Organizational symbols can convey powerful meanings that represent underlying values, philosophies, meanings, and expectations within a company. They influence awareness of an organization’s expectations and, as such, captures meanings that integrate cognition, behavior, and emotion into shared codes. Symbols influence behavior through eliciting organizational values and norms, therefore, undergirds corporate culture. Notably, symbols are integral to organizational life as they shape employees’ active construction of behavior, sense, and knowledge. This paper explores the corporate culture of Ford Motors, as conveyed by symbols to identify strengths and weaknesses from a cultural perspective.
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Organizational Culture and the Symbols
One of the most distinctive symbols in Ford’s offices is the company’s logo. A flattened oval figure designed in several shades of blue and white colors with the name “Ford” inscribed in the middle represents Ford Motors’ logo. The embedded name in the middle of the logo is the famous stylish Henry Ford’s signature. The blue color symbolizes strength and excellence, while the white color depicts purity and nobility (“Ford Logo Meaning”, 2020). The logo is incorporated in almost all items that employees interact with on a daily basis, including pens, mugs, journals, et cetera. According to Ravasi (2016), a logo is a symbol of a company’s identity.
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The strength and excellence component (blue color) in Ford’s logo serves as a constant reminder to the employees that they must strive for excellence and remain strong even in the face of challenges and adversity. The nobility and purity aspects of the logo (white color) can be interpreted to urge employees to uphold emotional intelligence (“Ford Logo Meaning”, 2020). Concerning Ford’s organizational culture, the logo relates to two components incorporated in the company’s corporate culture guideline dubbed “Our Truths” (“Our Culture”, 2020). Firstly, the emphasis on strength and excellence relates to how Ford urges its employees to play to win, and its famous slogan ‘built ford tough.’ Secondly, the nobility and purity part relates to the company emphasizing that employees always do the right thing and live as a family (‘One Ford’), whereby members can rely on, care, and respect each other.
The second symbol is the company’s working spaces. After Jim Hackett was named Ford’s CEO in May 2017, he announced his plans to transform the company. The first order of business was to change the office working spaces’ outlook. For instance, in the Detroit campus have collaborative work areas as well as support areas such as gyms and cafeterias (“Hackett sought to ‘push the edges’ of automaker’s office design”, 2018). The team spaces are a symbol of Ford’s corporate culture. Ford has always strived to remain innovative as it understands that in the automotive industry, a company must be undergirded by innovation to stay ahead of the competition. In “Our Truths” under the truth named “Be Curious” Ford insists that the company approaches the world with a sense of interest and wonder (“Our Culture”, 2020). The open spaces also encourage teamwork and collaboration among the employees. The open spaces influences employees’ awareness regarding the expectation to remain creative and innovative.
The recreational spaces, including gyms and cafeterias, can be interpreted to symbolize Ford values its employees. In “Our Truths,” Ford states that it puts people first as it is driven by purpose. Whether employees, customers, or partners, the needs and wants of people are Ford’s primary priority (“Our Culture”, 2020). Such efforts by an organization make employees feel appreciated and valued, thereby serving as motivators. The recreational spaces also allow employees to form meaningful relations, integral to team works and collaborations. Therefore, the recreational areas symbolize a culture of team work and collaboration and a place where employees are valued.
Lastly, slogans mostly put up on the company’s walls serve as important symbols of Ford’s corporate culture. Ford uses two slogans; (1) “Go Further” and (2) “Built Ford Tough” (“Our Culture”, 2020). Regarding the former, it sends the message that Ford employees must always strive to improve. “Go Further” is a reminder that one should never be comfortable with the status quo but should strive to achieve something better. It can also be translated to mean a desire for excellence as one can only excel by pushing the limits. The slogan represents Ford’s culture of always striving to be the best and striving for excellence. In relation to employees, it symbolizes a culture of always seeking to improve knowledge and skills as well as improving in terms of productivity and quality of work.
The second slogan, “Built Ford Tough,” symbolizes Ford’s fighting spirit. It conveys the message that Ford’s employees accept challenges and tackle them with confidence, courage, and optimism. In “Our Truths,” Ford confesses that as an organization, it embraces disruption as an opportunity to evolve and become something better (“Our Culture”, 2020). The slogan, therefore, symbolizes a culture of never giving up or in and a shared belief that in the face of challenges and adversity Ford will continue thriving. Thus, it suggests a strong winning mentality firmly established in Ford’s corporate culture.
Strengths and Weaknesses of the Organization from a Cultural Perspective
The above-discussed organizational symbols point out several strengths associated with Ford’s corporate culture. Firstly, the culture gives Ford an identity as communicated by its logo. Secondly, the symbols exhibit that Ford’s corporate culture clearly conveys the company’s core values. Thirdly, as demonstrated by the symbols, the corporate culture of Ford has the power to transform employees. The culture emphasizes on continuous improvements and having a growth mindset. Fourthly, the culture is strong enough to retain the best talents as it incorporates both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. For instance, it emphasizes treating employees as valued members of the Ford family and investing in providing a conducive working environment such as the 2017 office renovations. Fifthly, the culture is well established to transform the employees into a team and promote corporate citizenship. This is evident in the core values that the culture emphasizes, such as respect, care, and satisfying other employees’ needs.
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On the downside, as deciphered from its organizational symbols, Ford’s corporate culture does not appear strong enough to attract the best talents from the job market. As this evaluation has demonstrated, Ford’s symbols are mostly confined within the offices and working spaces, so they only influence the behavior of those within the premises. According to Ravasi (2016), a robust corporate culture capable of attracting the best talents from the job market needs to have a powerful external impact.
From the strengths and weaknesses analysis, it is evident that Ford’s organizational culture’s strengths outweigh the weakness. Thus, Ford should retain its current organizational corporate culture. However, there is an urgent need for the company to address the above-identified weakness. One way to do this is by building a great employer brand on social media. In today’s world, social media has established itself as a powerful medium in the corporate world that corporations can utilize to attract new talents. Therefore, Ford needs to strategically display symbols that hint to it being a great employer on its social media platforms.
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