How employees learn culture

How employees learn culture in an organization

One of the most important aspects of your organization is culture. Similar to cultures around the world, organizational cultures rely on rituals, traditions, and ways of seeing the world that uniquely define a group of individuals. It’s incredibly important for the health and overall success of your business, your teams, and your customers or audience. Organizational culture influences teamwork, productivity, efficiency, and employee turnover.

Let’s take a look at organizational culture and explore some practical examples of its significance.

What is an organizational culture?

An organizational culture enables a mutual understanding of an organization’s main goals and objectives for collaborative success. The development of an organization’s distinct culture is essential for boosted employee satisfaction and, in turn, loyalty. Along with having a strong representation of branding, different cultures attract different types of people to any given organization, which ultimately contributes to its overall composition.

How employees learn organizational culture

The development of a distinct organizational culture is essential for boosted employee loyalty, engagement and belonging. How your employees ‘learn’ about the nuances and ins and outs of your company culture can happen through a variety of ways which you can certainly bring to life in the way you create learning experiences. 

We know there are various ways employees can learn about your company culture. Other than through reading what’s on ‘Glassdoor’ or learning through formal induction programs where companies explicitly run new employees through company values, expectations and ‘the way things are done around here’, there are other covert ways employees observe and learn about the culture. Gerry Johnson and Kevan Scholes dissect culture through a set of ‘elements’ to help us understand how culture can be experienced or learnt. Here we explore a number of the elements and how employees can be exposed to them in their day to day role.

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How is culture transmitted to employees?

Culture is transmitted to employees through the instillment of particular values in the mindset and processes employees are involved in on a daily basis. This can be through regular team meetings, as well as programs used to encourage employees to work in teams and contribute to the discussion.

How do you go about learning how that organization works? There are various ways employees can learn culture, five of which we will unpack in this article.

5 ways employees can learn culture in an organization

1. Rituals and ceremonies

Rituals and ceremonies refer to repetitive patterns which emphasise an organization’s values and core practices or what a company ‘stands for’. These may be formal or informal work practices that are often known as ‘the way things get done’ or more explicit rules that govern how people work. Either way, to create a strong culture, set rules that are unique to your organization

If work practices are highly structured and individuals are task-driven rather than outcome-driven, cultures can sometimes come across as hierarchical or rigid with little room for experimentation or innovation. How a company trains employees to give and receive feedback’ or how it educates people on things like discrimination sends a strong message on what the company stands for. Rituals and practices of learning and development can be achieved utilising micro-learning to foster a culture of continuous growth.

2. Material and cultural symbols

Symbols serve as a representation of an organization’s culture, further instilling a sense of identity and drive-in employees. Symbols traditionally communicate with those in the organization through unspoken messages. Symbols can be experienced in the form of company logos and branding, messaging on office walls, office meeting room labels, job titles. provides some helpful tips on how to use symbols to build a powerful culture.

3. Organizational heroes

Organizational champions or often referred to as ‘heroes’ refer to those in the organization who perform in an exemplary manner, of which other employees should follow suit. Having these figures as role models in an organization is important for the continual guidance of employees in a positive direction.

4. Language

Language is often used by organizations as a way to characterise their unique voice and identify those within it. Having a specific language sets the tone for the level of formality within the organization. 

We find that using consistent language in learning and training materials can really drive the organization’s perception of the formalities within the organization and how people inadvertently treat others. Language such as ‘we’ and ‘us’, if consistently used, can really drive a culture of inclusivity and emphasize the focus being on a team rather than an individual. Training employees on how to be team players can further emphasize the importance to employees.

5. Stories

Organizational stories are often based on memorable past events that are repeatedly talked about and shared with other employees – particularly new starters. These stories can include narratives or events relating to founders, conquers, successes and failures of the organization. Values are often reinforced through the re-telling of stories, as is what employees should and should not do.

