Transform Your Culture

7 Best Practices to Transform
Organizational Culture

Clients often ask for a best practices roadmap to create a culture of innovation, accountability and ownership. While each organizational culture journey is unique, these best practices will help guide you on that journey.

1. Assess your culture.

Before beginning any your journey, it’s a good idea to understand your starting point. I recommend issuing a short survey (no more than 3–5 questions) across your organization. You’ll want to ask your employees about three kinds of values:

  1. Values that are important to them
  2. Values they see being expressed in the current culture
  3. Values they believe will take the organization to the next level.

This survey should provide you with a detailed understanding of the personal motivations of your employees, their experience within your organization, and the direction the organization should be heading. You can use the survey data to generate meaningful conversations about the roadblocks and cultural levers that will propel your organization forward.

2. Engage a culture dialogue.

Once you’ve collected and analyzed the data from your culture survey, engage in a dialogue about your findings. You should take an approach that involves a wide cross-section of employees at all levels, functions, and locations, from senior leaders to new hires.

A great dialogue begins with an easy-to-understand presentation of the survey findings. Be transparent during the presentation: Share the good news as well as the problems uncovered. You can then facilitate a discussion aimed at identifying two or three cultural elements or focus areas that might bring about the desired cultural transformation. Examples of these focus areas could include leadership development, innovation, or recognition, just to name a few.

3. Create behavior promises.

Through your dialogue, you’ll identify the right culture elements to focus on. From there, you’ll need to identify the desired behaviors that employees can easily understand and model. These desired behaviors will become your organization’s behavior promises.

For example, let’s say your organization decides that the culture should focus more on accountability. You might choose the following behavior promises:

  • Holds self and others accountable for behavior and results.
  • Seeks, embraces, and freely gives constructive feedback.
  • Freely admits mistakes, and works to fix them and learn from them.

4. Create a culture measures dashboard.

A culture measures dashboard is much like any other scorecard. The goal is to keep it simple and choose metrics that employees believe they can impact. The metrics should include minimum and stretch targets, and not be too easy or difficult to reach.

Once developed, each team should have access to the culture measures dashboard and should be included in developing the best metric for their team. For instance, a metric for caring might focus on customer satisfaction scores. A metric for leadership development might be gleaned from employee engagement scores. The key is to align culture values, behaviors, and metrics so that everyone can understand their impact on the culture.

5. Update HR practices.

To ensure buy-in across the organization, it’s important to integrate the behavior promises and metrics into your performance review process, as well as hiring and promotion practices. You’ll want to fill your organization with A players who share your cultural values. You only need to look at the dismal track record of most mergers to see what happens when people with different cultural values try to work together. Hiring, rewarding, and recognizing people for embracing and embodying your culture values is essential to sustaining your desired culture.

6. Communicate, always.

Although it’s number six on my list, communication efforts must begin right from the start for any cultural transformation. As soon as you announce your first culture assessment, explain your increased focus on consciously managing organizational culture. I’m not talking about only one-way, top-down pronouncements here, although top-level commitment is critical. Communication should be a long-term commitment to an ongoing and deep dialogue that welcomes and encourages input from all levels of the organization.

7. Reassess culture regularly.

The final best practice to transform organizational culture is committing to reassessing the culture every 1–2 years. If you follow the first six best practices, you should find that your culture is moving in the right direction. You’ll discover what works well, what belongs in “maintenance mode,” and what new initiatives are needed to move your culture yet again to the next level. You can then repeat the process over again, tweaking and adjusting behavior promises, metrics, and HR practices.

Organizations mature and develop in a similar pattern to individuals, and creating a vibrant and engaging culture is a life-long journey. It’s also one with great rewards!

Want to put these best practices into action at your organization? Let’s talk! Give us a call at (859) 415-1000 or drop us a line in the form at the bottom of this page.

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