Managing culture and values using employee behaviour

The difference between a successful firm and an average firm is the culture of the organisation and employee behaviour.


“What differentiates these extraordinarily successful firms from others? How have they been able to make it when others have failed? The major distinguishing feature in these companies – their most important competitive advantage, the most powerful factor they all highlight as a key ingredient in their success – is their organisational culture.”

Kim S. Cameron & Robert E. Quinn,
Authors, Diagnosing and Changing Organisational Culture

Organisational values and employee behaviour combine together to create a distinct socio-psychological environment that is unique to every organisation. This environment is known to be “the only sustainable competitive advantage that is completely within the control of the entrepreneur” and is called culture.

It is important to understand how to exercise this control over organisational values and employee behaviour.

Organisational values

If an organisation can only exist with people, then organisational values can be defined as a set of individual values of the people of the organisation. Collins J. explains this phenomenon in his study ‘Aligning actions and values’. He describes that an organisational value reveals itself in employee behaviour — concluding on how employee behaviour is the litmus test of employer values.

Can organisational values be ‘managed’?

Laurie E. Paarlberg and James L. Perry, in their five-year long study, interestingly explore the feasibility of whether organisation values can be ‘managed’ at all.

They discovered that organisational value management is indeed a social process that results from routine interactions and formal management systems. These systems, guide and motivate employees to exhibit positive behaviour.

It is the company’s responsibility to set standards of these behaviours based on the organisation’s values. These end up as ‘enduring beliefs’ that specify what is and is not acceptable behaviour.

The hierarchy of ‘managing’ organisational values

The following are the three levels of managing organisational values:

1. Described values are the most inefficient and the lowest form of value management. This is when the values are just named by the organisation without focussing on their propagation to the employees.

2. Propagated values are a moderately effective form of value management. In this form, the organisation tries to intensely communicate described values to the employees.

3. Real/ Shared values are the most effective and the highest level of value management.  These values are not just described and propagated, but are also used in real work and decision-making processes.

Significance of real/shared organisational values

Values that are shared affect the employees in multiple ways:

1. Employees can take better decisions, because of their increased awareness and belief in the organisational values.

2. Real and shared values help unify teams because common beliefs and values lead to consistent and efficient behaviour.

3. The incoherent and unpredictable behaviours reduce because the work and behaviour expectations are set very clearly.

4. Employees who are congruent with their real values tend to exhibit positive attitudes, lower intentions to leave the organisation and better performances.

Managing employee behaviour

K. Aswathappa, in his book Organisational Behaviour, tells us that applied motivational practices, such as job design, goal setting, empowerment and behaviour modification can help manage employee behaviour.

Amongst the practices, Behaviour Modification has been found to have a significant positive impact on aligning employees to organisational values and thus achieving tasks and organisational performances, impacting performances by up to 17 per cent.
Organisational behaviour modification

Behaviour modification is the application of reinforcement theory to modify employee behaviour in order to attain the desired organisational behaviour.

In the context of organisational values, behaviour can be modified using the following steps:

Step 1: Break down organisational values into favourable behaviours.

Step 2: Screen this list by identifying behaviours that are observable,
measurable and task-related.

Step 3: Clearly define ‘success’ and levels of success of these behaviours.

Step 4: Use ‘positive reinforcement’ to appreciate these successes. Rewards, social recognition and performance feedback are the most effective positive reinforcements used by organisations.

Step 5: Constantly monitor the impact the modified behaviour has on the organisation.

Step 6: Intervene and modify the ‘list of favourable behaviours’ to optimise their impact on the organisation.