Many organizations are grappling with the need to alter their company, or corporate culture. There are a lot of factors that can influence whether that is successful, including organization size.
Company culture is important for any business, but it can be a bit of a vague concept. As defined by Investopedia, “Corporate culture refers to the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company’s employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions. Often, corporate culture is implied, not expressly defined, and develops organically over time from the cumulative traits of the people the company hires.”
Changing company culture is notoriously difficult, not least because it is so vague, implied, and organically developed. And yet, companies often spend a lot of time, effort, and money trying to do just that.
Here we look at whether it is easier to change the corporate culture of a small or larger business. Indeed, whether a company is large or small has a lot to do with its culture in the first place. But what other factors are at play that might make the culture of one easier to change than that of another?
Role of Individuals
In a small company, individual employees—whether the president or a frontline, entry-level employee—have a greater proportional impact on the overall culture of the company. In a company of 10 employees, a single worker makes up 10% of the workforce.
For better or for worse, that employee’s behaviors and attitudes have a proportionally larger impact on the overall culture than in a 10,000-employee company.
Role of Leaders
As noted above, individuals make up a larger proportion of a company in a small versus a larger business. And leaders are no exception. It can be more difficult for a leader to steer the culture of a larger, monolithic business than to influence a small, close-knit group.
Larger companies tend to have more embedded structure, and this can also cut two ways when trying to change culture. A firm structure might make it easier to produce new missions and initiatives from the top down. But, structure also influences culture in many ways. It can be difficult to completely overhaul the structure of a large company to make it more horizontal, for example.
Company culture is a key element of any business—it impacts not only how the work gets done but also how customers, and consumers in general, perceive the business and its products and services.
While, in some ways, influencing culture in a small organization may seem less challenging than in a large one, all companies struggle to define, maintain, and sometimes change their cultures.