HR and Organizational Culture – The Korea Times

HR and Organizational Culture – The Korea Times

HR and organizational culture

By Kim Jong Nam

Sometimes companies going through the diagnostic process will receive scores that misrepresent their HR policies. However, even in the face of these scores, some companies are unwilling to consider addressing or changing these policies because they either believe that HR changes will not have a direct impact on organizational culture, or it is more important to change people than to change policies or principles, or that would cost too much and take too long.

Alternatively, some even think that the scores really don’t mean anything because employees will always rate HR negatively whether or not that’s true. These companies couldn’t be more wrong. Recruitment, promotion, evaluation, salary, training and career development are all important elements of people management and the effectiveness of organizational systems. HR can affect organizational culture so significantly that the latter sometimes cannot be improved without changing the former.

HR policies are a kind of regulation that explains why something in an organization happens in a certain way. These policies, whether explicit or implicit, shed light on an organization’s values ​​and standards and what you can expect from leaders’ behaviors. HR policies tell people how to interpret what is happening in an organization and thus contribute to the creation of a shared meaning. All policies are simultaneously the result of organizational culture and its antecedents.

Let’s look at three examples to see how HR policies can impact organizational culture, according to organizational experts.

1) When diagnosing an organizational culture, many people point to problems with the performance management system such as unclear evaluation criteria, irrational evaluations, subjective evaluations, unfair evaluations, lack of feedback, insufficient compensation, etc. This can have a negative impact on the organizational culture, as employees generally believe that the performance management system will help them identify what goals to set, what behaviors to adopt, how to collaborate with their colleagues and how to solve the problems facing the organization. In other words, a performance management system clearly represents the values, beliefs and characteristics of the organization. A performance management system is actually a method for disseminating values ​​to employees. Can we really say that we can change an organizational culture and leave the performance management system intact?

2) When choosing a company to work for and deciding to stay with that company, many Millennials and Gen Z employees consider their career development opportunities one of the most important factors . Many companies leave their career development systems untouched even though they were mentioned by employees in the cultural diagnostic. The career development system is a crucial signal for new hires as they form their first impressions of the company and try to understand its inner workings and whether or not they will be able to align with their new organization. A career development system tells employees what a career in their organization means and what kind of development and growth will be possible there. Moreover, these HR policies or practices, in addition to creating individual meaning, can also create collaborative or collective meaning or understanding, which is itself the organizational culture ― the ultimate resource.

3) Many organizations view employee compensation and benefits as a necessary but onerous corporate obligation that has little to do with organizational culture. However, many employees see compensation as an important indicator of their own success and development thus far in the organization. According to culture experts, employees tend to think that an organization’s compensation system is closely tied to the level of emphasis on performance in that organization’s culture. If an organization wants to become performance-driven, grab the attention of potential employees, and motivate their employees to engage in desirable behaviors, the compensation system should not be ignored. If the pay system does not align with the company’s performance message, employees will become confused and demotivated and may eventually exhibit learned helplessness due to the unattractive pay system. This is especially true for struggling employees.

Consciously or not, people and organizations send and receive endless signals. By exchanging this information, social values ​​and norms are naturally formed and patterns of interaction are decided. HR policies and practices can explain why employees have certain behaviors or understandings. Organizational characteristics are very important for employees, who judge whether their organization has characteristics that they wish to experience through the signs and messages that the policies imply. Human resource management is intimately linked to organizational culture, as specific functions such as recruitment, promotion, evaluation, salary, training and career development create a mental and emotional contract between employees and their organization.

Just like human beings, organizations will inevitably reveal their intentions, behaviors and characteristics through their policies, which employees interpret in the context of their own growth and development. If an organization appears to violate the mental and emotional contract, employees tend to feel betrayed and cheated. That’s why if an organization diagnoses its culture and finds something wrong with its HR, it needs to show employees that it’s addressing that issue in order to remain trustworthy in their eyes. Again, just like human beings, when an organization chooses to remain consistent, objective, communicative and cooperative, it will be loved and its loyal employees will choose to stay.
Kim Jong-nam is the founding CEO of META ( and a global organizational development consultant who works both virtually and in person.