It Takes a Village to Build a Strong Organizational Culture

© laurent hamels -
© laurent hamels -

The rise of the importance of organization culture in the last few years has been quite striking.

No, wait. That’s not true. The rise in the realization of the importance of culture in the last few years has been striking.

Culture – the spoken and unspoken rules and mores by which an organization functions – has always been critical to company success. It’s only in recent years that more and more organization leaders have begun to fully understand their own ability to manage and, indeed, manipulate the culture to he best benefit of employees, customers and the organization as a whole.

But that cannot be accomplished in a “culture initiative” or efforts that focus on the few.

A “function of shared values”

Paul Hebert, author of the i2i blog, recently wrote on this, using research about the stickleback fish to make the point. (You’ll have to click through to his post to see the connection.) In part, Paul says:

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“Changing culture at a company is the result of many individuals changing in small ways, not just a few individual changing in big ways…

Culture is function of shared values. If only a few people have them – it is less likely to move through the entire employee population. The chances of a culture change are much greater IMHO – if you can demonstrate small changes in many people over time versus a simple “program” that’s launched in January and wrapped up in December.

If you want to really impact your corporate culture take a clue from the stickleback fish and plant many seeds of change throughout the organization. If you do have a reward and recognition program make sure it can be accessed and leveraged by the greatest number of people as possible.”

Values are no good just hanging on a wall

I’ve written repeatedly that your core values do you no good hanging on a plaque on the wall. They deliver little better result if only a few employees live them. Permeating your values through every employee such that every person knows how to live those values in their daily and, critically, knows why they should – that’s the basis of a strong organization culture.

Strategic recognition is a powerful, positive method to drive your values deep into your organization by consistently, frequently and specifically recognizing employees when they demonstrate those values at work.

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at


2 Comments on “It Takes a Village to Build a Strong Organizational Culture

  1. Well spoken Derek. In our organizational culture work we most often find that the values on the wall mean one thing to leadership and something completely different to followers.  Alignment throughout any organization is crucial for adaptability, sustainability and profitability.

  2. Spot on Derek, good article and so true. I love the fact that some people think values are shared if they are hanging on the wall, it would make me laugh – if it wasn’t so sad that some organisations spend money developing something to sound good, hang it on the wall and tick the box.

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