Monday, June 30, 2014

Socialization as Cultural Communication

In the last byte, we looked at the outcomes of socialization. In today's byte, we look at Socialization as cultural communication.

It could be interesting to note that socialization is definitely a powerful cultural communication tool, but it needs to be understood well: The transmission of information about cultural artifacts is relatively easy, the transmission of values is more difficult. But it is the communication of organizational assumption that is most difficult. 

The source of this problem is possibly that members of the organization themselves may not be consciously aware of the assumptions and therefore difficult to communicate.

Socialization serves one primary purpose amongst others - the transmission of core values to new members of the organization. Interaction with role-models, training that newcomers receive, behavior with respect to rewards and punishment etc are all means by which the newcomers are exposed to these values. 

If newcomers are expected to adopt the values of an organization, it is essential that the message reflect the underlying values of the organization. Both the individuals and organizations should ensure that certain actions are taken for the success of socialization processes.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Change and Acquisition phases in Organizational Socialization

In the last byte, we looked at the encounter stage of organizational socialization. In today's byte, we look at the change and acquisition phase and the outcomes of the process. 

In the change and acquisition phase of organizational socialization, newcomers begin to master the demands of the job. They get proficient at managing their tasks, clarifying and negotiating their roles and engaging in relationships at work.
In terms of timelines, the time when the socialization process completes varies widely depending on the individual, the job, the organization etc. The process completes when new comers begin considering themselves and others as organizational insiders.
New comers who are successfully socialized should exhibit better performance, high job satisfaction, and the intention to stay with the organization. The stress displayed is relatively of a lower level.
It is often found that a successful socialization leads to high levels of organizational commitment.
A successful socialization is often signaled by mutual influence, that is the newcomers have made adjustments in the job and organization to accommodate their knowledge and personalities. The newcomers are expected to leave their mark on the organization and not be completely conforming!
(Could we really find many such situations? )

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Encounter Stages in Organizational Socialization

In the last byte, we looked at the anticipatory socialization stage, in today's byte we discuss the encounter stage of organizational socialization. 

Encounter is the stage where the newcomer learns the tasks associated with the job, clarifies roles, and establishes new relationships at work.
In terms of timelines, this stage begins with the first day at work and could go to the first six to nine months on the new job. The demands on the new comer during this stage could be classified into:
  1. task demands
  2. role demands
  3. interpersonal demands

Tasks demands involve the actual work performed. Learning to perform tasks is related to the organization's culture - here are some scenarios: In some organizations, new comers are given considerable latitude to experiment with - to do the job, and creativity is values; there are others where newcomers are expected to learn the established procedures for their task.
Note: Early experiences in trying to master task demands can affect employee's entire career.
Role Demands involve the expectations placed on newcomers. These newcomers may not know exactly what to expect of them (role ambiguity) or may receive conflicting expectations from other individuals (role conflicts).  The way newcomers approach these demands is dependent to a good extent on the culture of the organization.
Interpersonal demands arise from relationships at work. Politics, Leadership style, and group pressure are interpersonal demands. All these reflect the values and assumptions that operate within the organization.
At this stage, the expectations formed in anticipatory socialization stage might clash with the realities of the job.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Anticipatory socialization

In the last byte, we looked at the various stages in organizational socialization process. In today' byte, we look at the stage of anticipatory socialization.
Anticipatory Socialization encompasses all the learning that takes pace prior to the newcomer's first day on job.
There are two key concerns at this stage:
  1. Realism
  2. Congruence
The degree to which a newcomer holds realistic expectations about the job and about the organization.

For a very clear understanding of the organizational culture - it is suggested that the new comer receive information regarding this on the first day. This information could help the newcomer to begin constructing a scheme to interpret their experience in the organization. This also helps deepen the understanding of this culture over time about their experiences in the organization.
Congruence could be of two types:
  1. between individual's abilities and the demands of the job
  2. between the organization's values and individual's values.

