Before the Internet age, work was what we did for a living – when a placement occurred, someone was interviewed and hired. There was an employment contract and there were job descriptions and performance reviews so everyone knew where everyone stood. There was no worry about a culture – no one really bothered about one.
That is no longer the case, it seems.
CUSTOMERS AND CULTURE
With the competition out there, the different services and different brands, it seems consumers look for more than what they can from a service or a product. It seems the culture of the company plays a role in becoming what the consumer expects of it. Not just consumers but workers too.Customers look for culture; signs of personality, character and happiness. They want to experience the culture of the company and become a part of its existence. They offer lifestyle opportunities and are able to convey powerful messages. Brands such as Nike, Google and Calvin Klein have created and sustained strong cultural messages that transcend geographical borders.
The company culture has changed tremendously with the advance of the Internet. Today, all it takes to make or break a product can be as easy as a message on social media.Traditional power structures have changed almost overnight – it is no longer only those who make the decisions in the boardrooms but also those who are doing the work out there. When they take pride and take ownership of what they are doing, they not only typically talk about it on their networks, social networks in particular and can be the best brand ambassadors.
Take the recent case of Walmart. The Walmart workers, offended that their management wanted to give them just a random act of charity with a goods basket instead of a pay increase, took the fight to the luxury apartment complex where the Walmart owner lives. They left a charity dumpster outside with a message – we want a pay rise not charity. It didn’t take long for the message to go online via social networks.
Experts believe that the traditional command and control structure is nearing its end. The younger generations of employees like t o feel empowered, trusted and equipped t o give more of t hemselves but of course under the right set of circumstances. The question is, are we ready to do this – have we been able to understand the new way of doing things as we should.
Questions arise because typically, many CEOs today come from a different generation – and wonder just how to get the culture right. Not everyone can aspire to a Steve Jobs and so, we must learn as we go along and try our best to build a brand, a company, a service that emerges as a unique culture of its own.
Professor James Hunter, Professor of Religion, Culture and Social Theory at the University of Virginia, quoted in Forbes, suggests an answer; according to him, culture is manufactured out of four distinct characteristics. He believes that culture is a resource and therefore, a course of power. He also believes that culture is produced through the action of the network.
According to him, the propagation of what constitutes cultural values is a dynamic connection between those at the centre of cultural development and those at its periphery. Additionally, he says that culture becomes world-changing when the values of those who are the champions of change align with the values of the institutions they lead.
That say a lot about what culture denotes; put in simpler terms, culture becomes the company, the brand to its consumers and the people. It gives them a point of identification, one they can feel good about. As Professor Hunter puts it, a significant shift in attitude starts from the top and filters down to the bottom, resulting in the leadership within the organisation, becoming key to creating the very culture on which the organisation thrives.
Building a culture and sustaining it also may signal the end of the traditional top-down, command-andcontrol era. Experts believe that organisations now need greater information flow within and develop faster response time outside their organisations. After all, once a culture is developed, the organisation needs to be able to deliver the promise bottoms up. (Nayomini Weerasooriya, a senior journalist, writer and a PR professional,
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