How to Change an Organisational Culture

Culture Change

Organisational culture and how to change it has been the subject of much debate and analysis.

How to Change an Organisational Culture

“It’s how we do things round here”. Organisational culture and how to change it has been the subject of much debate and analysis.

It’s been hard to miss, not least if the reports that emerged post-pandemic of not everyone, including our then-Prime Minister, not obeying strict lockdown rules, for example, were to be believed.  

It’s a fascinating, challenging subject. No doubt we’ll revisit it in a future blog or two.

As a leader in your business, are you thinking about cultural change? What’s making you think it needs looking at – and why now? Above all, how can you influence your organisational culture to shape it into a more attractive representation of your company?

Big questions.

And, as every enterprise we work is unique, questions to which we may not have one-size-fits-all answers. However, as experienced HR transformation consultants, we’ve been at the sharp end of a company’s culture and encountered much of what we’re talking about here. To steal some words from Charles Dickens, you could say we’ve seen “the best of times, and the worst of times”.

Businesses are made up of people first and foremost, so this understanding forms the framework for this blog, with some actionable, high-level advice.

What is Organisational Culture?

Opinions can vary. Since the emergence of cultural theory in the early 1980s, there’s been much discussion but little consensus. Moreover, there’s an ongoing debate about whether those in leadership positions can create and deliver cultural change, even if they say it’s one of their key goals.,desired%20new%20behaviors%20and%20values


Nevertheless, we know it does exist and shapes behaviour – perhaps, if we may be so bold, even the worst behaviour you as a leader will tolerate. So yes, if you’re setting the bar low, despite the discussions surrounding it, it really starts and ends with you. With a negative company culture – whatever that means - the impact on staff turnover, productivity, and mental and physical health can be profound.

And not in a good way.

Ultimately, we believe organisational culture is a system of largely unconscious automatic values and beliefs that shape how work gets done.

If your valuable staff are starting to leave, if revenue is in decline due to a gradual breakdown in customer relationships, your organisational culture is trying to tell you something. When employees are disengaged, and the business consistently fails to meet its goals and objectives, it’s time to transform.  

So, How Do You Change Organisational Culture?

As of necessity, this can only be generic advice. To find out more about how FiveRivers Consulting can support change in your organisation, get in touch with us.

1. Review your Company’s Culture

How motivated are your team?

Well, you could try asking them, with an employee engagement survey to measure the “people pulse”. Start with your most senior people, then progressively open up the conversation. Or, vice versa, perhaps. You may be surprised at the “quick wins” you can implement simply by inviting some honest answers.

For example, what sort of culture what they like to see? How would that translate into the real world of work?

Here at FiveRivers Consulting, data informs everything we recommend and help implement with our clients. It’s invaluable. And you have to act on it. But first…

2. Determine Your Goals

Your cultural goals, that is.

You will need a crystal-clear, detailed understanding of the objectives of the whole exercise and what benefits you think a culture change will bring.  

Consider what a best-case scenario would look like in practical terms. Things like how managers communicate with their direct reports, for example, how frequent meetings are; even whether you wish the “vibe” to be quiet and studious or vibrant and creative.

Perhaps you encourage long hours. A better work-life balance could be on your goals list – with clear, practical change behind it.

Define Core Values

Positive organisational culture is about upheld values, so re-working these, or even developing some carefully-considered values from the bottom-up, is essential.

Otherwise, wow will you know otherwise if the transformation you are planning will work?

For example, will you develop new products and services in the next five years? If so, “innovation” could take pride of place in your new list of values. “Integrity” another. However, buy-in is essential. Don’t forget to involve your stakeholders and senior management before promoting them wider.

Here’s another quick read on organisational values:

Make Your Plan

At this stage, you’ll be creating a strategy and an action plan, establishing timelines and setting the benchmarks against which you can measure your progress. Your blueprint may include vital elements such as:

• Creating an employee well-being group or committee to promote a better work-life balance.

• Establishing a “fear-free” employee-line manager communication process

• Encouraging collaborative work practices. What does this mean for your company?

• Taking action against negative behaviours and incentivising positive ones

• Applying hiring best practices to recruit and onboard staff who share your new organisational values to help the business grow

Other Key Elements in Changing Organisational Culture

• Measure what’s changing and how it’s changing. Systems with easy-to-extrapolate data (our area of expertise), can connect leadership to the company frontline in compelling ways.

• For instance, through practical and effective ways to measure absence, should frequent non-attendance be an issue, you’ll already know that you may have a problem.

• Communicate often. Let people know what’s happening, and make the conversation two-way.

Here’s our main message:

Lead from the Front

You should never underestimate the time, energy and commitment that you will need to deliver changes in organisational culture. This is a long-term perspective, and your responsibility will be permanently to uphold the values and beliefs you wish to instil into your operation.

Three things, then: Leaders lead. Your words matter. And, your actions matter. Are you planning to be a role model right now, and for years to come?

Empathy and understanding are must-haves. Organisations are made up of people, so connecting with your staff and showing them the way forward through example could be one of the most important things you ever do. A confident, affirming atmosphere at work produces motivated, happy staff who look forward to coming into the office every day.  

It all makes sense.

Finally, if you have challenges with your organisational culture, you may also wish to review your HR processes. Manual procedures are never as effective as they should be and maybe even add to your cultural problem – and/or they could masking it.

FiveRivers Consulting can help you to acquire and set up technology and systems to deliver a first-class Human Resources function.

Let’s work together to uncover how you do things: your people, HR teams, and your skills and resources. Not least, where you are now, and where you want to be.

When’s a good time? Most likely, the time is now.

Thank you!
Oops! Something went wrong.
Join the conversation
by connecting on social