Company culture is the sum of every single person’s behaviors and attitudes. A company’s culture can be engaging, empowering, and helpful in driving business results, but it can also be holding the organization back and may require a change. Culture transformation may be required for a variety of reasons—to become more competitive or innovative, or to accommodate growth.
Successfully navigating culture transformation takes more than everyone agreeing that the culture needs to be changed; it requires the hearts and passions of people to engage and commit to change. In his book, Culture Transformation: Purpose, Passion, Path, Eagle’s Flight founder and CEO Phil Geldart explains that “the convictions we have as individuals drive us to action.” Conviction is a powerful force that takes time to build, and it requires continuous reinforcement. Here are a few ways doing so will allow you to navigate your way toward a successful culture transformation.
Address Beliefs about Change
Individuals need to see a clear line of sight between the existing culture and the desired culture. Once people begin to understand the reasons for change and see that culture change is possible, their beliefs and thoughts about it will begin to shift and they’ll be more inclined to do their part.
Often, when approaching change, people naturally want to understand what new behaviors will be required, how the change will affect them personally, and why change is even necessary at all. Addressing those concerns isn’t simply a matter of answering employees’ questions, but of showing them through a variety of exercises and interactions what change looks like and how each individual can play a role in making it a success. Experiential learning can be particularly valuable in helping individuals see what is possible because when individuals learn by doing, they can more readily see the outcome of certain behaviors and then learn how different ways of behaving can lead to improved outcomes.
When the message of change is transparent, honest, and continually reinforced by leaders, employees’ belief in the change will strengthen as they receive more support from their leaders. Since individuals take cues for both performance and attitude about their work from leaders, leaders need to continually demonstrate their support for culture transformation.
Leaders also need to behave in the way they want others to behave. For example, if your goal is to build a culture of collaboration, then leaders need to actively collaborate with other teams and seek out ways to pull teams together to work jointly on key projects. The passion for change can’t be limited to the C-suite or the next level of management. All leaders must be on board with culture transformation, or the message of change will become diluted or miscommunicated, preventing employees from being fully committed to the change.
Align HR Practices
The behaviors required for culture transformation must be reinforced by company hiring, promotion, and performance management practices, to help drive home the reality that the company is serious about culture transformation. For a new culture to take hold, employees need to understand that in order to progress and grow in the organization, they need to behave in a way that demonstrates their commitment to the new culture. Each step of the HR Cycle, including hiring, objective-setting, career development, and rewards, needs to incorporate the desired behaviors of the new culture, so that new hires and existing employees understand exactly what behaviors are required for success within the organization.
Any successful culture transformation requires a shift in employee behavior. To change their behavior, individuals need to believe in the change and understand why it is necessary. With a mix of opportunities for learning, the support and example of leaders, and aligned HR practices, individual commitment to change can take root, and sustained behavior change will become a reality.