this elusive question in his discovery of the key principles in organizational culture that drive attraction and retention. Kontoghiorghes labels this climate as “high performing organizational culture”. It is present in workplaces that focus on innovation, flexibility, and ethics, and results in a work environment that is prime for employee success.
The following principles, adapted from Kontoghiorghes (2015), hold true across organizations. High performing organizational cultures:
- Are change driven
- Constantly adapt and change how work is done in the pursuit of progress
- Are technology driven
- Ensure that both employees and customers have access to top technology
- Are quality driven
- Focus on providing high caliber products/services even when it may be more difficult or costly
- Use knowledge management effectively
- Everyone knows what’s expected of them and is given the information needed to effectively complete their work
- Are supportive of creativity
- Employees are challenged to think outside the box and are rewarded for doing so
- Communicate openly
- There is clear and open communication across organizational levels, so that all employees are in the know and are updated as needed
- Are respect and integrity driven
- The organization demonstrates honesty and respect, and encourages its employees to do so as well.
Kontoghiorhes (2015) eloquently explains the benefits of applying these principles:
“In such systems not only will [the employees] have the opportunity to perform at high levels and be treated fairly, but they will also be in a position to experience numerous developmental opportunities. Moreover, in high performance systems talented employees will be more likely to perceive a stronger connection between effort and performance, thus finding work more motivating, satisfying, and purposeful,” (Kontoghiorghes, 2015, p. 1839).
Evidently, high performing organizational culture improves the employee experience and greatly benefits the organization, particularly in the areas of talent retention and attraction (Kontoghiorghes, 2015). The employee benefits of job satisfaction, motivation and organizational commitment that are present in high performing organizational cultures are also highly beneficial to the organization’s business performance (Harter, Schmidt & Keyes, 2002). So if you’re looking to attract and retain top performers, consider both the organizational and employee benefits of high performing organizational cultures when strategically addressing your own workplace climate. While effective culture is highly dependent on contextual variables, applying these principles is a great place to start.
Harter, J.K., Schmidt, F.L., & Keyes ,C.L. (2002). Well-being in the workplace and its relationship to business outcomes: a review of the Gallup Studies. In C.L. Keyes & J. Haidt (Eds.), Flourishing: The Positive Person and the Good Life (pp.205-224). Washington D.C.: American Psychological Association.
Hause, O.R., Jr. (2000). Relationships between organizational culture strength and organizational effectiveness in an electrical utility company (Doctoral Dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest. (Order No. 9994100).
Kontoghiorghes, C. (2015). Linking high performance organizational culture and talent management: satisfaction/motivation and organizational commitment as mediators. The International Journal Of Human Resource Management, 27(16), 1833-1853.
Nikolic, M., Savic, M., Cockalo, D., Vukonjanski, J., & Jovanovic, D. (2011). The impact of organizational culture on economic indices - A study in serbian companies. African Journal of Business Management, 5(11), 4622-4635.