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What Leaders Can Do to Prepare for a Culture Transformation

By Sue Wigston on August 7, 2018

If you’ve already decided that you need to change aspects of your organization’s culture, there are some key steps to take that will ensure your culture transformation gets off on the right foot. Organizational leaders have an important role in the success of a culture transformation. They must provide the support employees require to begin making behavior changes, and they can help move the entire organization toward the new culture. Here are five things leaders can do to prepare for a culture transformation:

1. Develop and Communicate a Vision

Culture transformation takes more than everyone agreeing that the culture needs to change. It also requires long-term commitment and a vision for change. For employees to see and understand the culture transformation journey they’re about to embark upon, leaders need to establish a vision for the desired change, outline the reasons for the change, and help employees understand how the change impacts their individual roles. For the vision to become a reality, it also needs to be communicated to employees broadly so they have a chance to express their concerns, ask questions, and get the clarity they need to support the initiative.

2. Develop a Plan and Timeline

Like any other major initiative, culture transformation requires a timeline that maps out key milestones and an end goal. Without a plan, culture transformation can turn into a never-ending road of changes that employees will have difficulty following and ultimately won’t commit to. A timeline can also provide opportunities for leaders to recognize success and lead celebrations for the work accomplished up to that point. As key milestones are reached, leaders can recognize and reward employee efforts, which will help build support for change along the way.

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3. Help Employees Prepare

The prospect of culture transformation can be daunting for everyone involved, because it’s never easy to change the norm. However, employees may be more likely to embrace future changes if they feel understood by the leaders driving the culture change. Leaders can demonstrate empathy for employees by showing a willingness to understand their worries and concerns. Leaders can also anticipate and answer employee questions about how the culture transformation specifically impacts their roles.

Before culture transformation gets underway, leaders can help employees prepare by learning more about how ready employees are for change and what employees really think about the current corporate culture. Some of the ways to gauge employee attitudes about company culture include informal meetings, focus groups, or conducting a survey.

4. Anticipate Employee Training Needs

Employees need to learn and see the new behaviors that will be expected of them as the culture begins to transform. Leaders can help ensure that the transformation succeeds by understanding and addressing employee training needs early on. Because employees will benefit from opportunities to practice new behaviors, experiential learning can be a useful training method as it offers employees the chance to practice new skills in an environment that mimics the challenges presented at work, but is risk-free.

Old habits can only be replaced with new behaviors if employees can connect what they’re doing to the why. Through engaging real-world scenarios and facilitated debriefs, experiential learning may help employees alter their mindsets and embrace the new skills and behaviors that are required.

5. Develop Leaders Who Can Champion the Change

Just like early training can help employees learn new behaviors ahead of a culture transformation, all leaders within the organization can benefit from leadership training that teaches them how to coach employees, communicate expectations, and recognize employee behaviors that support culture transformation. Employees take cues on how to behave from their leaders, so any culture transformation initiative will benefit from leaders who know how to lead by example and act as culture champions throughout the organization.

Culture transformation is a journey that requires commitment and understanding from organizational leaders throughout the entire process. As with any corporate initiative, it’s important to establish a vision, plan the process, and ensure employees have the necessary training and tools to do their part to support lasting culture transformation.

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As Chief Operating Officer, Sue's extensive senior leadership experience and facilitation skills have established her as a trusted partner and organizational development expert. She has a proven track record of successfully leading culture transformation in Fortune 500 companies and has established herself as an authority on training and development. Sue has over 20 years of experience in the creation and delivery of programs and custom designed solutions for Eagle's Flight.

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Founded in 1988, Eagle's Flight has earned its reputation as a global leader in the development and delivery of business-relevant, experiential learning programs that achieve specific training objectives and lasting behavior changes.

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