By Taslim Ahammad:
Culture is the most important aspect that can help us understand more about business. Culture in business is not just about how others see business, but also about how people in an organization understand it. None of us can dispute that culture affects, how we think and how we act as individuals. Realizing the importance of culture, one can see that it must have an impact on business.
Awareness of organisational culture in businesses industries and other organizations such as universities appeared in the 1960s. The term corporate culture evolved in the early 1980s and became widely known in the 1990s. Authorities, sociologists and other academics used corporate culture in those days to describe the character of a company. These include generalized beliefs and behaviours, the company’s broad quality system, management strategies, employee communication and relationships, work environment and attitudes.
Culture is prevalent in today’s context, different from more singular definition, especially used in Western languages, where the term often refers to correction. Culture is the belief, values, stress and practice of a group of people. It includes the types and rules of behaviour of this group including rules, assumptions, perceptions and arguments and arguments that are specific to a group. In short, each of us grows up in a belief system that affects our individual perspectives to such an extent that we cannot always be responsible or even aware of its impact. We, like other members of our culture, have come to share a common idea of what is appropriate and what is not.
Culture in business is a metaphor that can be used to explore the identity of a business. It’s about how others see the business, but how the people who work there understand it. Culture gives us a strong insight into what it is like to be in business and what to do with it.
In other words culture can be defined as a developed set of collective beliefs, values and attitudes. Culture is a key component of business and has an impact on the strategic aspects of business. Culture influences management, decision making and all business activities from accounting to production.
We need to reduce the likelihood of intercultural misunderstandings so that we can benefit from our differences. This results in a happier work environment and better business relationships. Who knows, it may even achieve more clear goals for organizations like higher sales or increased profits. Also, culture is especially important during times of great change, such as integration and acquisition or corporate diversion, which allows for a fresh start in culture.
Way to understand other’s culture – This may sound quite basic but people need to look at their own culture first. There are many areas that may affect how people relate to others. People may not have considered some of these aspects before. But if people step back a little and think, they will see that each area is impacted by their own culture. Let’s look at some significant areas: (i) Age/gender/ethnicity and religion (ii) Body language and communication style (iii) Personal appearance/dress (iv) Eating and drinking traditions/etiquette (v) Entertaining and socializing/gift giving (vi) Holidays (vii) Language (viii) Cultural assumptions/ethics/political correctness (ix) Business organization/management style and leadership/business relationships (x) Work expectations/time management.
When people work in an environment that involves others from various cultures, they need to be aware of their own culture in terms of each of these areas. This will help them to realize that other cultures may have distinct differences in one or more of these areas. When people work with individuals from another culture, they need to be aware of their culture(s). This will allow them to be more sensitive to other cultures. This mind-set will help people to appreciate other cultures and to view things, like the situation or problem and so on from a broader perspective, not just from their viewpoint.
Companies need to make sure: (a) Culture cannot be delegated it must be on the authorities’ list of top priorities: C-suite executives must clearly understand their company’s cultural values, determine how they relate to business strategy, and take responsibility for shaping them, while also analysing whether their own behaviours reinforce the expected culture. (b) Understand both the current and the expected culture: Business leaders should closely examine current business processes step by step to identify which practices are aligned with the desired culture and which are destructive and require change which begins by uncovering the values and behaviours that allowed those practices to develop. While many HR societies are building teams to better communicate leaders’ vision of the desired culture, these teams do not always connect cultural change programs to behaviours and corporate strategies. (c) Observe the organization to determine whether the targeted culture is taking hold: Executives can drive permanent cultural change throughout the organization by reminding employees that culture is a tangible set of attributes and behaviours that can be clearly recognized at visible touchpoints among employees and people outside the firm. (d) Measure culture: Use observed tools to understand employee attitudes and actions. If measurement reveals that current behaviours conflict with desired cultural values, refine the program to communicate and model culture throughout the business. HR should take the lead in this regards.
The important thing is to realize that there are many differences in how people live. Culture influences how we perceive our thoughts and how we act as individuals in our work. Culture affects our relationships with any of our business partners. Therefore, to create a positive cross-culture experience and to facilitate a more integrated and productive corporate culture, companies often dedicates in-depth resources, including specialized training, which will enhance cross-culture business interaction.
Chairman, Tourism and Hospitality Management
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science and Technology University, Gopalganj, Bangladesh