There are many reasons organizations choose to embark on a culture transformation, including:
- Improving the customer experience
- Trying to reach specific organizational goals
- Building a diverse and inclusive culture
- Filling the leadership pipeline
Regardless of the impetus, a successful culture transformation requires changing the hearts, minds, and skills of your employees to achieve organizational imperatives—with unwavering support and active involvement from leaders at all levels. To do this, a successful culture transformation will include these four steps.
1. Secure buy-in from leadership
Change starts at the top, so it is important to begin any transformation effort by getting buy-in from leadership. If leaders are as uncertain as employees about which behaviors are desired and how changes in behavior will positively affect the company, they won’t be able—or willing—to change their own behaviors. If employees don’t see leaders embracing the change, they will see little incentive to change their own mindsets and behaviors.
If, however, you get the entire leadership team on board right from the start, they will be powerful assets. They’ll be able to model the desired behaviors, coach employees to do the same, and build employees’ conviction to embrace the transformation. Leaders can also help promote a positive and supportive environment for employees to make the transition. Only when you have buy-in and support from the leadership team can you roll out the transition plan to the rest of the company.
2. Build conviction throughout the organization
It’s not enough for just the leadership team to be motivated to change. Employees at every level must also understand why the transformation is taking place, what the end goals are, and what the plan is to achieve them. Without this information, it’s difficult to motivate people to change their behaviors. However, with a shared vision, a clear plan, and the conviction to execute that plan, successful culture transformation is possible.
Even when employees intellectually understand the need for change, they may be hesitant to alter their habits or unsure about how to adjust their behaviors. Spurring employees into action requires first building their conviction that the changes that are being mandated will have a positive effect. Building this conviction is vital to a culture transformation.
3. Provide training as needed
Even the most well-meaning and enthusiastic employees will struggle to change their behaviors to align with the new culture if they do not have the right skill set. Overcome this by identifying who will need training and at what point during the culture transformation. Recognize that not everyone will require the same training. For example, senior leaders may need training on how to coach their employees based on the new culture, while employees might need to start their training program with what it means to be customer centric.
People learn and retain information best by doing, not solely by listening or reading. Incorporate opportunities for individuals and teams to actively learn new skills associated with the transformation and apply them on the job through experiential learning. This approach delivers the additional benefit of allowing participants to personally experience the benefits of adopting new behaviors, which also helps build conviction.
Outsourcing some or all your identified training needs to a trusted partner is an excellent way to stay on track and maintain momentum while still having the capacity to maintain normal operations and ensure everyone gets the training they need to succeed.
4. Customize your approach
Every organization is unique and no two culture transformation processes look alike. Even if members of the leadership team have successfully guided an organization through a culture change before, it’s important to recognize that the same approach might not be appropriate. Similarly, if you are working with a third party, it’s critical that they take the time to understand where you are now, where you want to be, and the unique needs of your company. Customizing a culture transformation process is essential for building conviction and reaching specific organizational goals.
Culture change is not always easy, but it is possible and can even drive the bottom line and growth of the organization. Getting leadership teams on board to not only participate but to lead the transformation is a necessary first step. Communicating the need for change helps build conviction among employees and motivate them to transform their own behaviors. From there, you must use a process that is tailored to your company and commit the resources that will help you maintain the momentum until new skills and behaviors become habits that are ingrained in the culture.
To learn more about the essential elements of a successful culture transformation, check out this informative infographic: Understanding Culture Transformation.