During change there is often an element of culture change required to achieve the desired outcomes, for example you may need to embed new behaviours and ways of working in order to ensure the change is successful. In this article we will consider how to get started with planning your culture alignment during change.
How is Culture Created?
Culture is created by the messages people receive about how they need to behave. Because everyone wants to fit in and be successful within the behavior, group and organization of which they are a member, each person adjusts their behaviour according to the messages they receive. Most of these messages are unspoken, and come from three sources: behaviour, systems and symbols.
Climate and Culture
Organizational climate is the process of quantifying the “culture” of an organization. It is a set of properties of the work environment, perceived directly or indirectly by the employees, that is assumed to be a major force in influencing employee behaviour. Organizational climate is often defined as the recurring patterns of behaviour, attitudes and feelings that characterise life in the organization, while an organizational culture includes deeply held values, beliefs and assumptions, symbols, heroes, and rituals. Although culture and climate are related, climate often proves easier to assess and change because it is concerned with what is visible on the surface of the organization. However, when we speak of changing an organization’s culture we must dive beneath the surface to explore mind-sets and behaviours in much more detail.
Aligning Business Strategy and Culture
When an organization has defined strategies, which represent a change from the past, it is a good time to focus on culture. Culture will determine the extent to which the organization will be able to execute on its strategy and often a new strategic initiative requires employees to display specific mind-sets and behaviours. The biggest challenge to transforming a business is that mind-sets and behaviors from the past are likely to pull the organization back to its old strategy.
Linking Culture to Business Performance
Most organizations understand the importance of culture to their daily operations and performance, but the perception about the intangible nature of culture leaves them unsure of how to define, measure, and reinforce the right culture. Research from the Corporate Leadership Council (CLC) has proven that organizational culture can drive consistent, commercially-relevant behaviours, boost employee discretionary effort by up to 30%, and improve intent to stay by up to 38%.
Understanding the Key Focus Areas to Improve Engagement
Review your employee engagement results to uncover which areas require focus across the organization and will have an impact on current culture and people engagement. Examples include:
1. Drive consistent messaging and role modelling of values, across the organization.
2. Create a targeted approach to learning and development for current role and future roles, giving employees the tools to do their jobs and allow for career progression.
3. Create clear communication and explain decision-making that impacts employees.
4. Create a consistent approach to performance management where the good performers are rewarded, poor performance has consequences and compensation is aligned to those who clearly exceed performance goals.
Attempts to change organizational culture often fall short when organizations underestimate the magnitude of change and transformation. They fail to appreciate the length of time that may be required to change entrenched behaviours and ways of thinking. According to the Corporate Leadership Council (CLC), the best organizations take deliberate steps to assess and adjust their corporate culture and embed it by showing employees how the desired culture should manifest itself in their day-to-day behaviours. Leaders’ ability to walk their talk is the key to changing culture. Employees look for messages from what leaders do, not what they say. Leaders walk their talk by aligning the behaviours, symbols and systems to the statements being made about what their organization stands for.
Some strategies for changing culture include:
• Assess the existing culture and decide what is working well and what needs to be changed in order to achieve the transformation;
• Educate the organization about why we need to change and how culture is changed in order to gather support for cultural change across the organization;
• Develop a comprehensive cultural transformation plan that includes all the cultural levers that create change across the organization;
• Minimise employee resistance, low morale, and confusion, by applying effective change management principles by involving employees in the change process;
• Enlist senior leaders to communicate corporate culture and be accountable for the culture they create in their areas.
• Develop a measurement mechanism to measure progress.
Embedding Cultural Values
Cultural values are often articulated in a language that does not immediately resonate with employees. This gap leaves organizational culture and value statements to be perceived as lofty and idealized, and not relevant to employees’ everyday activities. We need to go beyond written and spoken communication by translating cultural values into desired behaviours and ensuring that role models demonstrate such behaviours at every level. This will give employees a clearer understanding of the kinds of attributes and actions expected of them.
Culture Program Plan
See below 9 key levers that could be used to help to send the right messages and align your change initiatives to make an impact across the organization.
|Culture Lever||Touch Points|
|Process and Procedures Management|
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Emma Murphy created The Change Source to support change management professionals, project managers, leaders, managers and employees to successfully implement and sustain change within their organizations. She has worked as a Management Consultant at Accenture and Mouchel for 10 years in the UK, US, Australia, Taiwan and the UAE. She created The Change Source to share Change Management knowledge and deliver project success stories that achieve results. She has an MBA from London Business School and is a Prosci Change Management certified trainer.