In the cut-throat business environment of 2024, changing your workplace culture can be the key to breaking through business performance plateaus and unlocking new levels of growth.
A strong company culture helps improve top-line revenue, profitability, and employee retention. 83% of executives agreed it was a significant predictor of company success.
But whether you’re in control of that change – or merely at its mercy – is determined largely by whether you know which levers drive culture transformation.
Let’s explore how you can reshape culture for the better.
(Related: How Emotional Intelligence Drives Success).
Which Factors Fail To Change Organisational Culture?
Company culture is defined by what people believe and care about, and how that translates to overt workplace behaviours.
A positive and strong culture steers people towards choices that are both commendable and connected to your organisational strategy.
Culture is NOT:
|Saying you’re a family
|It’s an essentially meaningless call for mindless loyalty.
|Offering office perks
|Ping-pong tables, bean bags or catered lunches won’t move the needle.
|Holding social events
|Friday night beers, trivia or karaoke won’t help, either.
Which Factors Successfully Drive Culture Change?
Culture defines your company’s DNA and is built on your vision, mission and values.
Replacing existing unhelpful beliefs and behaviours to change your culture heavily relies on your ability to explain not just what you do but why you do it.
The story must resonate on an emotional level.
Moreover, you need a set of core values that define which behaviours are acceptable, and which are not. You must recruit, promote and fire against these values.
Resist the urgent desire to ‘fix’ the situation with surface-level remedies like free company swag or more liberal flex work policies.
3 Keys To Driving Culture Change In The Workplace.
Organisational culture change must start at the top of the hierarchy.
1. Ensure Leaders Take Ownership.
While changing your workplace culture can eventually benefit from both top-down and bottom-up inputs, senior executives and HR professionals must begin the shift at the strategic level by:
- Setting high-level objectives and prioritising resources to make culture change a priority.
- Communicating the need for change to employees and gaining buy-in.
- Starting to model desirable behaviours immediately. Because leaders who don’t embody company values will not have the credibility to implement them.
- Setting A Reasonable Timeline. Culture shifts take time – and involve conflict. It may take months or even years to bring about your new vision for the company. How will you know you’re on the right track? Ensure you have metrics in place that show trends over time, and provide your teams with rewards for hitting milestones.
2. Define Your Vision, Mission And Values.
“Problematic” culture most often has a lack of meaning at the core. Lack of meaning, in turn, is caused by a lack of purpose.
To do this, articulate your:
- Vision: what difference do you want to create in the world? (e.g., maybe you want to see fewer toddlers drowning in backyard pools because our cousin died in a tragic accident).
- Mission: what measurable impact will your company have? (e.g., become Australia’s #1 provider of life vests and water education).
- Values: go beyond buzzwords like “integrity” and “innovation” (e.g., “children are our future”, “99% is the same as 0%, “lifetime learning is key to a rich life”). You will assess your staff – and yourself – against these values, so pick them carefully.
‘Cultural fit’ is a misnomer that has become a throwaway term – largely because it’s often used without a value system in place. If you don’t know what you value, how can you assess fit?
3. Update Your Recruitment And Recognition.
Now we step into action.
Senior executives and HR leaders must build systems that:
- Overcommunicate the new mission and vision at every level of the organisation. Don’t underestimate the need to keep new ideas alive.
- Rebuild recruiting and reward frameworks to incentivise alignment with new company values.
When acquiring new talent, you can still use tools like personality tests to explore a person’s traits —but be sure to incorporate behavioural interviewing and follow-up with referees for a more concrete appreciation of how candidates handle interactions with others, and the values that drive their choices.
What Is The ROI Of Culture Change?
Your organisation’s culture is silent and invisible. Yet, it permeates every aspect of business operations, regardless of whether your people work remotely or in the office.
Due to the opaque nature of corporate culture, leaders often find it difficult to tackle. As a result, they:
- Put it in the too-hard basket – “I’ll do it one day”.
- Implement token efforts that fail to drive desired behaviours (e.g., casual Fridays).
That invites unproductive or unethical behaviours to take root. These can be hard to undo.
Cultural transformation starts at the top, isn’t a conflict-free process, and doesn’t happen overnight. Leaders must be prepared for a period of turmoil and pushback as employees realign to new expectations. People with deeply ingrained habits incompatible with the new company culture may quit.
Entrepreneur and venture capitalist Steven Bartlett argues CEOs should have “an obsessive focus on culture and people”, especially when headcount is low — so you can scale the ideal culture as you grow the team and your operations.
(Related: How Emotional Intelligence Drives Success).
You know you’re on the right track when you notice that other senior leaders become custodians of your organisation’s culture and actively drive employee buy-in.
Digital transformation is on the agenda of many companies — but a neglected culture will hinder efforts. Global consultancy BCG found companies focused on culture were five times more likely to report breakthroughs or strong financial performance from their transformations.
When Is The Best Time To Drive Culture Transformation?
If you’re in a leadership position, you’ll have a sense of how your wider team feels and how their attitudes and behaviours impact performance.
Even if you’re not at the point where the culture is toxic, perhaps the eNPS in your HRIS software revealed that morale is trending down, or your team’s attitudes and norms aren’t supporting your business objectives.
(Related: Best Employee Recognition Ideas).
Signs that your work culture may be missing the mark:
- Lack of innovation or people fear taking initiative.
- High rates of employee turnover and absenteeism.
- Office gossip, drama and disrespectful interactions.
- No open communication among team members.
- Unclear responsibilities and expectations.
- Low standards or lack of discretionary effort.
Whilst organisational culture can take years to solidify and strengthen, it can break down in a few short quarters.
If you notice that employees are less enthusiastic or conscientious, or if you are frequently changing the goalposts for your team, proactively address cultural change.
Organisational Culture Change: A Worthwhile Move.
Don’t be afraid of change – welcome it. Change is the norm.
Your workplace culture needs to continuously evolve- because the beliefs and behaviours that brought your company where it is today will not be helpful for the direction you are heading in tomorrow.
Investing time and effort into clarifying what your company does and why it matters increases revenue, project efficiency, individual productivity, staff retention and profitability.
Remain patient. The results, in the end, are always worth it.