How to Change Company Culture in 2023
Organizational culture takes the top spot on most HR executives’ to-do lists, yet they often aren’t sure of where to start. If you’ve been asked to create, fix, or how to change company culture, where do you begin and what impact can you really expect?
To build a compelling case for realistic, positive, and measurable change in your workplace culture, start here. We’ll break it down and give you insights and tips for developing a more sustainable, human-centric approach to work that everyone in your company can get behind.
Why change organizational culture?
Before we talk about why, let’s try to define that touchy-feely concept of company culture.
Loosely speaking, “the way we do things around here” covers a lot of ground. To better understand what it is we are trying to create, fix, or change, Forbes’ definition, “the shared values, belief systems, attitudes, and the set of assumptions that people in a workplace share” is a little more specific.
With roughly 6 in 10 employees still working from home all or most of the time according to recent research, the way we interact at work continues to evolve – and won’t stop anytime soon. Virtual workshops and celebrations have begun to lose their novelty factor, and the challenge of connecting a workforce spread out across different locations and even time zones, is settling in.
According to a recent report published by Gallup, in partnership with Workhuman®, only 1 in 4 employees feel connected to their company culture.
Employees are drifting away with little to keep them tethered to their peers, managers, or project timelines. The Great Resignation may be slowing, but the Great Disconnect is only just beginning. Disengaged employees are less likely to connect with coworkers, managers, or leaders and more likely to be performing poorly overall.
Developing a corporate culture that is more human-centric where employees feel valued and recognized for their contributions can help to re-engage, reward, and inspire workers who may feel they no longer belong.
Workers who feel strongly connected to their employer are 75 times more likely to be engaged than those who don’t feel connected, according to recent research.
What does culture change look like?
Focusing on the human behind the work communicates a strong message to employees that their contributions and wellness are valued by employers. The pandemic taught many workers that flexible schedules and remote work lead to a better work/life balance, and they like it. Now leaders must ask themselves if their current culture is keeping up with the cultural change happening all around us.
It is becoming increasingly important to employees that they feel cared about as people first – and employees second. Bringing their whole selves to work allows employees to build trust amongst peers and leaders and to reach their full potential. And employees can only do that if the organization’s culture matches this people-first strategy.
Recent studies show that remote work can help spread the responsibility for child care and housework more equitably between mothers and fathers.
The impacts of a positive company culture cannot be overestimated. Employees who feel appreciated and consistently recognized for the value they bring to work are 73% less likely to feel burned out, 56% less likely to be looking for a new job, and 44% more likely to be thriving overall in work and life.
In addition, studies show that employees produce higher quality work and are absent fewer days when the corporate culture includes acknowledgement, praise, and gratitude.
This in turn develops a more resilient workplace that attracts top talent, embraces diversity and innovation, and weathers planned and unplanned changes more effectively. A strong company culture is an intangible asset that leaders should not ignore.
How do you change the culture of an organization?
Fixing a leaky pipe is easy. Fixing company culture, not so much.
Company culture evolves over time and is the result of the business processes and structures in place at the company — not the other way around. If you want different values, beliefs, and attitudes among your employees, then start by examining “the way you do things.”
It can be tempting to go back to HR and enlist their help from the top; however, new research suggests that may not be the best solution. Culture permeates the entire company, and creating culture change has become the responsibility of not just HR leaders, but every employee and manager. Organizational culture change isn’t easy, but it is worth it.
There are important roles for a company’s leadership team when it comes to organizational change including:
- Assess the current organizational culture
- Define current culture and the desired culture
- Set objectives and KPIs
- Design organizational processes to support the new culture
- Monitor culture change with a culture committee, employee focus groups, and employee surveys
HR leaders and managers should focus on the nuts and bolts of the employee experience to ensure the changes are helping employees to feel properly supported and appreciated.
It’s also important to keep in mind that culture isn’t developed in a vacuum, so it’s often a reflection of the people and processes within it. Hiring practices, then, become a very important aspect of shifting culture; the candidate experience is the first interaction with a business’s culture, and the better it represents the culture, the better the chance of hiring employees who build up, rather than weigh down, company culture.
