Company culture is the backbone of any successful organization, and it plays a vital role in shaping employee behavior, engagement, and productivity. However, a gap often exists between what employees perceive the current company culture to be like, what they desire it to be like, and what leadership and other stakeholders want it to be like in order to achieve business objectives. This gap, known as the “culture gap,” can hinder organizational performance and success.
The culture gap refers to the differences between three main perspectives on company culture:
- Perceived culture: This is the current state of the company culture as perceived by employees. It is based on their day-to-day experiences, observations, and interactions with colleagues, supervisors, and other stakeholders.
- Desired culture: This is the ideal company culture that employees aspire to have, based on their personal values, preferences, and expectations from their employer.
- Intentional culture: This is the culture that leadership and other stakeholders desire and intend to create, based on their business objectives and strategic priorities.
The culture gap arises when there is a mismatch between these three perspectives. For instance, if employees perceive the culture as being very different from what leadership intends it to be, or if employees desire a culture that is not aligned with business objectives, then a gap exists.
Causes of the Culture Gap
The culture gap can arise from various factors, including:
- Communication breakdowns: Poor communication between employees, leadership, and other stakeholders can lead to misunderstandings and misperceptions about the company culture.
- Lack of alignment: When business objectives and cultural aspirations are not aligned, a gap can form. For example, if leadership prioritizes profit over employee satisfaction, this may not align with employees’ desires for a supportive and collaborative work environment.
- Resistance to change: Companies undergo changes in response to shifting market conditions, technological advancements, or other factors. However, these changes can sometimes be met with resistance from employees who are comfortable with the status quo.
- Inadequate cultural assessment: Organizations may not have a comprehensive understanding of their current culture, which can make it difficult to identify and address the culture gap.
Bridging the Culture Gap using the CVF
The competing values framework (CVF) provides a useful tool for assessing and aligning company culture. The CVF identifies six core values that are central to organizational culture: stability, flexibility, openness, collaboration, achievement, and protection. These values can be used to diagnose the current culture, identify gaps, and develop strategies for bridging them.
Here are some steps to bridge the culture gap using the CVF:
- Assess the current culture: Use the CVF to assess the current culture of your organization. This will help you identify areas where the culture is strong and areas where there are gaps.
- Identify desired cultural values: Engage employees in identifying the cultural values that they desire, based on their personal values and aspirations. This will help you understand what motivates them and what they hope to achieve in their work.
- Align desired values with business objectives: Review your business objectives and strategic priorities, and align them with the desired cultural values identified by employees. This will ensure that the culture supports and enables the achievement of business objectives.
- Develop a cultural vision: Create a cultural vision statement that articulates the desired culture and aligns it with business objectives. Communicate this vision effectively to all stakeholders, including employees, leadership, and customers.
- Implement strategies for bridging gaps: Based on the assessment of the current culture and the desired cultural values, develop strategies for addressing any gaps or misalignments. These may include changes to policies, procedures, or communication practices.
- Monitor progress and adjust as needed: Regularly monitor progress towards achieving the cultural vision, and make adjustments as necessary based on feedback from employees and other stakeholders.
The culture gap can have a significant impact on organizational performance and success. However, by using the competing values framework (CVF) to assess and align company culture, organizations can bridge this gap and create a more cohesive, productive, and engaged workforce. By understanding what employees perceive, desire, and what leadership intends, organizations can develop strategies for bridging the culture gap and achieving their business objectives.
- Culture Quadrant
- Competing Values Framework (CVF)
- Center of Experience
- Highest Paid Person’s Opinion (HIPPO)
- Book: The Center of Experience (2020)