How Does Culture Impact HR Policies?

Employers generally implement human resources policies to give an organization structure, to provide employees with discernible guidelines, and to support the company’s employment actions. Although the underlying reasons for HR policies are similar, HR policies are not a one-size-fits-all proposition. A number of factors are pertinent in developing HR policies. The size of the employee base, the corporate structure, the workplace climate, and even the location and industry all comprise organizational culture, and ultimately influence HR policies.

Employee Base

The employee base, or the number of workers the company employs, often determines the workplace culture. Large organizations that employ several hundred or thousands of workers must have a more bureaucratic culture than small businesses. Employees of small businesses with fewer workers often have collegial and friendly relationships, not just with their peers, but with the company’s leadership as well. Therefore, the HR policies for a small entity are vastly different than the process-oriented policies that large employers must implement. In fact, even attempting to implement HR policies that mimic those of a large organization can be off-putting for employees of small businesses.

Organizational Structure

The very nature of a matrix organizational structure lends itself to less structured HR policies than a strict hierarchical structure found in many large corporations. Employees who work in a matrix-structured workplace typically have dual reporting relationships, although only one may be the formal supervisor-employee relationship. For example, an accounting manager might supervise an office manager for matters involving accounting, billing and invoicing, but the office manager also may have direct oversight by the company’s owner on non-finance matters, such as recruiting and hiring. Employees may utilize different skill sets in more than one area of the business, working cross-functionally to achieve the company’s goals. Implementing HR policies depends on what the organizational structure can support and whether the policies are actually conducive to the culture.


Employee perception is key to workplace climate, according to Maggie Walsh, psychologist and head of the leadership practice group for global consulting firm Forum. Workplace climate is determined by how employees feel about their employers’ openness, integrity and appreciation for their talents. Climate is easy to alter just by establishing clear goals, evaluating performance, and supporting a team philosophy, says Walsh in her March 2012 Training magazine article, “6 Management Practices for Affecting Workplace Climate.” Likewise, HR policies for an organization that has a positive workplace climate are likely to be more fully embraced than HR policies that strictly govern a work environment with little room for interpretation.


Location and industry influence workplace culture, and thus, HR policies. Policies for an Internet startup in Silicon Valley may be entirely different from the HR policies for a Wall Street brokerage house. The technology mecca of the United States is known for its casual work environments with forward-thinking, progressive employees, while the Wall Street brokerage firm might be described as a high-brow business environment where formality is much preferred over the informal camaraderie and congenial work space on the West Coast. Consequently, the HR policies for the California workplace will differ significantly from those of the New York office.

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