How to manage culture change in the workplace

by Georgia Parker | Mar 07, 2022

time icon 4 mins

 

Workplace culture change is a real buzzphrase at the moment as organisations around the world continue to wrestle with the challenges presented by the global pandemic. We now have two years of experience working from home, in sectors and occupations where this is possible, as well as hybrid/flexible working arrangements, all of which impact company culture.

Regardless of the type of culture your workplace had prior to the pandemic, it will undoubtedly have changed and this is not always for the better. Many organisations have realised significant cultural benefits from the pandemic as they quickly understood the need for new methods of engagement, connection and communication to sustain teams now working remotely. But for other businesses, team culture has become the worst kind of virtual – disengaged, transactional and “cameras off”.

So if your workplace culture is no longer healthy and you are aware that morale is low, poor performance is sure to follow. It’s a great time to implement OKRs and incite a workplace culture change, or simply to start working on your organisational culture in a different way than may have happened previously. Here are some tips and tools for creating a culture change strategy – as without a baseline starting point it’s hard to understand and define what needs to change.

Creating a culture change strategy

The most important aspect of any culture change work, including creating a culture change strategy, is to engage people – at all levels of the organisation.  It’s critical that senior leaders are on board, it can be very powerful when the Chief Executive takes personal ownership and accountability for culture. At the very least, the most senior leaders must be supportive of culture change work and aligned with the strategy. They don’t necessarily have to be directly involved in creating it – that can be done by a group of employees from across the business – but they must be comfortable with it and happy to support the work that is required to bring it to life. 

Without organisational engagement, a culture change strategy is unlikely to land as well as it could. If, for example, you recruit a willing group of volunteers from different parts and levels of the organisation, to work together in a collaborative way, perhaps with an external facilitator to lead and guide them through the process, you’ll come out with a very different strategy than if it’s left to a couple of senior leaders to do, which is often the case.

With engagement from across the business, you create the opportunity to really hear what culture is like in the business, from the horse’s mouth so to speak, and that can be extremely impactful.

Run a workplace culture assessment

A great way to engage every single person in the business is to run a Cultural Values Assessment (www.valuescentre.com), something we recommend here at There Be Giants. This simple online assessment is a cost-effective way of making culture engagement accessible to all and provides a set of data that can unlock a different kind of dialogue about culture. 

And this is another key factor in managing culture change – it’s all about dialogue, discussion, listening and asking questions of ourselves and others, reflecting and reviewing, working on the business as well as in the business. This is a huge challenge for leaders at all levels who can be overwhelmed on a daily basis with a never-ending cycle of meetings, reporting and so on.

It usually feels like a relief and a most needed “time out” when employees come together for a facilitated conversation about culture – it’s entirely relatable for everyone, as everyone works in and co-creates culture together, once leaders have set the tone for this by their behaviour.  

Many leaders benefit from coaching around culture and the impact of their leadership behaviour, so if there is an opportunity to set that up for people, we would recommend that approach too. Using a Cultural Values Assessment, leaders can get access to data about their teams, which is a powerful tool in helping them understand what their people want and need from them.

Some other key factors in implementing culture change that can make a difference are:

  • Recruiting culture change champions across the organisation is a great way of getting a discussion about culture going
  • Use the OKR approach of Test, Learn and Adapt – rather than write a strategy and then a full implementation plan, run some experiments, involve your champions, encourage them to try things out, share their learnings and then iterate the next phase
  • Regular reflection and review – by reviewing the process and outcomes of culture changes in the workplace, you will keep your strategy alive in the business and be able to identify the impact of changes you make
  • Run another Cultural Values Assessment to measure this impact and help keep you on track

It can be difficult to implement culture change in the workplace with in-house resources alone for a number of reasons:

  • A lack of capacity
  • Low psychological safety particularly with leadership teams
  • The need for people to wear different hats and the impact that this can have i.e. my team leader/ someone from HR is in the room so I’ll keep my mouth shut
  • Retaining an objective perspective of the whole system

So it can be extremely valuable to engage culture change consultants and facilitators  to help with the following roles, all or some perhaps:

  • Being a thinking partner at a strategic senior level to support the project sponsor and/or leaders of the culture change work
  • Coaching and mentoring for those tasked with implementing the culture change and/or leaders
  • Designing and running engagement processes
  • Gathering data via a tool such as a Cultural Values Assessment
  • Organisational learning and impact assessment

Let’s not forget that culture eats strategy for breakfast, which must make a culture change strategy even more important than breakfast, and we all know how important breakfast is! To get assistance in implementing an impactful workplace culture change strategy, get in touch with one of our Giants today.