Value congruence is very important for organizational culture, and is important for the new comer adjustment. If the adjustment is fine, then the new comer would stay longer with the organization.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Stages of Organizational Socialization

In the last byte, we looked at how hiring and firing decisions by leaders indicate their belief in culture. Beginning this byte, we start our discussion on Organizational Socialization.
Organizational Socialization refers to the process by which newcomers are transformed from outsiders to participating, effective members of the organization.
The beginning of cultural socialization is a careful selection of the newcomers - and the reinforcement of the organizational culture through it. Once selected, the newcomers pass through the socialization process.
The organizational socialization process could be thought to have three stages:
  1. Anticipatory Socialization
  2. Encounter
  3. Change and acquisition
The following diagram shows these stages pictorially:

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Organizational Socialization

In the last byte, we looked at how hiring and firing decisions could be important indicators of the organizational culture. In today's byte, we look at organizational socialization. 

We have clearly understood, based on our earlier discussion the role of leaders in defining organizational values, that leaders play a key role in shaping an organization's culture. Another such process that perpetuates culture is the way it is handed down from generation to generation of employees - the underlying process here is "Organizational Socialization".

Organizational Socialization refers to the process by which new comers into an organization are transformed from outsiders to participating, effective members of the organization.

We have earlier discussed how the new-comer selection often reinforces the organization's culture. It is just the first step in the process. Once selected these people pass through the process of socialization in the organization and this is thus the vehicle for bringing newcomers into the organizational culture. 

We shall discuss the various stages of organizational socialization next.

Culture and Leadership 5

In the last byte, we looked how rewarding could help get the organizational values aligned. In today's byte, we look at how hiring and firing decisions by leaders could reinforce the organizational culture.

Hiring and Firing decisions are very strong indicators of the way leaders reinforce the organizational culture. 

Often leaders unconsciously look out for new members who are similar to the current organizational members in terms of values and assumptions. As a practise in some companies that recommendations by a current employee, and this too helps find new employees who have similar values. The policy of promoting from within also servs to reinforce organizational culture. 

The way an organization deals with firing an employee and the rationale behind the act are important means to communicate about the organization's culture. Some companies poor performers are transfered to another department where they could perform better and make useful contributions. In others these employees would be qickly be sent away from the organization. 

In some case where the reason may not be communicated to the employee, the speculation plays a major role. Imagine: An employee caught displaying unethical behavior and if simply reprimanded even though the behavior is against the organization's values - other employees in such a context would think that this is a failure to reinforce the values within an organization.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Culture and Leadership 4

In the last byte, we looked at how an organizational culture would be reflected in how the  leaders behave. In today's byte, we look at how one could understand organizational culture from how leaders allocate resources.

Rewards are widely used by organizations to get the expected behavior. Leaders could use these rewards to encourage and ensure that the values of the organization are consistently followed by all employees. 

Lets take a couple of examples:
  1. Imaging a company where it is generally heard that there is a pay-for-performance system implemented. If the company at  point of offering increments decides to increase the compensation based on the years of service with the company rather than performance, think of the feeling an employee who has performed exceptionally well but relatively new into the organization!
  2. Imagine a second company where the company claims its value to be teamwork. They form cross-functional terms and empower these teams to make important decisions, however when there is the point of performance appraisal the criteria for rating employees focuses on individual performances!

The confusing signals to the employees about the company's culture could demotivate the employees.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Culture and Leadership 3

In the last byte, we looked at how one could understand the leaders focus by observing what the leader pays attention to and how he would react in crisis. In today's byte, we look further to understand how leaders could reinforce culture by how he/she behaves.
How Leaders Behave?

