Maintaining a sense of team spirit and ensuring employees remain aligned with your company’s culture and goals has been firmly in the spotlight over the last year. As most organisations assume a new shape in a post-pandemic world, with remote and flexible working set to continue for many, which cultural changes will this demand? How can you drive the cultural changes you’d like to see?
The five principles of culture change
Over a decade ago, Harvard Business Review defined the five principles for organisations wanting to improve their culture. Condensed and explained here, they continue to be regarded as the gold standard for driving culture changes, whatever your sector or size.
Align strategy and culture
Focus on your ‘why’ – what does your organisation stand for? What is your ambition in this world? Then articulate – in just a sentence or two, the culture necessary to support it. Consider your starting point; what attitudes and practices are ingrained into your business today? Do they align with your aspirations, or are they at odds with them?
Weave your desired culture to your business objectives as closely as possible, ensuring the necessary mechanisms, like modern collaboration tools, exist to support the outcomes you want.
Focus on a few critical shifts in behaviour
Despite even the most compelling arguments, change can be tough. Studies show that only 10% of people who undergo heart surgery adjust their lifestyles and diets afterwards.
The lesson here? Pick your battles. Collaborate with your leadership teams and ask:
- If we had the culture we aspire to, which behaviours would be commonplace?
- If we had the culture we aspire to, which behaviours wouldn’t exist?
For example, if you’re in a service industry, would you treat customers differently? What needs to be in place to support the traits you’d like to see? A change management programme could include interviewing employees to identify any barriers to providing your customers with the best possible service.
Honour the qualities of your existing culture
With hybrid working a daily reality, many of us are missing the sense of unity and collaboration a physical office space can bring.
But in its absence, your company’s philosophies, vision and culture are the thread that binds your people.
Keeping your values visible, establishing the technologies your people need to collaborate and constantly evolving employee experience are all measures you can take to keep your culture at the heart of all you do.
Seek opportunities for the informal feedback
Informal mechanisms for employee feedback are a great opportunity to elicit how people are feeling. They will give you the opportunity to alleviate any potential concerns and answer questions. For example, pay a casual office visit and walk the floor, or start an impromptu chat on Yammer or Microsoft Teams.
Measure and monitor cultural change
As with any other change programme or business initiative, it’s vital to monitor your cultural evolution at each stage of your journey.
Robust workplace analytics and employee insights will enable you to identity when you’re on course and when you might be veering off it.
Seeing under the bonnet of your organisation in real time will enable you to address any issues as they arise and the insights you gain can feed into your decision-making.
Driving cultural change – best practice tips
Here are seven tips for businesses seeking to drive and evolve cultural change.
- Involve your people – when they feel consulted, your people are more likely to be invested in any changes you make. For large-scale projects, such as establishing or re-structuring a company intranet, mapping personas and pain points can provide data vital to providing the best possible user experiences
- Align your leadership team and set examples – present an authentic and united front and take every opportunity to lead by example when it comes to outlook and positive behaviours
- Equip your people with the necessary tools. Does your physical and digital workplace enable the right behaviours?
- Drive awareness through engaging mediums – think digital channels, video messaging, events and even small gifts. Inject excitement and a ‘we can do this’ attitude
- Rally a group of change champions from across all areas of your business. They will help to spread your message
- Celebrate success – recognise your star performers and share their stories and examples of best practice
- Persevere – cultural change takes time; stick with it – small, incremental changes are easier and more sustainable than a big bang approach
How do you measure cultural change?
If your company uses Microsoft 365 technologies, many of the measures and the insights you need are already at your fingertips.
Cultural change – Quick Q&A
What is a culture change in an organisation?
The move from your current state to a desired future state.
Culture spans the values, qualities, attitudes and behaviours of your leadership team and your people, how these manifest internally and what they convey to the outside world.
How long does it take to change a company’s culture?
New and enduring cultural change typically takes around two to three years. But you could begin to realise some benefits within a few weeks.
How do I drive cultural change in my organisation?
Define the culture you want to instil, gain buy-in from your leadership teams and embed your values into your business strategies, internal processes and, most of all, your actions.
How does organisational culture affect the change process?
Organisational culture will make or break new innovations or initiatives. When an organisation’s culture is nurtured, it provides a natural fit and feel for the change you would like to implement.
How do I implement a culture change?
Work with your stakeholders to define the changes needed and align your goals with your business objectives. Develop a programme to implement new processes or outlooks, seeking advice from change management and adoption experts.