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Everything changes? A repeated cross-sectional study of organisational culture in the public sector

Nick Chandler (Department of Entrepreneurship and Human Resources, Budapest Business School, Budapest, Hungary)
Balazs Heidrich (Department of Entrepreneurship and Human Resources, Budapest Business School, Budapest, Hungary)
Richard Kasa (Department of Entrepreneurship and Human Resources, Budapest Business School, Budapest, Hungary)

Evidence-based HRM

ISSN: 2049-3983

Article publication date: 4 December 2017

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore how organisational culture has changed between 2011 and 2016 in a higher education institution (HEI) that has been faced with both significant internal and external changes. There are three areas to be examined: the change in culture on an organisational level, the demographic changes in the workforce, and the changes in values and perceptions of the workforce over time.

Design/methodology/approach

This is an explorative study and a repeated cross-sectional study of the organisation. The authors used the same methodology and approach for both the 2011 and 2016 studies, namely, the Organisational Culture Assessment Instrument was used to ascertain respondents values and perceptions. The instrument was distributed in printed format to all members of staff and approval was received prior to distribution. Results were tested for significance using Cronbach’s α and ANOVAs.

Findings

There were demographic changes in the workforce primarily for age, occupation and tenure of staff, but little change in gender. Despite these changes in the workforce, on an organisational level perceptions and values have changed little over the five-year period, despite a multitude of external and internal developments. Although there were statistically significant differences between culture types and demographics (age, tenure, gender and occupation), there was no single demographic with a statistically significant difference for a particular culture type, either in values or perceptions.

Research limitations/implications

The study questions the concept of organisational culture being affected by internal integration and external adaptation over time. Results indicate that culture is, by itself, either slow to react change, or does not react at all. A high response rate would be best for getting a clear picture of the culture of the organisation and a qualitative study is necessary (and planned) to develop the findings further, as well as triangulate the findings of this study.

Practical implications

This study should be of interest to practitioners as it presents the caveat that organisational culture of this study cannot be expected to change on its own, and highlights the need for a planned change process for the organisational culture to adapt to the changing needs of both the external and internal environments. The potential for resistance to change in this organisation appears is high and values and perceptions appear unrelated to any particular demographic.

Social implications

Although the authors cannot generalise from this longitudinal case study, the authors can consider some potential social implications, especially if further studies confirm the findings. First, despite government attempts to develop higher education in Hungary, staff perceptions and values within the institution are harder to change. Second, any attempts to revitalise the organisation from the inside (such as in this case with the forced retirement of older employees) seem unfruitful. Finally, the HEI is struggling to survive, and yet employees seem to not be a part of that struggle.

Originality/value

Although there are studies of organisational culture in HEIs, very few have undertaken a longitudinal approach. The study takes place in a unique situation: just before and just after extreme changes – both internally and externally – have taken place. Few studies question the organic and evolving nature of culture as it is difficult to predict when changes will occur. The study is in the unique position of having been able to do so.

Keywords

Citation

Chandler, N., Heidrich, B. and Kasa, R. (2017), "Everything changes? A repeated cross-sectional study of organisational culture in the public sector", Evidence-based HRM, Vol. 5 No. 3, pp. 283-296. https://doi.org/10.1108/EBHRM-03-2017-0018

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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