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3 Elements For A Successful Organisational Culture Change

It is no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has been changing up a lot of things for organisations. The uncertain economic outlook and changing consumer behaviours has caused many organisations to re-evaluate their operations to ensure that they can continue surviving past the crisis. Which is why many organisations have accelerated their digital transformation to meet the demands of a digital future. With such big changes taking place, it is more crucial than ever for an organisation to have a strong work culture.

A successful organisation is one that has a strong organisational culture

Studies have shown that a company's strategic success is tied to its organisational culture. When an organisation has a culture based around a set of strongly held goals and values, the employees are clear on what needs to be done and how they can go about achieving it. In essence, an organisation's culture defines appropriate behaviours within the organisation. Thus, if an organisation wants to introduce change, the management first needs to consider whether their culture is one that embraces change. They need to ask themselves, "What kind of workplace culture do we have?"

It is important to note that culture change is a long-term process and organisations cannot expect to see quick results. Organisational culture consists of complex linkages between organisational goals, values, metrics, standard operating procedures and the employees. A crucial aspect of organisational culture is the employees, who are essentially changing their behaviours during a culture shift. As humans are creatures of habit, the culture change needs to happen step by step so that employees can adjust their behaviours accordingly. This will also ensure that they do not slip back into old habits once the shift has been made.

In order to institute long-lasting and successful organisational change, organisations will need to pay attention to 3 elements: beliefs, people and architecture.

1. Define Beliefs

For employee buy-in to happen, clear values and beliefs need to be defined and communicated. Values and beliefs are the ones that inform employee behaviour. As a result, organisations should re-evaluate them during a culture change. They need to ask themselves if their current values are conducive for inducing the kind of behaviours necessary for reaching their goals. If not, what do they need to do to cover the gap? There are two tools that organisations can use to facilitate this: interviewing employees and reviewing past practices. By doing that, organisations can establish the current workplace culture and discern areas for improvement.

2. Involve People

An organisational culture shift is unlikely to happen without the cooperation of the employees. As such, organisations should take employee feedback into consideration when instituting culture changes. Employee feedback can be gathered through qualitative surveys and focus groups. The key is finding out employees' desired workplace culture, and seeing which areas can be improved in. That way, organisations can build a compelling narrative around why culture change needs to happen and what employees can do to enable it.

Another aspect of involving people is to train leaders to facilitate change. Employees often look to leaders to model appropriate behaviours, and so, leaders need to be equipped with the skills needed to lead the way towards culture shift. Leaders should constantly communicate expectations and values to their employees and adopt the practices as well. Essentially, leaders will need to "walk the talk." Additionally, organisations can also re-train leaders so that they would be better able to cope with the changes and understand what tools are at their disposal. Consequently, culture change needs to have the involvement of employees at every level to be successful.

3. Build Architecture

After defining beliefs and values and gathering the opinions of employees and leaders, a clear culture change strategy needs to be put in place. The strategy will contain what processes, practices and tools are needed to nurture the culture shift. Key metrics and measures should be established to monitor the progress and employee feedback should be present throughout the entire process. The culture change strategy has to be aligned with the organisation's strategic goals and needs to be embedded in all departments, from Human Resources to the onboarding process. Lastly, the strategy should also be adjusted accordingly when new information presents itself. This will ensure that the culture shift can happen successfully.

Culture is simply a shared way of doing something with a passion. - Brian Chesky

Successful and sustainable culture change can only happen when values, people and architecture are all aligned towards change. Exclusion of any one of these elements is likely to cause culture change to be short-term. Take the example of the World Bank, whose hierarchical bureaucracy - instituted during Robert McNamara's era - has been in place for the past 50 years. Despite a number of presidents after McNamara trying to change its culture, they failed to do so because they invariably neglected one of the three elements. Finally, culture change is an ongoing process and should shift when the time calls for it. Investing in the organisation's culture is investing in the organisation's future.


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