An organisation’s ‘culture’ consists of the values and behaviours that workers share and demonstrate. It can include the shared attitudes and beliefs that form part of the organisation’s written and unwritten rules. In this broadcast, Professor Andrew Hopkins argues that inconsistent and contradictory use of the terms ‘culture’ and ‘safety culture’ has created confusion.
Drawing on broader, social science definitions of culture, Professor Hopkins makes six propositions to improve our understanding of these terms:
- Culture is a characteristic of groups, not individuals.
- The influence of national cultures is overstated.
- Culture is best described as ‘the ways we do things around here’.
- In organisations, it is usually better to treat culture as a description of group behaviour, because that invites the deeper question - why are they behaving in this way?
- The sources of organisational culture are structure and leadership.
- Existing definitions of safety culture are inadequate, and should focus on organisational practices and getting them right.
This presentation featured as a keynote address at the 2018 SafetyConnect Conference.