7 top tips for culture change management

by Georgia Parker | Nov 28, 2021

time icon 6 mins

Culture change management is the process of inciting and monitoring a culture shift within a business. When it comes to company culture changes, the aim should always be to create a healthy culture, whilst putting the tools in place to sustain it. A toxic workplace culture won’t lead to the kind of psychologically safe environment in which your people, and so your business, can flourish. 

So let’s clarify what we mean by a healthy culture and outline what you need to do to get a healthy workplace culture. We’ll also share our top tips for successful culture change management

What does culture change management involve?

Culture change management typically involves the implementation of strategic plans and initiatives aimed at changing the way employees think and act. This can include changes to how work is done, how decisions are made, or how information is shared. It can also involve changes to the company’s values, mission, or overall culture.

Why is culture change management important?

Culture change management is important because it can help a company to adapt and grow in response to changing market conditions or other external factors. It can also help to improve employee morale and productivity and can lead to better overall business performance.

What does the culture change management process look like?

The culture change management process typically involves the creation of a strategic plan, which can include everything from outreach efforts to employee training. It also includes ongoing monitoring and evaluation to determine whether changes are occurring in the desired direction.

It’s likely that the process will vary between organisations, so it’s all about finding out what works for your staff, management and teams. Generally, however, it will include the following steps:

  1. Assess the current culture and identify areas for change
  2. Develop a strategic plan to achieve the desired changes
  3. Implement the plan and track progress
  4. Evaluate results and make necessary adjustments
  5. Celebrate successes and learn from failures
  6. Repeat as needed!

Our tips for successful company culture change management 

Culture is also about why people behave as they do.  The shared mindsets and beliefs about “how we do things round here” can be either helpful or unhelpful in terms of the behaviour they generate. The health of the culture depends on these mindsets being transparent and consciously chosen. There must be a willingness to work on what’s not visible i.e. thoughts, feelings, mindsets as well as what is visible i.e. systems, processes, results.

A healthy workplace culture is formed by generating a shared set of behaviours and beliefs that will consciously support, not unconsciously undermine, the performance and success of the organisation. To help kickstart the culture change management process in the best way, we’ve provided our top tips below.

1. Culture transformation, not change

Transformation is a big word and gets used in organisations in a number of contexts and quite frequently, the outcomes don’t seem to have transformed much if anything at all. Culture change is constant, and something that any business has to work with, not against, in order to survive. We differentiate transformation from a change in order to create clearer outcomes from the beginning.

Change is something that can be undone or reversed.  We can introduce a new process, team structure or product, and it is possible to go back to the “old ways” particularly in terms of behaviour.

Transformation cannot be reversed because not only has an external change taken place, for example, an improved business process is now in place, but crucially an internal shift has happened with the mindsets of those involved in that process.

People need to experience transformation in ways that have meaning for them personally in order to be able to change their behaviour. This involves an increase in self-awareness and connection to the possibility for personal transformation to happen. This creates energy and a natural desire to do things differently.

2. Lead from the top

Research from McKinsey & Co shows that there is a critical role for leaders in creating and sustaining cultural transformation. The most senior leaders, including board members, must be visible in leading and role-modelling from the top, including being able to effectively communicate the cultural transformation story.

When senior leaders don’t do this, the impact of any engagement initiatives can be undermined. Colleagues are confused by the mismatch between what is said and what is done.  They disengage, become cynical and may actively resist any further efforts to engage them and work against change initiatives.

The creation of a healthy culture needs to be driven by the most senior leaders and managers, down and through the organisation to reach staff members in a way that allows them to feel personally connected.  Research shows that typically, around 25- 30% staff engagement is the tipping point, but as low as 10% can make the difference if those 10% are absolutely committed to cultural transformation.

3. Engage hearts and minds 

Very few people in any organisation will tell you they are bored or don’t have enough to do.  People are busy. Most come to work with the desire to give their best, feel productive, useful and fulfilled. The reality is that the work of transforming culture requires additional time and effort, on top of the day job. It can’t be done simply by instructing people to behave differently, so there needs to be a way of engaging with their hearts, as well as minds, to access the energy, motivation and inspiration that is required to create and manage a healthy culture.

