Organizational Wellness

How to Spark Culture Change in an Organization

Jan 3, 2024
Last Updated May 10, 2024

Potential candidates for a position are actively searching for a strong corporate cultureOrganizational culture is the values your company exudes to your team, customers, and the public. A strong one has clear goals and a defined structure. It aims to align business operations with company values. That type of atmosphere promotes high morale and increased productivity. It can also promote integrity, both internally and externally. 

On the flip side, a negative culture has low engagement, high turnover, and poor communication. A draining environment can be tough to work in, which leads to turnover. If any parts of a negative environment resonate, it might be time to shift directions. It may be time for a culture change. 

Drive your organization forward with new practices that power positive change.


What Is Culture Change in an Organization?

A culture change is when your company moves to align your internal practices with your core values. 

Your corporate philosophy could be compared to wind: No one can see it, but everyone can feel it. That also makes measuring your work environment difficult. To wrap your arms around it, you might think of it as your organization’s perception of “how things are done.” 

The goal is to ensure that the way people are performing supports your values. For example, a company that has a core belief in integrity would want operations to be honest. They’d also make sure that their processes are transparent, internally and externally. A culture change is the process of creating this harmony.

The Catalysts for Culture Change

How do you know when a rework is needed? There are some common motivators for moving forward with a cultural shift: 

  • Growth. While growth is good, it comes with the need for change. For example, flexible scheduling may have worked for smaller teams. However, growth might necessitate more structure to ensure reliable staffing. As you expand, consider what parts of your culture may need to be adjusted. 
  • Performance. Lower performance rates could indicate a need for a culture revision. A negative environment could cause decreased productivity. You may find that aligning your values can help keep your teams engaged and performing. 
  • Turnover. Toxic environments drives talent away. In fact, a toxic workplace is 10 times more powerful than compensation in predicting a company’s attrition rate. Losing some of your best employees can be a sign it’s time to adjust. 
  • Mergers or acquisitions.Combining two or more companies necessitates adjustments. This type of change typically involves integrating two corporate identities into one. 

Challenges in Managing Culture Change

Turning your corporate philosophy in a new direction can come with resistance. These are four challenges that may arise: 

  • Resistance. Change is hard, and few people relish it. You may find some of your employees aren’t eager to shift their own practices. To mitigate this, consider showing your employees exactly why you’re changing something. That can help them see the value of aligning with new ideals. 
  • Lack of motivation. Making the tweaks can also be difficult. While your organization might see the value, they may not hurry to modify their culture. One way to approach this is to ensure that the leadership team sees the purpose of change. That can help the rest of the employees feel more motivated
  • No ownership. Not everyone will feel responsible for the culture shift. They may also feel they don’t have the ability to make a difference. You may want to show individuals how they are a vital asset to creating a new work environment. 
  • Complacency. People are used to the way things are done. That can make it difficult to fully transform your organization. Consider checking in on new cultural expectations regularly to keep the remodel moving forward. 

Effective Strategies for Implementing Culture Change

While there can be challenges to a shift, there are strategies you can use. Here are five suggestions for embedding a new organizational culture into your company. 

  1. Assessing Current Culture and Identifying Issues

The first step is to determine exactly what aspects of your culture you hope to evolve. One way you can do this is by asking your employees about what they see. Consider surveying your teams regularly to explore what works for them — and what doesn’t. 

You might also consider using an official tool, like the Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI). This test scores your company on collaboration, control, market competition and creativity.

  1. Setting Clear Vision and Goals

Next, you may consider establishing solid objectives for your organizational change. What do you hope to accomplish? What specifics are you going to adjust? For example, you might set a vision to create an environment that focuses on supporting the holistic wellbeing of your employees. Your goals could include incorporating a more effective review process, like 360 reviews.  Or you could amplify your employee recognition efforts. 

Consider writing down the plan for this change. A document can help you illustrate exactly how your vision can benefit the organization. That will be important for employee support.  

  1. Engaging Employees at All Levels

Your employees are the heart of your organizational culture. They help create it — and can rework it. Consider involving your teams in the process from the start. You might get insights from staffers on what changes they’d like to see and their vision for the workplace. Once you create a plan, you could have some team members from different departments review it. Those teammates may be able to point out aspects you haven’t considered yet. 

Once you put your plan into motion, you could actively have employees at all levels to buy into the need for a culture remodel. Getting leadership involved helps ensure you have resources to enact your vision. 

  1. Communication and Transparency

Part of employee buy-in is clear communication. Your teams can only support your efforts if they know what they are and why you’re moving in this direction. You might hold culture training where your team outlines the new objectives. An official policy could be a great way for anyone to access the information. 

The goal is to be transparent about why and how you plan to change company culture. Employees will likely be more invested in modifying the way they operate when they understand the purpose. If they can see how their efforts fit in, they will better see why the big picture is shifting. 

  1. Gradual Implementation and Flexibility

Change may be tough, but you could make it easier by moving slowly. A strong corporate culture isn’t a race. Instead, it’s a game of endurance where steady progress ultimately wins. Consider implementing your revisions a little bit at a time. For example, instead of holding a week of meetings about every new adjustment, let employees ruminate for a few days. Those couple of days can give them time to accept that change is coming. Then when you implement a new guideline, they’re better prepared. 

As you implement, you may find some things don’t go to plan. That’s a natural part of most processes. When that happens, you may find it beneficial to adapt your original plan to what works in reality. For example, if a meeting didn’t go well, consider communicating that idea in a new channel. Maybe having direct supervisors explain it will work better. 

Real-World Examples of Successful Culture Change

Big name companies all around the world have successfully adjusted their corporate atmospheres to showcase their values. One example is Salesforce. Salesforce values giving back to the community and created a culture that mirrors that. The company donates 1% of its yearly equity, 1% of its products, and 1% of employees’ time to community projects. That program helps show Salesforce employees and the general public that this company highly values charity. 

Another company that utilized change is Dr. Reddy’s, an Indian pharmaceutical business. The company expanded all over the world and needed to align its culture in every country. To do that, the CEO explored the needs of his employees, from investors to shop floor employees to scientists. From there he determined a new vision for the company: “Good health can’t wait.” He had leadership teams all across the company use that mantra to guide every one of their business decisions. On top of that, each employee at every level made a personal commitment how they could emulate that core value. 

Fostering a Positive Organizational Culture with Employee Wellbeing

Your company culture is a way to emulate your business’s core values. To show that your organization values your people, consider how you’re supporting your employees’ wellbeing. Wellbeing programs are an impactful way to align your practices with your beliefs. This focus can also help your productivity levels. Ninety-percent of people say their workplace environmental wellbeing impacts their productivity, according to a 2024 Wellhub survey

Talk to a Wellhub wellbeing specialist for help leveraging wellbeing to cultivate culture!

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Wellhub Editorial Team

The Wellhub Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


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