Culture and Subculture in Business
Culture in your business means shared values and goals you embrace as an organization. You must create a culture that contributes to your success. The larger your business grows, however, the more likely your organization will develop small groups that share their own values. When the values of subcultures align with your company’s values, this diversity can make positive contributions. When a subculture clashes with the company culture, your productivity and quality can suffer.
Examine the values of your company culture and make sure they are ones you have chosen, rather than ones that have merely evolved. You should do an inventory of your highest values, from work ethic, to a sense of customer service, to a constant effort to improve quality. Examine whether you overtly communicated these values, or whether you have simply assumed that everyone who works for you understood the values you want for your company. Make efforts to express your company culture explicitly, through emails, posters, meetings, your mission statement and any other form of communication that affects all employees.
Subcultures arise as groups of employees share a work area, type of task or even salary level. A subculture may develop around the water cooler where employees begin complaining about drudgery, or pay, or work environment and grow their complaint to the level of outright job dissatisfaction. Other negative subcultures can arise due to bigotry, sexism or any feeling that one group is superior by nature to another group. These negative subcultures can create an atmosphere where employees pretend to agree with the values of the company culture but work to undermine it when the boss is not looking.
You can encourage positive subcultures through friendly competitions, work teams and group bonuses. These cultures can share positive values with your overall culture, while creating a group identity and a sense of belonging for subculture members. Salespeople, for example, often share an understanding of the nature of their work that few others in the company can understand. At the same time, production workers face constant struggles to increase productivity and few non-production workers truly understand this. Look for opportunities to encourage subcultures that contribute to the company in a positive way.
As your company grows, you must make an effort to create company-wide communications and events that make everybody feel like an integral part of the whole. The nature of any growing company guarantees that most employees will spend most of their time in their own corner of the business. Though each group shares specialized skills and issues, make sure employees know how they contribute to the company.