By role modeling, teaching, and coaching, leaders reinforce the values that support the organizational culture. One could often find employees emulating the leader's behavior and look for cues when they would like to understand what the appropriate behavior would be.
In the dynamic business environment we stay today, we often hear organizations say that they are encouraging employees to behave more entrepreneurially - taking up more initiative, and be more innovative in their jobs. Even in this case, it is required that the leaders themselves behave  entrepreneurially.
One could extend the above example of entrepreneurial culture to any value in an organizational culture. Employees often find themselves observing the leader to find out what the organizations' values are.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Culture and Leadership 2

In the last byte, we began our discussion on the role a leader in managing the organizational culture and also noted the 5 major questions to ponder over. In today's byte we look at a few of these questions.

What leaders pay attention to:
Leaders n a organization communicate their priorities, values and beliefs though the theme that consistently emerge from what they focus on - one could observe these by noticing what they notice, what they comment on, what they measure and what they control. 

Leaders must be consistent in what they pay attention to, measure and control; in order to communicate to the employees and give a clear signal on what is important in the organization. In consistency on this front would get the employees confused thanks to the inconsistent signals.

How leaders react to Crisis:
Crisis is a situation when leadership is actually tested - how a leader deals with such situations communicate a powerful message about culture. Often emotions are heightened during crisis and learning is intense.

It has been observed that difficult economic times present crisis from companies and illustrate their different values. Some organizations do everything possible to prevent laying off workers while others claim that employees are important but quickly institute major layoffs at the first signal of economic downturn.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Culture and Leadership

In the last byte, we looked at the benefits of an adaptive culture on firm's performance. In today's byte, we explore how a leader could play a role in shaping or reinforcing culture. 

Leadership in an organization plays a huge role in the way an organization develops its culture. To effectively manage culture, the following five elments need to be carefully throught through:
  1. What leaders pay attention to?
  2. How leaders react to crisis?
  3. How leader behave?
  4. How leaders allocate rewards?
  5. How leaders hire and fire individuals?

We shall briefly discuss on some highlights of each of these elements over the next few bytes.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Adaptive Perspective of Organizational Culture

In the last byte, we looked at the fit perspective to understand its influence on organizational performance. We not move to another angle of looking at organizational culture - the Adaptive Perspective. 

A culture could be called adaptive it it encourages confidence and risk taking amongst employee, possesses a leadership that produces change, and focuses on the changing needs of customers. 

Researchers studies the performance of companies with adaptive and non-adaptive cultures and were surprised to find what differentiates them to be clearly striking! 

Following is a brief summary of the same:
Adaptive cultures facilitated change to meet the needs of three major groups of constituents:  stockholders, customers and employees. It was found that the managers strongly valued people and process that create useful change. The close attention of the managers to the customers (mostly and other constituencies to a limited extent) helped them identify when a change was needed and then act when the change served their legitimate interest and even if they entail taking some risk. 

The non adaptive cultures were characterized by cautious management that often tried to protect its own interest. 

Given the high-performing cultures are adaptive ones, it is important to know how managers can develop adaptive culture. We discuss the leaders role in managing organizational culture in the next byte.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Fit - prespective of Organizational Culture

In the last byte, we looked at the role a strong culture is believed to have on performance of an organization. In today's byte, we look at another way in which organizational culture is believed to have an influence on its performance - the "fit" perspective.

The "fit" perspective, claims that a culture is good only if it fits the industry or the firms strategy. It identifies three particular characteristics of an industry that may affect its culture:
  1. Competitive Environment in which it operates
  2. Requirements of the Customer
  3. Expectations from Society
Lets take the example of the computer manufacturing industry - it is notes that there is a highly competitive demand for products - new features, new experience and every vendor is pushing something new; customers wish for a highly reliable product; the overall society expects a state-of-the-art technology and high-quality service. The traditional hierarchical structure and stability wouldn't work well in this industry - there should be a lot of experience, team/project centered decision making with keen oversight from the top management right!
Note here that - the fit perspective is used in explaining short-term performance but not long-term performance.
It is not going to be any easy to change culture quickly, especially if the culture is widely shared and deeply held.