Decision-Making: The Impact of Organizational Culture

When I worked for a small (less than 10 employees) consulting group, it was the habit of each person to ask everyone else if they needed any help before leaving for the day. Because it was a small group of people, it was easy to check in with everyone. This would occur like clockwork at the end of every day, and each person asked the same question before shutting down his or her computer.

When I first joined that group, this practice made a big impression on me. It was an indicator of the importance of team work and collaboration in this organization’s culture. This particular practice was just one of many behaviors that demonstrated a strong team culture. As I soon learned, when you have less than 10 employees, it’s all hands-on deck, regardless of the task at hand!

While this is a great example of an organization’s culture being aligned with on-the-job behaviors, organizations can also experience the opposite – misalignment between culture and behaviors.

For instance, we’ve all heard about the push for organizations to use evidence-based decision making. These organizations have incorporated evidence-based decision making into their operations, creating analytics functions that feed data related to the financial and people operations of the organization. However, some of these same organizations use selection systems which feature parts that are most certainly NOT evidence-based – they use unstructured interviews. As a candidate attracted to the organization because of their focus on evidence, data, and analytics, experiencing this part of the selection system would be very off-putting. It’s inconsistent with everything the organization says it values. The behavior doesn’t back up their values and norms and beliefs.

These examples demonstrate the importance of ensuring that specific behaviors, values, and norms are aligned with an organization’s culture. The way the organization goes about conducting business should be reflective of the organization’s mission, vision, and values. This is true throughout all facets of the organization, but let’s take a closer look at aligning culture with human capital initiatives and systems, such as selection systems, professional development approaches, evaluation strategy, etc.

If you say you are an evidence-based organization, then your selection systems should include proven approaches that are supported by the research such as structured interviews, work samples with scoring guidelines, and assessment centers. Don’t forget about conducting a job analysis to determine the competencies covered by your selection instruments.  And remember, saying “you don’t have time to change your selection systems” or have “always done it this way” is also a reflection of culture.

If you say your organization is data driven, then a logical question is how do you know your training is having an impact? Are you using assessments to help identify skill gaps in your leaders or technical workforce? What about your coaching or mentoring programs? Are these programs resulting in the outcomes identified prior to implementation? What value are they bringing to your organization? What changes in key performance indicators have occurred as a result of these programs?

The bottom line – how does your organizational culture inform human capital initiatives? What do your values and behaviors say about the type of organization you are currently and the type you want to become?

Learn more about our human capital and culture alignment solutions and how we can help support your organization.

Leadership & Management
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