The two sides of the culture coin

by | Nov 26, 2020 | Culture

The two sides of the culture coin


It’s a dangerous misconception that culture is just something that happens to your organisation. If you get a good one then you’re lucky. If not then you’ll have to suffer through it. More dangerous still is the idea that it’s a ‘nice to have’ – a commodity rather than a priority.

The reality is that your working culture is a powerful force. It impacts your ability to get where you want to be as an organisation. It determines whether you’ll achieve even the most straightforward of goals or objectives and keep your people onside and working for you.

The complexities of working culture creates challenges in explaining it in a way that’s easy to digest and, most importantly, put effective strategies into practice.

At MVMNT, we’ve found that by separating it into two parts, makes it easier to visualise and understand. Your people culture and your corporate culture. Only then can you really appreciate the two forces that shape the culture that your organisation requires and desires.

These are by no means two separate entities. They’re intrinsically linked and the success of one, very much relies on the other. However, they do require separate strategy and approach.


People culture

People culture is the more experiential side of things – the experience of working for your organisation and the various factors that shape and influence it. How your people feel when they do their job. Largely, your people culture sits on a positive – negative scale (or a number of positive – negative scales). These are determined by your people and their experiences.

For many leaders, the people side of working culture is the part that feels like an enigma. An uncrackable code that is out of their control. People culture is controlled by the people. There is a great deal that leaders can do to influence it and gear it towards the positive. However, this can only be done when they have committed to truly understanding it and the key influencing factors.

These factors can generally be split into four:

  • Working environment
  • Safety
  • Leadership
  • Purpose


Put simply, if people have a working environment that suits their needs and puts them in the best possible position to succeed, they feel safe in their work, have leaders who understand, support and respect them and are working towards a purpose that inspires them and gives them clear direction then they’re likely to contribute to a positive people culture.

Of course, it isn’t quite as simple as that. We’ll be exploring each of the four influencing factors in much more detail over the coming weeks.


Corporate culture

Whilst, for many leaders, the people elements of culture might seem more ‘familiar’, it’s often frustrating that so much can seem beyond their control.

The corporate culture side is that which leaders have full control over. It is corporate culture that should be shaped by strategy, objectives and ambitions. It uses systems and structures that shape behaviours, as well as the stories you tell as an organisation. The questions asked when approaching your corporate culture should include ‘What do we want to achieve?’ and ‘What can we do to put ourselves in the best possible position for success?’

There are four key factors of corporate culture:

  • Behaviours
  • Brand
  • Systems
  • Structures


If your people culture is more about how you feel when you do your job. Your corporate culture is what underpins it – how you do what you do. Whilst people culture can only be influenced, corporate should be carefully designed. You should ensure that every aspect is geared towards making your core business strategies a success.


Two sides of the coin

People and corporate culture are very much two sides of the same coin. Solely focussing on one or the other may well bring positive outcomes but will leave you potentially falling short. We, therefore, would always recommend that any change strategy incorporates a focus on both.

For people culture, it’s essential that you diagnose your current situation and establish where it might be falling short. This begins by speaking to your people and listening to what they have got to say. You can then put a strategy in place that directly addresses these shortcomings and builds on the areas where you’re strongest. For corporate culture, it’s about establishing the ways in which you need your working culture to support your ongoing strategy. As well as reviewing where your organisational systems and structures don’t currently match that and how the stories you tell as an organisation might need to change.

With a firm grasp of what people and corporate culture are, the different ways in which they are shaped and your role, as a leader, in each – you’ll be well-placed to go ahead and ensure your working culture works for your organisation. Both require equal thought, planning and care – as well as regular maintenance and care.


…and finally

Fundamentally, in order for an organisation to flourish, and most importantly not balance on a knife-edge of having great culture or losing it, both sides of culture have to dovetail together.

On top of your people feeling great there has to be some substance behind it – something providing direction and inspiration. With that balance established, you can genuinely start looking forward. Knowing that your culture is not only secure and not about to collapse underneath you but set up in a way that best places you to succeed.

*At MVMNT, we support organisations in diagnosing both sides of culture. Using your people as inspiration on one side and your strategy and leadership on the other. We then set about a path for positive change. Find out more here.



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