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How to change a company culture in 5 steps

4 min read  |   26 November, 2021   By Aimee O'Callaghan

A group of people stand smiling, facing the camera in a workplace. They are happy, some have their fists punching the air in triumph.
    

Everyone wants to work within a good company culture- but what if your culture needs to change? What needs to happen to allow for culture to adapt?

We’ve written about the impact of negative workplace culture on wider society, but this may not always be the case for every organisation. Perhaps your company culture is even too nice, which can have unfortunate ramifications as well.

What is culture?

Merriam-Webster defines culture as “the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time”. The definition of culture for an organisation is actually listed as “a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organisation”. Whilst this is accurate, of course, it’s the first definition that resonates.

If patterns of behaviour, comments or actions in the workplace have got you thinking that your organisation’s cultural beliefs or customs could do with shifting, we’ve got you covered. This article covers 5 steps that will help you to change a company culture.

5 steps to change a company culture

1. Evaluate

What needs to change? What is it that sparked the initial thought that your organisational culture could be improved? It’s also worth thinking about what is working, and what needs to stay the same.

Is it time to re-assess or re-visit your organisational values? Are they still working? Another question to consider might be around whether your team are aware of your values. Values should be at the forefront of people’s minds every day, shaping their work and their approach in all they do.

2. Create a plan

This is the time to examine exactly how you’re going to implement the changes you’ve identified. Who needs to be informed and what will Operation: Change Culture look like for your business? It’s also worth noting who is responsible for which actions, as well as when you’ll re-evaluate your efforts to shift your culture forward.

3. Communicate

Before you can even think about organisational change happening, you need to have a clear plan to communicate your thoughts and reasoning to your team. Carefully consider how you might do this- bear in mind that the appropriate tone rarely comes across in text form. Some topics are still best discussed face-to-face rather than via email (or via work messaging platforms like Slack). Explain what needs to change and ensure that your team have a clear incentive to change their behaviour- such as how positive cultural changes will affect them.

Ideas for change and values can be in place but the important thing is to motivate people to make changes. If people aren’t invested in the reasons why change needs to occur (or don’t see the reason why they need to) then change can’t - and won’t - happen.

If you really want to shift your culture in a different direction, you’ll need to make it clear what needs to change, as well as why.

4. How to support implementing cultural changes

Hire with intent- make sure that any job descriptions are created with your cultural vision in mind. As well as the usual traits and skills you look for in new recruits, be mindful that you’re hiring in accordance to the change you’d like to see in the organisation.

Remind your team of what needs to change and what you’re doing to achieve this as often as is reasonably possible. Speaking about any one topic too much is enough to make people switch off, but at company meetings or updates you might be able to find new and creative ways of updating the team on the progress of the cultural changes, however big these are.

Display your (new or existing) values somewhere visible, such as printed on the office walls or in a company announcement banner within your HR software. Whilst making your values more visible alone won’t do much to implement the culture change you’d like to see, actions such as this will support what you’re trying to do in changing attitudes and behaviours. At the very least, it will help your team understand the goal of what everyone is working towards.

5. Be patient

Just as developing a culture takes time, so does changing one. This won’t be an instant fix (and if it is, something hasn’t gone right). Getting people on board and modifying behaviour and practices will be part of a process. Expect and plan for a gradual change rather than a complete turnaround in a few weeks.

Changing for the better

The Breathe Culture Pledge was set up in 2018 to help SMEs who are proud to put their people first. This also includes those who want to better their culture and are striving to improve it. If you’ve made the first important step towards cultural change by realising that change needs to happen, joining the Pledge can help you to achieve your goals. Join our free community of like-minded SMEs today.

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