Cultural fit 2020: The corporate culture is key | SEI - Swiss Engineering Institute
Cultural fit 2020: The corporate culture is key
September 03, 2018
By SEI Redaktion


Cultural fit 2020: The corporate culture is key

Cultural fitis a term taken from personnel psychology that describes the similarities that should exist between employees and employers. The cultural fitrefers to the corporate culture, and specifically to values and actions. This means, in addition to key data such as working hours and salaries, more and more cultural requirements with an immaterial character, such as values, ideas and morals, are appearing. 

Thus, the social goal of sustainability has an ethical dimension when it comes to living together with present and future generations. Companies that take the concept of the cultural fit seriously will become more attractive in the labour market. The cultural fit that appeals to the younger generation sought by employers is strengthened when the corporate culture is shaped by authentically-lived values. What does this mean in practice?

Participative organisational approaches can also be used effectively within large corporate groups. Take, for example, Lufthansa AG in Germany: Within the structures of this large company, a small unit has been created – zeroG GmbH. Forty data specialists in this part of the group are working on algorithms intended for air traffic. 

One division focuses on web analytics, i.e. the question of how data can be collected and evaluated on digital channels such as websites or social media in order to gain valid insights into customers' preferences and wishes. In predictive analytics, the goal is to use big-data tools to deduce probable future developments from historical data. All this takes place at Frankfurt Airport in a separate office wing.

"As a start-up subsidiary of the Lufthansa group, the aim is to maintain a subculture of personal responsibility in a very traditional group environment", says Joan Hinterauer, who has observed the situation at zeroG GmbH. The organisational consultant from Austria is certain that "this is not some artificial start-up."

The employees are equipped with real decision-making competence – a factor that should appeal to young people in particular. It is a path that CEO Peter Ahnert is deliberately taking. "The decision is yours", he says to his employees – for example by means of new discussion culture. Ahnert: "My arguments are as good as any other arguments." In a previous CEO position, he often experienced the following: As soon as he said something, the discussion turned in his favour, solely because of the "stripes on his shoulder". But this new path is full of obstacles. For example, some data specialists have deep-seated behavioural patterns. "What should we do?" This question keeps popping up, despite the CEO's openness. Personal responsibility can be uncomfortable...

Nevertheless, this different corporate culture shows that zeroG GmbH is on the "way to becoming a self-managing organisation", as Hinterauer puts it. "Innovation is a by-product in this community."

Increasing the wealth of experience

Naturally, zeroG GmbH is a flagship when talks turns to corporate cultures and cultural fits. Communication consultant Volker Oberkircher, however, paints a gloomy picture when it comes to co-determination in German companies: "As a rule, the least influential are the employees who are most affected – and best informed." Those who don't listen to them waste an important resource in the company: employees' wealth of experience. This harms the corporate culture and the cultural fit does not materialise. Clearly, participation has long been a question of competitiveness. Companies put their existence at risk if they do not take their employees seriously.

Promoting transparency

Democratic transparency improves the quality of decisions. Oberkircher, too, is convinced of this: "Homogeneity is harmful; a company needs a variety of solutions to survive in a rapidly changing environment." Many digital tools such as wikis and platforms can support such a corporate culture to enhance the cultural fit with Generation X and Y. However, "a company should always bring all employees on board and cultivate truly appreciative communication", says Oberkircher. 

Common goals and rewards

This is also confirmed by science. "Studies show that a positive corporate culture of openly talking about mistakes, helping each other and sharing knowledge is linked to a company's improved performance." 1The role of "information and reward systems" is particularly emphasized when it comes to team effectiveness. Motivation grows as groups pursue common goals and are rewarded together. "Self-management skills", i.e. the ability to consciously keep an eye on oneself and the work process, are also required. This calls for a great deal of autonomy and freedom in the workplace. The cultural fitwith the younger generation can succeed if the corporate cultureis open, democratic and transparent.

1Hirche / Kurmann / Pallmann (2016):"Collaboration Index – successful collaboration between specialists", "SEI Swiss Engineering Institute", Zurich, Munich

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