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10 Tips for Effective Cultural Change in a Company

As organisations and employees increasingly pay more attention to wellbeing and its importance for business success and low employee turnover, a workplace's culture becomes an essential component. In a company, some things are quick and easy to change, and culture may not be one of them. Changing an organisation’s culture can take months, if not years, of painstaking effort. Many fail or get stuck in the process for various reasons, but some tips can help an organisation progress cultural change in the long term. Read on for our top tips! 

What is Cultural Change?

Cultural change occurs when an organisation’s employees adopt, behave, and think in line with the organisation’s goals and values. Also referred to as cultural transformation, it’s the process of aligning the culture to the company’s new vision.

Why Might Companies Need to Change their Culture?

An organisation may decide to change its culture for a number of reasons, often these stem from internal challenges, external market shifts, or a combination of both.

Internal Challenges

We are at an exciting global melting pot; as our work world gets more colourful and diverse, companies must have a culture that showcases a big, inclusive welcome party, and this is one reason why an organisation's culture may need some attention. Moreover, when a company sees its star players heading for the door or senses a bit of a slump in team spirit, it might be a sign that the workplace environment isn’t matching what the employees need or value.

On another note, we’ve all seen those headlines where some company gets caught up in a scandal or has a PR nightmare. Moments like that are wake-up calls, making organisations take a hard look at their culture to win back trust. 

When a new captain takes the wheel, like a new CEO or manager, they bring their own flavour to the mix. Sometimes that means changing things up a bit to match their vision, which isn't necessarily negative, but changes to an entire organisation must be done carefully to avoid hard push-back from current workers. And speaking of fresh and new, who doesn’t want a workplace buzzing with thriving ideas, team huddles, and good chats? If that’s missing, take that into consideration as it may take a hit to morale and negatively impact a team's performance. All in all, the team and work culture of a company starts from the top down and plays a massive role in overall performance outcomes. 

External Challenges

The business world is always ever-changing, and daily events and situations make companies think twice about how they do things. Companies need to keep up, and sometimes this means extreme change. 

For example, when two companies merge, blending two completely different office cultures can be a hard task and may take a while for both sides to seamlessly work together. The rise in technological advancements is also consistently happening, meaning companies need to be agile, innovative, and ready to roll with the changes alongside their employees.

If a company is going global, that’s another curveball for workplace culture. Moving into a new country means adapting to how things may be done differently, from office banter to professional speak. 

Tips for Changing Culture for the Long-Term

The goal is to make cultural changes that will stick around long-term. 

#1 Know your Current Culture

Often organisations decide they need to change the culture without knowing the status quo. Other times what upper management thinks is the culture is very different to reality or what their employees perceive. Before leading people in a certain direction make sure there is a plan, and then involve staff in the process because everyone’s contribution is essential for success.

#2 Communication is Key

Be open and honest with everyone who is part of the organisation. It can be tempting to choose a direction and move forward without being open about it. If you want staff buy-in, be transparent about the current situation and the intentions of the desired one. Share the intended changes and keep staff informed on further steps. Culture affects everyone in an organisation, and giving staff members an opportunity to remain in the loop will increase the chances of success. 

#3 Evaluate Progress Along the Way

Cultural change can be tricky because it doesn't come with a simple start and finish date. Everyone is different and this adds a variable to the transitioning phase because reactions are hard to predict and acceptance is unknown until changes commence. Nevertheless, asking constantly and engaging in dialogue with colleagues is crucial to gaining insights and feedback along the way.

#4 Establish a Team

Cultural modifications can’t be left up to one or two people (unless it’s a small organisation). Having a team responsible for creating a positive culture and working environment can make change easier. Include representatives from different business areas and use these champions to help disseminate the message. Staff may be more willing to listen to a colleague than to read a memo sent from management. Ask the champions to provide feedback on how their colleagues feel about the cultural changes and consider adjusting based on this.

#5 Make Culture a Part of Everyday Life

Cultural change won't happen overnight. Starting the transitioning phase doesn’t mean everyone will follow immediately. The reality is everyone is busy and reading a document a few times isn’t going to give your cultural change top billing. Staff needs constant reminders of the core messages through phrases, symbols, logos, etc., through different channels including staff communications, during team meetings, and workplace events and activities.

#6 Make Gradual Changes

You might want to snap your fingers and see your new culture come to fruition and start paying dividends, but company culture is a long game you'll want to be part of. Although it takes time to change the culture of a working environment, it is completely worth it. Start with a few essential changes and be patient for those to be ingrained or adjusted, before moving on to the next set.

#7 Make the Most of the Existing Culture

The current culture might not be ideal, but most of the time there are redeeming features to preserve. When analysing the existing situation, don’t just look for the weaknesses. Look for strengths and highlight these to staff members along with examples of what is working - they’ll appreciate it. Long-term staff may think there is nothing wrong with the current culture, and there is no quicker way for them to resist change than not saying anything positive.

#8 Have a Budget

Cultural change can be expensive. Many companies have been successful in enacting a cultural shift without spending much, but most have experienced cost blowouts. Before embarking on a cultural change, consider if it will mean new equipment, external consultants, new internal staff, or team events. Create a budget and have management onboard before the work begins. 

#9 Lead with the Leaders

Poor leadership and support are some of the main reasons for cultural change programs’ failure. Altius Group’s leadership development program helps provide leaders with the tools to communicate effectively to foster and build positive relationships within a team. Workers look up to their leaders to decide if they will support a change in culture, therefore forming a positive workplace environment from the top down, is crucial. If they see their leader isn’t emulating the desired culture and is not supportive, it is most likely the staff won’t either. 

#10 Benefits of New Employees

Lean on new employees to check processes. A new employee starts analysing the organisation’s culture from their first interaction. Ask them for feedback on hiring practices and onboarding stages. Recently hired staff members can be good role models for existing ones, given they can be more willing to adopt the new culture ideology.

Our integrated hub of services supports people and workplaces to thrive. Regardless of the stage of cultural change/improvement you are at with your organisation, find out how our evidence-based programs can make a difference to the life and wellbeing of your employees. Contact us online or call 1800 258 487 for more information.

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