Experts in Workplace Learning

Changing the ‘way we do things around here’

Last week, DLD was asked for advice and input into the design of an organisation-wide learning program to engage employees in a cultural shift. As the saying goes – ‘culture eats strategy for lunch’ – but there is no easy street to driving strategy through culture change.

So – what is important in the big picture of culture change?

Culture change: 3 big picture tips

1. Culture is a team effort

Foster commitment, not just compliance by inviting input from across the organisation to collectively discuss and evolve the cultural dynamic. Talk with stakeholders ‘at the top’ about why change is critical. Make sure that employees can articulate what this looks and feels like in their roles as you navigate the change.

2. Leaders must ‘walk the talk’

Ultimately, leadership drives culture. How leaders behave, what they say, and what they value shapes culture.

This means role modeling and removing obstacles so that others can help drive change throughout the organization. HR, capability and learning teams should focus our efforts on advising, coaching and guiding leaders to engage their teams in cultural change.

3. There is no magic bullet

Culture change is not a project – it evolves over time. There are both visible and invisible ‘iceberg’ elements to consider.

Organisational complexities mean that one system or process can impact another and work to block cultural change. For example, there is no point in saying ‘our new culture values simplicity’, but performance management systems remain clunky and there is a 25-step process for accessing IT Help Desk advice.

For cultural change to gain momentum and stick, practical tips include:

  • Engage leaders to role model
  • Provide role and behavioural expectation clarity
  • Use competencies and/or values frameworks that reflect the culture change across attraction, selection, retention, performance management and development
  • Adjust performance measurement and evaluation to reflect the culture change
  • Link benefits, rewards and other incentives with behaviours and attitudes that align with the culture change

For consultants, HR, OD and P&C leaders who are tasked with changing or improving organisational culture – reflect on my 3 big picture tips as a starting point. If your clients or stakeholders won’t buy in to all three – lasting, deep cultural change simply won’t happen.

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