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Vlatka Ariaana Hlupic

Hult International Business School (Ashridge)

Professor of Leadership and Management

Read more about Vlatka Ariaana Hlupic

All in the mind(set): Eight essential steps to a permanent culture shift

A positive, enthusiastic mindset and a focus on values are essential in creating a collaborative, caring culture.
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Those aspiring to create a thriving organisation will almost always require a permanent culture shift – a fundamental change in the way the business operates that leads to improved behaviours and new expectations. How can businesses lead a successful culture shift?

To have a successful organisation, it is important that the mindset of both the leaders and the employees are in sync

Eight key pillars

Based on in-depth interviews with 58 global leaders, my book Humane Capital shows how organisations can ensure that culture shifts are permanent and offers eight key areas, or pillars, in which organisations should focus to ensure a lasting culture. Each of these pillars is significant in its own right, and all must be considered if an organisation is to achieve long-term cultural change.

The five-level model known as The Management Shift Model (or Emergent Leadership Model) depicts how organisations can make the shift from the old to new mindsets. For example, shifting from a command-and-control mindset (Level 3), where every employee is told what to do and the organisation survives (a 20th-century leadership model), to a giving mindset (Level 4).

This features ethos, where collaboration, integrity, purpose, transparency, accountability and a caring culture are embedded and the organisation is agile and thrives (a 21st-century leadership model). This five-level model was used as a framework for interviews captured in Humane Capital, and based on a thematic analysis of interviews the following eight pillars for permanent culture shift emerged:

1. Mindset of leaders and employees

To have a successful organisation, it is important that the mindset of both the leaders and the employees are in sync. The Management Shift 5-Level Model can be used to help measure and shift the mindset of employees and leaders. 

The ‘big shift’ occurs when individuals and an organisation go from level 3 to level 4, where there is a more enthusiastic mindset and collaborative culture. At level 5 the mindset is limitless and amazing innovations can happen. In contrast, level 1 is characterised by overbearing management, level 2 by lethargic employees and level 3 by micromanagement and command and control-based leadership style.

Leaders need to be able to associate the positive aspects of an energetic, high-performance culture. It is not about positive thinking but about having a temperament that exudes high energy and enthusiasm, and nevertheless, focuses on solutions rather than problems. 

2. Higher purpose

Allowing people to feel that they contribute to a higher purpose within an organisation is also proving to be an important catalyst. Businesses need to find ways to help their employees feel like they are making a difference and that their work has significance. This can be done in a variety of ways, such as through community service projects or by giving employees opportunities to contribute their ideas and feedback. When people feel like they are part of something larger than themselves, it can inspire them to do their best work and make them more engaged and productive.

When employees are allowed to self-organise and work in communities, they can collaborate and help each other anchor behaviour

3. Values and their alignment

The alignment of employee values with those of the company is a key component to creating a high-performing, vibrant work culture. When employees feel that their personal values are aligned with those of the company, they are more likely to be engaged and invested in their work. Additionally, when employees’ values align with those of the company, it sends a message that the company cares about its employees and their wellbeing. This can create a positive feedback loop in which employees are more likely to invest in the success of the company and its goals.

4. Alignment of people and systems

When people, their work and the systems that support them are aligned, it can create a humanising effect on organisations. This alignment begins with the understanding that people are the most important part of an organisation and should be treated as such. The next step is to ensure that the systems they use to support their work in a way that is efficient and effective. Technology can play a key role in this process by helping to automate and streamline tasks, making it easier for people to do their jobs. When all of these elements are working together, it can create a more positive and productive work environment for everyone involved.

5. Self-organisation of employees in communities

When employees are allowed to self-organise and work in communities, they can collaborate and help each other anchor behaviour. This can be done by setting up guidelines for the community, and by providing a forum for members to share ideas and feedback. By doing this, businesses can create a positive work environment that encourages productivity and creativity.

6. Caring ethos

Collaborative organisations actively care about their employees, they have embraced an ethos of caring. They have adopted strategies and actions that show they value their people as human beings and not just as a means to an end. Doing so helps to create a high-performance culture, which sees employees voluntarily go above and beyond for their organisation and its customers.

7. Organisational learning processes

Employees who feel that their job is important and that they are an important part of the company are more engaged in their work, take more pride in their work and are less likely to leave the company. One way to keep employees engaged is to have learning and development plans for them. This sends a message that the company values its employees and wants to help them grow professionally.

Creating processes for capturing organisational learning would create long-term benefits for an organisation

It also shows that the company is interested in helping its employees learn new things and keep up with changes in the industry. In addition, creating processes for capturing organisational learning would create long-term benefits for an organisation.

8. Eight Key Pillars need nurturing

The eight pillars must be formed, developed, and deployed in order to build a high-performing organisation. A collaborative culture that cares about people is essential, as is a positive, enthusiastic mindset and a focus on values. Only then will a company be able to achieve its objectives and be successful.

Interested in this topic? Read How to cultivate a deep work culture.

Author Profile Picture
Vlatka Ariaana Hlupic

Professor of Leadership and Management

Read more from Vlatka Ariaana Hlupic
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