There is often rich history and organisational heritage that is a fundamental part of the existing culture in which certain values and behaviours have become the norm – “how we do things round here”. There can be a considerable difference between organisational values and behaviours i.e. what the business says about values on a website or poster, and what actually happens.  To manage workplace culture changes effectively, it’s important to explore this openly within organisations to identify behaviours that are blocking or creating a barrier to change, collectively and individually.  This is done through engaging emotionally, with hearts as well as minds, and feeling the desire and motivation to transform mindset and behaviour at a deep, personal, values-based level.

4. Happy staff = happy customers

Research by Gallup shows that staff engagement is directly linked to increased business performance and customer satisfaction. Happy Customers also = Happy Staff. Similar research has demonstrated that positive customer experiences have a beneficial impact on how staff feel about their work and connection to an organisation.

Most organisations want to increase customer satisfaction in one way or another, through increased sales revenue, higher NPS scores, more repeat business and so on. We believe that the most successful way to improve customer satisfaction is through the improvement of staff engagement, which OKRs require.  

Henry Ford’s quote is also a good way to remind people of how the relationship with customers really works:

“It’s not the employer who pays the wages.

Employers only handle the money.

It’s the customer who pays the wages.”

5. Grow and transfer skills

Here at TBG, we love working with clients who want to co-deliver workshops with us as this provides a great opportunity for skills transfer through coaching, mentoring and facilitation skills training. We love training OKR Coaches for the same reason.

We recommend that you focus on developing internal capability as part of your culture change management process for a number of reasons:

      Providing non-linear development routes for those who may not wish or have scope within the structure to progress in a typical hierarchy

      Build your internal capability to create less reliance on ongoing external consultancy, training and development support

      Offer opportunities for those at all levels in the business to contribute to the new culture and way of working and be ambassadors within their teams for this, actively demonstrating an equitable and open approach

6. Champion equality, diversity and inclusion

Building on the point above, we know that organisations are very mindful of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion agenda but find it hard to embed this within cultural transformation programmes. We often see E, D & I initiatives running alongside, but separately from, the overall culture focus. This tends to cause confusion and weakens both sets of messages. It is preferable to develop and deliver programmes that equip leaders and teams with:

  •  A personal commitment to diversity
  • An understanding of the business case for equality, diversity and inclusion practice in the organisational context The ability and desire to role-model the behaviours needed to build a diverse workforce
  • The capability to ensure that appropriate structures and policies are in place
  • The skills to ensure that all employees are aware of their responsibilities and where they fit into the diversity agenda.

Having a diversity of role models in leadership and management helps staff feel a greater sense of belonging, as well as showing pathways for development and creating a sense of where they might aspire to. Creating a greater understanding and commitment to EDI will support your business to manage organisational culture changes far more effectively than without it.

7. Evaluation and Impact

We are an OKR consultancy and so the phrase “Test, Learn and Adapt” trips off our tongues on a regular basis! Test, Learn and Adapt makes doing evaluation around impact much easier than what have been more traditional evaluation methodologies, rolled out once a project has been fully implemented, irrespective of what may have gone right, or wrong, during the process.

To manage organisational culture changes effectively, you need to be measuring it – at your start point, at milestones and intervals along the way and quite probably without any end date in mind! Organisational culture is an evolving and changing thing in it’s own right. Using OKRs is a great way to get focus, and measurement, on progress towards the desired cultural impacts you wish to see.

The nature of OKRs requires reflection and learning from key points in every OKR cycle.  This means that evaluation doesn’t have to be done in addition to doing the work that OKRs are guiding. It’s streamlined within the process and then becomes BAU. 

So with these 7 “thinking tips” in mind, what comes up for you as you consider the culture change management within your own organisation? Can you see these themes at work, either helpful or unhelpful? How could OKRs give you some leverage to work on cultural management in a way that would increase the health of your organisational culture?  Food for thought, we hope! Get in touch with one of our Giants today to see how we could help!