What is workplace culture?
Workplace culture is the general set of values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors that dominate your business. In short, it’s the character of your company.
Some of the factors that influence company culture are:
- Leadership styles
- Corporate policies
- Company traditions
- Managerial style
- Demonstrated priorities
- Individual personalities
Culture affects everything that goes into operating your business, from teamwork and innovation to motivation and accountability. A healthy, positive culture is essential to your company’s success.
Benefits of a healthy workplace culture
The idea of a healthy workplace culture can be hard to pin down; it looks different in every organization. The benefits, however, are anything but abstract—a positive culture can boost your bottom line.
In their 2019 Return on Culture study, Grant Thornton LLP and Oxford Economics looked for correlations between company culture and financial performance. They found that when a company has an extremely healthy culture, it’s 1.5 times more likely to experience a 15% increase in revenue over three years. Healthy corporate cultures also make publicly traded companies 2.5 times more likely to see a large rise in stock prices.
Other benefits of a positive culture:
- Better employee collaboration
- Happier customers
- Engaged employees
- Increased job satisfaction
- High retention/low turnover
Company culture doesn’t have a direct impact on revenue and growth; rather, it affects the behaviors and actions that lead to bigger profits. If your employees feel supported and empowered, for example, they’re more likely to find opportunities to collaborate. These partnerships can lead to innovations that save money and boost productivity.
Changing the culture of an organization requires time and resources, but that’s the only drawback—building a healthier culture can only improve your company.
Related: How to Motivate Your Employees
How to change the workplace culture in your organization
Changing culture in an organization is a big undertaking; it’s important to get buy-in from the entire leadership team. When everyone is on board, these steps can help you make organizational culture changes and create a productive, positive place for your employees to work:
1. Identify and clarify your goals and values
A strong corporate culture starts with clearly defined goals and values. Begin by identifying practical business goals. Then, review your company’s mission statement, and consider its purpose and target audiences.
If you run a clothing company, your mission might be to create versatile clothes for men and women between the ages of 18 and 30. From there, you could set a goal to build your customer base by creating clothing for children and preteens. Alternatively, you might decide to expand your product lines to appeal to existing customers.
Then, determine your values—the beliefs that guide your decisions and operations. Examples of business values are:
- Acting ethically and with integrity
- Committing to diversity and inclusion
- Choosing environmentally and socially responsible practices
- Investing in innovation and creativity
- Valuing people over productivity
You can pick as many or as few core values as you like. Make sure each one resonates with every employee, your leadership team and the company mission. Watch out for conflicts; saying that you’re “committed to industry-leading quality” and that you believe “done is better than perfect” will create confusion.
2. Compare current business practices to your ideal goals and values
Examine your company’s current practices, norms and beliefs. How do they line up with your list of goals and values?
If your company promises a healthy work-life balance, for example, you might review the factors that affect employees’ personal time. Look at the average hours worked per day, the corporate overtime policy and the number of paid holidays each person receives. If employees are working 12-hour days without overtime pay, it’s impossible to achieve work-life balance.
You may find more than a few instances where your company’s practices don’t line up with your goals and values. It’s important to push through the discomfort—this process is where you’ll find the biggest opportunities for changing company culture.
3. Find ways to align your practices with your company’s goals and values
Now comes the fun part: identifying practical strategies to realign your culture and practices with your goals and values.
- Find solutions to the problems you identified in Step 2. For better work-life balance, you might offer overtime pay, limit employees to eight-hour days or allow flex time.
- Identify additional ways to achieve your goals and values. If you want a more supportive culture, consider investing in management training. If you want to reduce customer prices, you might offer incentives for cost-cutting measures.
For each strategy, devise a metric to track progress. Consider using HR software or other online tools to help you outline and organize a plan; this creates a strong foundation to work from as you figure out how to change culture at work.
4. Coordinate with leadership and management to implement changes
Successfully changing work culture requires you to involve department heads and managers. As a first step, bring everyone together and discuss your plan. Be open to feedback; company leaders will be more invested if they have a say in the process.
When everyone is in agreement, decide together how to implement the changes. You can schedule weekly or monthly meetings with managers to discuss progress and find ways to improve issues in individual departments.
5. Invest in training and education to create change
Prove your commitment to cultural change by investing in training. You might:
- Invite an HR consultant to give a talk on positive workplace culture
- Require company-wide online training in bias, inclusivity and diversity
- Train managers to support and develop employees
- Schedule skill-building seminars that support business goals
6. Know that cultural change takes time
Changing organizational culture doesn’t happen overnight; it takes time for managers and employees to internalize new beliefs and practices. If your company has a long way to go, consider implementing a few changes at a time. That way, your employees can get used to new attitudes, communication channels or incentive programs.
7. Keep track of employee satisfaction
As you make changes to the company culture, use email surveys and meetings to evaluate how your employees are responding. Their responses can help you monitor progress and find ways to refine each strategy. Regular feedback loops make it easier to see when your cultural changes become part of the company’s daily practices.
Tips for changing company culture
You can effectively change your company culture with these additional tips:
- Include employees in the decision-making process. Employees’ attitudes and habits contribute to company culture, so ask for input on the factors that affect them most.
- Start with big changes. By attacking the biggest problems first, you’ll prove to employees that you’re serious about creating a better culture.
- Hire candidates who align with your new values. Work with HR to establish specific recruiting metrics and interview questions that can help identify candidates who believe in your values and goals. This is particularly important when hiring new managers.
Frequently asked questions about changing the culture in an organization
Here are some frequently asked questions about changing culture in the workplace:
What is the framework for integrating culture?
The framework for integrating culture is a simple system that helps you make and monitor changes to your company culture.
- Define the attitudes, beliefs and values that your business needs to succeed
- Create rituals to incorporate new beliefs and attitudes into your daily business practices
- Select job candidates who embody the same beliefs and values
- Integrate new hires into your company values with in-depth onboarding
- Communicate your company culture in the workplace with slogans, mission statements and sayings
- Coach to educate your employees on best practices
- Lead by example, exhibiting the company beliefs and attitudes in your daily interactions with employees
- Motivate employees to make changes by conducting performance evaluations and creating incentive programs
How can an employer maintain company culture during a merger?
Employers can ensure a smooth transition for new employees from another branch by:
- Communicating the culture and values to new employees
- Scheduling team-building activities that connect employees from each side of the company
- Establishing a team of HR representatives, department heads and supervisors to guide employees through the merger
Is rebranding the same as changing company culture?
Rebranding and changing company culture are different processes. During a rebrand, the company restructures its external appearance, with a new logo, slogan or products. In contrast, changing company culture involves restructuring internal practices, such as company productivity and attitudes, to align with external practices, such as company slogans.
Can organizational culture be changed?
This is a natural question, especially when you’re facing a big cultural shift. It is possible to change the organizational culture of your workplace. To do so, you must have the following:
- Clear objectives and goals
- Buy-in and demonstrated support from leaders and managers
- Open communication of expectations
- Willingness to invest time and money
- Patience to track changes and adjust strategies
Patience and perseverance are two of the most important parts of cultural change. After all, the norms of your company are deeply embedded in its people and practices. Stick with it, and it’s possible to make lasting changes that create a healthier company culture.