Culture has remained the most neglected part of HRD, but has attracted some attention in the last few years. Interest in culture has been aroused by the examples of Japanese successes. Some organisations in India have adopted Japanese practices, notable among them being Maruti Udyog and Sundaram Clayton. Maruti Udyog adopted some practices because of the positive pressure of Suzuki. These practices are a 7 hours 45 minutes shift, zero-defect production, cost cutting, and discipline. This helped in the development of a new organisational culture.
Organisational culture can be defined as cumulative ways of thinking and behaving which the values, attitudes, rituals, and sanctions in an organisation shape. Operationally, development of culture would involve developing a strong corporate identity, development of important values, building healthy traditions and developing consistent management practices. Cultural systems are concerned with development of appropriate organisational culture, creating conducing organisational climate, improving communication and evolving effective reward systems. It is to be noted that whatever is rewarded in an organisation gets reinforced. Therefore, a reward system (including incentives) both for individuals and teams deserves careful attention. Rewards can facilitate and promote good work but if not designed properly, can do a great deal of harm to the organisation. Systematic attention has been given to the reward systems in the construction group of L&T, where a need-based system was evolved.
Organisational climate is another concept close to culture that has received attention in recent years. Different approaches have been adopted to create a climate conducive to work. An instrument for assessing appropriate HRD climate has been developed and used in many organisations and some instruments to measure ethos and, atmosphere are available. Development of appropriate culture has attracted a great deal of academic attention in the past few years. Some companies have paid deliberate attention to developing an appropriate culture (viz. C-Dot, Modi Xerox, Sundaram Clayton, Eicher). Some have made attempts to improve their cultures (viz. Procter and Gamble, Ballarpur Industries Ltd., Indian Farmers’ Fertiliser Cooperative (IFFCO).
Development of culture takes a long time and involves complex processes. The following aspects deserve attention in this regard.
A) STRONG CORPORATE IDENTITY: The sense of identity with the organisation develops when the employees have a sense of belonging, and they feel proud to belong to the organisation. Identity develops as a result of interaction of the employees with the organisation. The following action ideas help in developing strong corporate identity.
i) Developing an attractive booklet, giving basic information about the company. Indo-Burma Petroleum Company (IBP Co.) and several other organisations have developed good induction material.
ii) Films on success experiences in organisations, if shown on special occasions, may help build corporate identity. “Manthan” directed by Shyam Benegal for NDDB is a good example of such a film. By inviting suggestions from the key divisions of an organisation, the HRD Department can prepare a list of such video films to be developed.
iii) Company newsletters giving information about business development and significant information about the employees are being published by many organisations.
iv) Mobility of people (corporate field, division-unit, inter-division) has been used among other things for the development of organisational identity.
B) DEVELOPING IMPORTANT VALUES: Values related to organisational culture, such as values of excellence and human consideration do not develop through mere didactic exercises like lectures, talks, or writing, but by demonstrating these values in action by the key role holders. The following practices have helped the development of relevant values.
i) Survey feedback of values, in particular, feedback on the gap between “espoused values” and “values in action” as reflected in the management practices. Seminars can be held at different levels to deal with the data generated on these gaps.
ii) Special value-orientation programmes in developing appropriate values, in which, instead of teaching what values are good, the programme helps participants to examine the relevance and functionality of certain values and openly questions and discusses the desirable value system and the one that they see in action. Such programs on value clarification help people to internalise values by stating their own values without hesitation, by examining openly and frankly the desirability of a different value system, and also by developing specific ideas of practicing such values in the workplace.
iii) Examining the various operating systems in the organisation. As for example, a content analysis of the budgetary, MIS, appraisal, promotion, career planning and rewards system can indicate what values they reinforce. The concerned groups can then examine the data for insight and development of appropriate action plan(s).
iv) Special OD intervention in developing collaboration and concern for excellence may help in anchoring appropriate value orientation through such exercises as team building, achievement and extension motivation programmes and so on.
C) Building Healthy Traditions and Practices: Traditions in an organisation are built on the basis of important rituals. Rituals or celebrations associated with the transition of people from one state to another are important avenues for identifying a culture. In Indian society for example, about 16 rituals are associated with transition from one phase of life to another. These rituals do contribute to the development of social and family traditions. Attention should be given to the identification of functional rituals within the organisation. Some interesting practices have already been found useful in some companies.
i) Induction programme for new entrants help the employees to develop a sense of belonging. Detailed planning is needed to help them develop pride and joy in becoming a member of the company that will reinforce the sense of belonging and identification with the company. Sundaram Clayton’s “Acculturation Workshops” for new entrants are very well designed and exemplary.
ii) Promotions need to be treated as an important event of transition of a person from one stage to another. Instead of only written communication of promotion, a face-to-face conversation with the concerned chief may be useful, before it is communicated in writing; the information of promotion is shared with the concerned employee along with its implications.
iii) Rituals associated with Old age and retirement of people should also receive due attention from the HRD wing. The Malayala Manorama group has evolved some rituals associated with an employee’s death and old age. For example, “senior members” (employees having completed certain years of service) are taken free on a Bharat darshan trip along with their spouses (“senior couples”).
iv) The exceptional behaviour of an employee in helping the organisation or in solving different problems and so on, must be recognised, rewarded and made visible. This may help to develop the tradition of indulging in such behaviour more frequently. People find reasons to repeat a behaviour that is rewarded, and thereby, they are reinforced by the organisation. A behaviour repeated by one is internalised over a period of time, and these internalise materials in the collective sense from a sub-culture and eventually integrate with the culture in the organisation.
v) Celebrations of incidents significant to individual employees and the organisation are important. Some interesting experiences in some organisations have shown that these may help not only to develop a strong organisational identification and thereby contribute to culture, but may also make organisations more akin to the Indian culture in a broader sense. Following are two such examples- Petrofils, a successful and fast expanding company in the joint sector has been using rituals involving the top management, the employees, and their families. For instance, record breaking performances are celebrated by rewarding everyone in the company, so as to symbolise the contribution of all the employees. Transition from one productive year to the next is marked by a committee of employees selecting a gift for everyone. For example, in 1985 a new record for sales was set when a profit of Rs.36 crores on an investment of Rs. 67 crores was made. That year everyone took home a mixer-grinder. A number of such rituals are being designed, and care is taken to ensure that they remain meaningful and do not degenerate into mechanistic rituals. Another interesting ritual is the celebration of birthdays in the Board room for all employees, from the Chairman to the Khalasi (helper), to strengthen the feeling of the company being a family. Everyone is given a gift worth Rs.51 and the item for the year is selected by a group of about 40 employees.
Steel Tubes of India (STI) has evolved a governance-system suited to the Indian culture, consisting of joint committees (representatives of management and workers, elected by the entire work force) and Jan Sabha (representing elected members, departmental councils, best workers awarded during the past seven years, employees with over 20 years service, senior managers, departmental heads and directors of the company).