EdApp’s Story Design course found in the editable content library, contributed by Rance Greene.

story design into your learning interventions can be a very powerful tool to equip your employees with real-life examples of the right behaviour. Storytelling is most commonly found when articulating the history of the organization for new starters. further provides some helpful tips on how to use symbols to build a powerful culture.

Embedding these elements through learning interventions

It is clear that culture is learned by employees through the establishment of these elements, along with what is often articulated overtly on company websites or company values. If you want to nurture curiosity and learning with your employees, reinforcing culture can be done through your learning interventions. 

Rituals are one of the most powerful tools to drive culture. EdApp has been used to drive habitual change but also reinforce behaviours and cultural expectations through it’s spaced repetition feature called Brain Boost. 

To activate the Brain Boost feature on the platform, navigate to your chosen course and select ‘Brain Boost’ from the menu of options.

Brain Boost

From there, simply switch the toggle:

Enable Brain Boost

Microlearning provides organizations with the power to distil essential information to employees in a very digestible way. It can incorporate many elements of what makes up a culture such as rituals (regular learning interventions), language, symbols and stories, enabling employees to absorb larger volumes of knowledge in a shorter amount of time.

The adoption of leadership for a healthy work culture

Aside from the 5 elements of workplace culture discussed above, the adoption of healthy leadership is crucial to the extent of cultural success. Companies grasp leadership to different extents, often due to various factors, such as the history of the company or its composition. Many times a company has not reached its potential, often to do with the company’s overpowering, unbalanced or lack of leadership. 

A company’s leadership affects it on every level, from the company’s direction to the effect it has on the confidence level of its employees. Efficient leaders must decide what the company’s work culture is, essentially holding the reins to the attitudes of employees and the realisation of the company’s business goals. 

Let us outline why it is crucial to building a healthy work culture through leadership in some more depth.

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1. Great leaders often bring change

Many organizations fail to grow at a sustainable rate when companies’ leaders become satisfied with the current position, thus halting making efforts for further growth. A great leader should constantly reinforce the beliefs and values upon which the company was built, by adopting those beliefs and values in their daily actions. When leaders personally act upon the beliefs and values they want employees to inculcate in themselves, they are able to bring long-lasting change.

2. Great leaders are continuous learners

Another factor that separates a great leader is their constant hunger for knowledge and are continuously finding ways to gain more of it. This not only gives these leaders the expertise of different skills and subjects which they use to better guide and direct the organization but also positively affects employees. As previously mentioned, employees subconsciously replicate the actions of their leaders, therefore they will likely adopt the behaviour of constant learning under the influence of their leader.

3. Great leaders remain considerate of their clients and employees

It is no coincidence that employees who work under great leaders are substantially more satisfied and content than those who are not, also applying to the clients that work with the organization. This can be put down to the fact that effective leaders constantly consider how they can add value to the lives of employees and how they can best serve their clients. Some common traits amongst great leaders are strong problem-solving skills, a high emotional quotient, and a bulk of creativity, giving them all the tools they need to connect with clients and employees with a human touch. 

4. Great leaders communicate well

Successful leaders bear strong communication skills, providing them with an invaluable advantage when communicating with customers and employees. A leader who is able to ascertain exactly what their customers want, as well as the way to give it to them, will have an influential effect on their employees. The ability to put yourself in the customer’s shoes and talk to them in their own language is something which is requisite of a successful leader and their employees.

5. Great leader refine their employees’ skills

Given the fact that a successful leader understands the importance of skill development, they will most likely spare no expense to ensure that each of their employees is provided with the best training and development available. When employees are able to visualize their leader valuing quality learning and development, they are able to then, too, understand its importance in personal and professional development.

A lot of the time, great leaders will involve themselves in the learning and development process, taking part in training alongside their employees, further boosting employee morale. This is especially true when adopting learning strategies such as mobile learning with EdApp: an award-winning and completely free all-in-one training solution. Leaders are able to communicate with employees in a safe learning environment through a social learning app and peer collaboration.

Emphasising the five elements of culture in combination with the adoption of leadership contributes to the formulation of a guaranteed healthy work culture.

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