Why does this organisation matter?
When people join an organisation, there’s usually some reason why they want to be there. Sometimes it’s just a job, but often it’s about connecting to the purpose of the organisation or the values of the organisation.
The big WHY – why does this organisation matter, why does it do what it does? Those things can be attractive. But the way that things get done here in this organisation can matter even more than the Why.
Culture is lived out by people in an organisation. It’s the way that people experience the organisation. As a leader you can talk about what the culture is expected to be. But that’s not necessarily what people experience. What’s written down can pale in comparison to what people actually experience in the workplace.
The informal culture can be more important and more influential than the formal culture.
New staff learn a lot about the organisation from what staff tell them, and what they see other staff doing in their first few weeks in the workplace. The formal organisational induction process may not be as strong as the informal process that people experience and observe. Sometimes the organisational induction process is delayed for new staff and doesn’t match what they’ve experienced in the first few weeks. If so, the informal enculturation wins out.
But that’s not always a bad thing if the informal culture is working well for the organisation. I remember a great example of informal culture working well. A person who joined the organisation I was at told me a story after she’d started. She’d come to drop off her job application and she wasn’t sure whether it was really the right job for her. But her experience as she walked through the car park up to the office really made her think that this was the place she wanted to be. There was a gardener working in the grounds and she asked him the way to the office. He was really helpful, he was respectful, and they ended up having a chat for 4 or 5 minutes. And she said that the way that he treated her and what he did and said was just so helpful for her. She said that if gardener in this place can treat me in this way then he is probably being treated well and he feels good about his work.
This person was identifying the “parallel process” in action.
This is one of the ways that the organisation can influence culture – by knowing that the way that people are treated often influences the way that they treat other people. So if senior people in the organisation are respectful then it’s more likely that other people in the organisation will be respectful as well. If senior people in the organisation are not respectful then it is more likely that it will flow through the organisation. And more importantly that that will flow through to the customers or clients of the organisation.
It’s an opportunity to improve client outcomes, so even people at the highest levels, even the board of an organisation, can influence the way that clients experience the organisation. If leaders are mindful of what they do, the processes they set up, and the relationships that they have with people, then those intentions will flow the organisation via the parallel process.