Strategies for Culture Change Management that Works

Diverse employees sitting around a desk high-fiving

Aspects of your company’s “personality,” like your company culture, are subject to change. 

There are several factors that may contribute to a changing company culture, from a shift in how you do business to a change in the types of workers you need to hire. Even something as simple as relocating or societal like the COVID-19 pandemic can prompt a culture shift.  

Whatever the reason behind it, a changing company culture is something you want to stay ahead of and actively manage, rather than waiting it out to see where the tide takes you. Read on to learn more about some of the factors behind culture shifts and gain six strategies for effective culture change management. 

What Motivates a Changing Company Culture?

Sometimes a culture shift begins to take shape on its own, spurred by internal factors or external changes outside of your control. Other times cultural change is something you need to initiate to remedy an organizational problem, like lagging performance or behavioral issues. Here are a few of the biggest factors that prompt a changing company culture. 

Sudden growth 

If you undergo a phase of rapid development, you’re probably hiring a large volume of new employees with more diverse skill sets. When your employee base grows and changes, your company culture usually does, too.  

Changes to your business model 

If you make adjustments to the services you offer, the products you produce, or the clientele you target, you may need to adopt some changes in your culture to better align with your new strategy. Likewise, making changes to how you work, like moving to a remote work model or changing the structure of your departments, will affect the way your employees interact with one another and in turn, change your culture. 

Performance issues 

Does your company culture encourage innovation, enthusiasm and hard work, or does it put a damper on these things? If it’s the latter, it’s probably time to take action to adopt a culture that better supports your values.  

Mergers, acquisitions, crises, market shifts 

All of these things can have a very real impact on their way your employees feel about their jobs and the company. If you’re undergoing a merger or are in the wake of a crisis, it’s important to stay on top of culture change management to avoid collateral damage that will make the situation more challenging to manage.  

Tips For Successful Culture Change Management 

Align your culture with your business strategy

If your company culture and your business strategy are at odds, you’re setting yourself up for a very dysfunctional workplace that can turn into a retention and recruiting nightmare. 

What do we mean by culture-strategy alignment? Let’s say your business model requires a good deal of collaboration, with projects that call for employees working closely on teams to meet tight deadlines. If you have a culture where competitiveness and office gossip thrive, it’s going to undermine the strong professional relationships that are needed to get the work done. 

Thus, you should clearly map out cultural goals that are in line with your larger operational strategy. Choose values based not on what sounds pleasant or feels like it would “nice to have,” but based on what will actually contribute to achieving your overarching business goals. 

Prioritize the most impactful changes

Scientists studying habit formation¹ have found that repetition is key when you’re looking to adopt change. But they also made another stark discovery: when it comes to habits, it’s almost impossible to change more than one thing at a time. 

Whether it’s a personal habit like unloading the dishwasher every night or an organizational habit like uplifting your employees, your success in making the change will depend upon your singular focus. So, create a priority list of the most important cultural changes you’re looking to make and focus on taking action on just one item at a time. Only once you’ve made progress on one thing (which experts say² can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days) should you move on to tackling the next one. 

Assign ownership

You wouldn’t plan a major marketing campaign without putting someone in charge of it or set up a media interview without designating a spokesperson. For any important initiative, someone needs to be at the helm of it, and changing company culture is no different. 

Assign a point person or team of people who will take ownership of culture change management in your organization. Some companies have a designated role for this duty, like a chief people officer or director of culture, while for others it falls to the HR department. 

Whatever the case may be at your organization, don’t leave cultural change up to chance. Select a people-oriented leader who holds the trust of your employees and the ear of your biggest stakeholders—this is the type of person who will be most effective at driving cultural change.  

Keep what’s working

Even when your culture is changing, there may be elements of the “old” way of being that are working and are worth holding onto. For many employees, your culture will presumably be one of the things that made them want to work for you in the first place, so there’s value in maintaining those positive elements. Remember, any cultural changes you’re making should have a definitive business alignment, not just be a change for its own sake. 

Additionally, holding onto the core parts of your culture that make you who you are as a company is a way of preserving your roots, which is especially important for keeping your employees engaged during periods of change or growth. It’s possible to strive for positive cultural change while staying true to the most important vision or values that have been with you from the start. 

Involve your employees

We’ve heard it said that you can never expect 100% buy-in from anyone who wasn’t directly involved in making a decision. In our experience, this holds true. Still, employee buy-in is an important factor in making sure cultural change is not only implemented, but that it sticks for the long term. So, the more you can involve employees in the process, the better. 

First and foremost, don’t let cultural change come as a surprise or be heard through the grapevine. Inform your staff of what’s changing and why with clear communication from the top and backup support at all levels of leadership. 

Use other tools, like surveys and focus groups, to gather employee feedback on the shape and direction of the changing company culture. Employee involvement can make the difference between a ho-hum, just-punching-the-clock workforce and one where employees are excited and passionate about the work they’re doing. 

Monitor your culture evolution

Though it’s true that company culture is something that is felt more than seen or heard, there are tangible ways to measure it and it’s important to do so. If you don’t, how will you gauge the effectiveness of your culture change management efforts and, more importantly, the resources you’ve invested in them?

Set behavioral KPIs that tie measurable data points to your culture goals. For example, if one of your goals is to encourage a culture of leadership, you might keep tabs on how many employees are promoted from within, how many hold leadership positions in community organizations, and how much of your budget is being allocated to leadership development programs. 

You’ll also want to set and track business KPIs to link your cultural changes to their strategic impact. If you wanted to increase employee engagement because it leads to better customer service, you might use metrics like customer satisfaction ratings or net promoter score

Finally, you can track the success of your culture change management through anecdotal evidence shared by employees. Asking staffers to share stories that demonstrate what your culture means to them or how it has evolved is not only a great way to measure change, but to involve them in the process as we touched on earlier. 

Translate Culture Fit into Hiring Success With 4 Corner Resources

Making the right hire is about more than just a list of skills on paper. Culture fit plays an equally important role in a new hire’s success on the job and effectiveness in their position. 

At 4 Corner Resources, we look beyond the resume to identify candidates with the right blend of technical expertise and personality traits that will enable them to thrive within your organization. We work to understand what makes you tick as a company—where you’ve been, where you’re headed, and what your goals are for the future—so we can help you build the team you need to succeed. 

We look forward to the opportunity to serve as your trusted staffing partner and invite you to schedule your free consultation today.

Resources and Sources

Pete Newsome

About Pete Newsome

Pete Newsome is the President of 4 Corner Resources, the staffing and recruiting firm he founded in 2005. 4 Corner is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance, and the top-rated staffing company in Central Florida. Recent awards and recognition include being named to Forbes’ Best Recruiting Firms in America, The Seminole 100, and The Golden 100. Pete also founded zengig, to offer comprehensive career advice, tools, and resources for students and professionals. He hosts two podcasts, Hire Calling and Finding Career Zen, and is blazing new trails in recruitment marketing with the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn