Culture transformation is a critical element of the success of any organisation and an often overlooked element which has more impact on results than other change projects commonly undertaken. This is particularly true now as many organisations realise that in the post Covid-19 world, business as usual is not an option anymore.
The world has changed, markets have changed, working patterns have changed and expectations from employees towards leaders have changed. Organisations need to create more caring, collaborative, and purposeful organisational cultures to attract and keep the key talent.
Priority should now be given to culture transformation as it will have a significant and long-lasting impact on employee engagement, productivity, and profit of an organisation which can boost the bottom line and improve the wellbeing of employees and communities.
Fine tune and clearly articulate a higher sense of purpose for an organisation that would energise and engage employees to go an extra mile for a customer
However it does require change agents to take it from a traditional command and control mindset and culture which reduces engagement, innovation and profit to an enthusiastic mindset where employees thrive on autonomy, innovation is nurtured, and everyone shares a common vision that sees resources as part of the continuum of shared value.
While the business case for culture change is clear, many organisations continue to struggle, falling short of their original vision and goals. As part of my research for Humane Capital I interviewed 58 global leaders about their mindset and strategies for transformation and uncovered 10 key barriers to culture transformation. They are listed below, together with some guidelines on how to address each one:
1. Insufficient or partial effort
Identify quick wins. Brainstorm with the team what could be small actions and changes that can lead to big impact. Select two or three actions and assign responsibilities for taking these actions. Monitor their impact.
2. Lack of a sense of purpose
Fine tune and clearly articulate a higher sense of purpose for an organisation that would energise and engage employees to go an extra mile for a customer.
3. It can sound intangible
Communicate tangible benefits of change. For example, a Harvard Business School study shows tangible benefits of increase in engagement on performance, or research published in Firms of Endearment showing how companies that take into consideration strategic alignment of all stakeholders consistently outperform traditional companies focused on short-term profit maximisation.
4. Communication is poor
Ensure there is a two-way communication and people’s voices are being heard and action is taken based on their feedback. One-way, top-down communication does not work.
5. The business organisation is unreformed
Identify key bottlenecks in business and choose few small changes that can be implemented straight away to address them. Identify what works well and consider how this could be emulated in other parts of the business.
6. The leaders are not ready
Create awareness for leaders about overall benefits of change, in some cases that change might be the only way for a company to survive.
7. The employees are not ready
Create awareness among employees about the benefits of change. Share success stories, create a vision for the future that employees would accept and work towards its implementation.
8. The effort is perceived as too great
Show the pain of not taking the step towards change and show the potential benefits of change. Emotions will be a powerful driver for change.
9. It can sound un-business like
Use the right language to convey the message that change is crucial for the survival of the business or help employees imagine how change would lead to a sustainably thriving, inspirational business.
10. There remains the perception that work and life are separate
With the hybrid world of work now dominating in the majority of organisations this barrier is being diminished.
Making the change and reaping the rewards
You can use some of these barriers (and their remedies) in your next change initiative. Humans are resistant to change, but if you understand why, it is not insurmountable, and an understanding of these barriers can help accelerate efforts. The sooner you start addressing them, the more likely your business will benefit from change that would lead to increased engagement, productivity, fulfillment, innovation and profit over time.
To improve your organisation’s ability to innovate and achieve better results, you need to engage employees by facilitating the creation of humane organisational culture
In a time of uncertainty and rapid change, it is now more important than ever before that leaders understand the importance of creating a unified and purposeful as well as caring and collaborative culture. To improve your organisation’s ability to innovate and achieve better results, you need to engage employees by facilitating the creation of humane organisational culture.
This culture will help you to keep your talent and avoid the threat of the ‘Great Resignation’. It can also attract key talent, keep them engaged, productive and passionate about working for your organisation while enjoying a meaningful life and helping to make this world a better place.
Vlatka Ariaana Hlupic is a Professor of Leadership and Management at Hult Ashridge Executive Education, Hult International Business School. She is the founder and CEO of the training, coaching and consultancy firm Management Shift Solutions Limited as well as the author of The Management Shift and Humane Capital.
Interested in this topic? Read Conditional versus transformative cultures: How to create radically just workplaces in 2022 and beyond.