Common challenges to culture change
Let’s be honest. Changing company culture is a difficult task that will take time, patience, and will probably involve some stumbles and falls. Even the largest companies like Ford and the World Bank don’t always get it right.
Identifying a quick solution to an issue impacting culture may seem like the right decision in the moment, but long term, sustainable change requires more than that. A company’s success – both financially and culturally – requires leadership to inspire, inform, listen to employees, and most importantly, take action to make the workplace culture better for everyone.
Problems often arise if the groundwork to develop the desired culture – the company’s mission and values- are not addressed at the outset. It may be easier to simply demand compliance from employees when change occurs, but that won’t bring about the kind of change most companies want. Taking the time to set a clear vision and lay out the management structures needed to support it will strengthen and solidify the culture, improving employee engagement at the same time.
So, how can HR help change a company’s culture?
We’ve learned that promoting company culture is the responsibility of every employee and leader; however, human resource executives play a pivotal role in keeping the organization on track, whether it’s coaching, facilitating change, or monitoring progress. With a clear vision from leaders, HR professionals can rally employees and inspire new behaviors and processes.
One of the most effective ways to help create, shape, and enrich company culture is through employee recognition. A comprehensive, values-based employee recognition program reinforces company values while building connection between employees, the culture, and shared values.
Employee recognition can be designed with rewards that connect to company values, helping to reinforce those ideals through employees’ everyday thoughts and actions. It can help employees to better understand and model the values that are critical to the company’s success.
Learn how one company made recognition the center of their employee experience and what happened as a result. Cisco Systems: Connect People and Transform Culture
Steps to influence positive culture change
Change doesn’t happen overnight, but you need to start somewhere, right? Here’s a quick list of 4 small changes you can implement now to begin your path to change.
Think small, at first
Small, incremental changes that slowly but surely move you in the direction you want to go are less overwhelming to employees and have a better chance of being implemented and sustained.
Communicate (with everyone)
Open communication is key to understanding how employees, managers, and leaders feel about work, life, and everything in between. The only way to build a better culture is to know what the people within it need.
Recognize valuable data
If you’re talking with employees, you should be capturing the information being shared in meaningful ways. Not only will this serve as a record, but it can be the basis for analysis and conclusions that will help shape the changes you wish to see.
Live your values
Find ways for your employees to understand, live, and practice company values every day. Make them actionable and practical, and when you see an employee living those values, make sure to recognize them for itl. And if you don’t have clear company values, talk to your leadership and encourage teasing out what’s probably already there.
Make change a part of your culture
Change is a constant. Instead of avoiding it, fighting it, or worrying about it, successful leaders are building it into their culture.
A strong company culture focused on shared values and beliefs informed by a vision developed by leadership builds resilient companies. This way, change – whether planned or not – won’t derail progress, but instead will become the impetus for developing new products and embracing future technologies.
Companies with a strong degree of trust and engagement among employees and leaders consistently outperform other companies. Culture is no longer a feel-good add-on, but a vital asset that improves the bottom line for companies that do it well.
Culture is best built from day one. From hiring practices to onboarding of new employees, company culture should be woven into every business practice.
Recent hires, newly evangelized and ready to jump in, can be great role models for your more established workforce.
They can also be a good check for processes that may not be aligned with the desired culture that tenured employees are used to.
Employee recognition, a consistent and reliable level of acknowledgement that validates an employee’s efforts and values their contribution, can hugely impact company culture.
Creating an environment where employees feel valued, connected to a purpose, and accepted as human beings means employees are more willing to work toward professional goals and realize their full potential.
First, define culture. Do that by talking with employees and listening to what they have to say.Open communication is essential in understanding how employees feel and building the level of trust necessary to embark on a path of change.Employee engagement surveys are one tool that can be used to gain insights from your workforce.
The workplace is not the same as it was last year, or any of the years before that. Company leadership and HR professionals need to find ways to create a more human-centric culture that inspires, rewards, and engages employees. Not only to create more sustainable and resilient companies, but to encourage employees to reach their full potential at work.
Company Culture, Culture
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