A catch-all term, a real anchored value or an uncertain detail? These are the different characteristics that can be heard when talking about corporate culture. From the shaping of the first organizations to the Industrial Revolution, this definition has evolved and gone through several metamorphoses. The company was seen more as a family entity before migrating to a vision that relates to culture. Nowadays, how do you properly qualify a company and its culture, how do you identify it and know if it coincides with yourself ?
Before we can even talk about corporate culture, we need to look at the different definitions that have been used to describe an entrepreneurial group.
In the 19th century, the company was like a family: employees and a boss who acted as a father figure. The latter acts to protect the interests of employees and help them, a very paternalistic vision that was quickly criticized. Subsequently, the company takes the form of a house that surrounds, protects and unites its employees. The management of potential conflicts is only carried out internally. In this way, conflicts have boundaries in order to prevent them from leaving the house and degenerating into social movements.
Around the 70s, it was the vision of the company as a team that took precedence. From now on, the practices of integration, motivation and mobilization of staff will be inspired by sports competitions. The boss then takes on the role of captain. In this team, employees must be nimble, responsive, flexible, and loyal to their captain and team in the organization. Then we come to the 80s where, for the first time, the term "culture" will appear. The notion of corporate culture will refer to "a framework of thought, a system of rules, languages, beliefs and values relatively organized by the company and shared by its members". Today, the company is seen as a culture and this notion will persist and impose itself in the managerial language.
According to the American sociologist Edgar Schein, corporate culture is a way of conceptualizing an organization as an entity that generates several bonds of belonging. It will therefore be conceived in terms of values, rites, codes and models of meaning common to individuals. Corporate culture is said to be "a set of basic assumptions invented, discovered, or developed by a group seeking to deal with problems of external adaptation or internal integration that have been largely verified to be considered valid and passed on to new members as the correct ways of thinking and acting in the face of problems."
If we go back to the famous model of organizational culture introduced by Schein in the 80s, we can see that a company is organized around three main axes: artifacts, adopted values, and assumptions.
- Artifacts are the visible elements that even an outsider could see. This includes the type of desk, dresscode, mantras, etc.
- The values (espoused values) are naturally those put forward by the company as well as the standards. These values obviously have an effect on how employees interact with each other and how they represent the organization.
- Shared basic assumptions are the immutable spearheads of a company, so ingrained that they are hardly noticed. They are the essence of culture and federate artifacts and values.
To learn more about corporate culture and Schein's model, here's an article from the Harvard Business Review: How to tell if your company has a creative culture.
Knowing how to identify it
Often, one culture differs from another because each company establishes its own set of values. They establish these values in line with their aspirations and taking into account their history and the anchoring that stems from it. However, it is generally agreed that there are four main families of corporate culture: clan, adhocracy, hierarchy, market. These typologies differ from each other in relation to the criteria mentioned above.
A clan-type culture will mainly revolve around values such as team spirit, cohesion and a sense of family. The type of leadership is similar to the role of mentor, facilitator. Secondly, an "adhocracy" culture offers values such as entrepreneurship, creativity and adaptability, which are elements found in startups, for example. Risk-taking and innovation are encouraged.
On the other hand, hierarchical culture is based on values of rules, uniformity and order. It is a rather administrative leadership that takes place and the rules and procedures have an important place. For example, this culture can be found in public administrations. Finally, market-based culture promotes competitiveness and performance. The leader has the figure of a charismatic director. Production and results are at the center of the relational bases of this structure.
Pay attention, aim for fulfillment
In short, the boundaries of these forms of cultivation remain porous and a single company can borrow certain traits from several of them. Nevertheless, we know that it is important to take an interest in it in order to acquire the necessary tools to differentiate one culture from another. We strongly advise you to pay attention to all these aspects during your next job search, the culture of a company is definitely no longer an aspect to neglect in order to flourish at work.
At Meet My Job, we invite you to learn a lot more about the corporate culture of our partners, here.