Reward systems and organisation culture: an analysis drawing on three perspectives of culture
Wright, Angela Mary
The purpose of this research was to investigate the complex relationship between reward systems and organisation culture. Concepts and theory from organisational culture literature as well as an initial grounded theory exercise were used to develop the theoretical framework that underpins this study. To avoid potential bias towards a managerial-only agenda and to deepen the cultural analysis, Martin’s (2002) three perspectives of culture were used together with methodological principles drawn from Gregory (1983), Eisenhardt (1989) and the various cultural studies of Ogbonna (Ogbonna and Harris, 2002a, Ogbonna and Wilkinson, 2003).\ud \ud The research design is interpretivist and inductive and, as such, is different in approach from many reward studies, which are primarily positivist. The aim was to collect in-depth rich data. They are derived from 4 UK case study organisations, with data collected from both employees at all levels and managers. The data are analysed manually using principles of grounded theory (Charmaz, 2006) to draw out categories and to aid theory development.\ud \ud Deploying broadly cultural and sociological concepts and forms of analysis to study reward systems in the four organisations, the study reveals more nuanced interpretations in comparison with reward research purely from the employer or managerial viewpoints. Analysing sub-cultural and fragmentary cultural attributes it offers a contextualised picture of the connections between concepts that are usually thought of as distinctly different– internal and external equity, fairness, transparency, procedural and distributive justice.\ud \ud The results of the study indicate that the relationship between reward and culture is subtle, intricate and overlapping. They suggest reward and culture are not separate variables whose association can be measured. Rather cultural values both fine tune (drawing on Swidler, 1986) employee reactions to reward practices and the experience of reward practices also reciprocally influences and reinforces cultural values - but only to a certain extent. The nature of the service or product of the organisation feeds into the shaping of values in relation to reward, but feeder or occupational cultures are more important than either the product/service or the \ud reward system.\ud \ud This thesis contributes to the reward and culture literature by applying social science cultural concepts to the analysis of reward. It also develops a fine tuning model of culture and reward. It thereby extends the sociological and cultural strand of reward research that has been underdeveloped in recent decades.
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