10 Steps To Transform Your Organizational Culture

Great organizations often have great cultures. And these organizations attract and retain top talent (even in the current recruiting climate) because their reputations of being great places to work precede them. Employees who work at organizations with strong cultures are generally satisfied and engaged, which leads to the organization earning higher revenues as their employees outperform those who work elsewhere.

So what does poor company culture look like? If your organization has difficulty hitting goals, attracting (or retaining) top talent, has high employee turnover or disengaged teams, these are all clear signs of a faulty culture, better known as broken culture syndrome. 

Whether your culture is lacking, needs a complete overhaul, or your organization is experiencing any of these symptoms, here are the 10 steps I walk my clients through to assess their business, transform their culture and ultimately improve their overall success.

1. Determine Key Business Objectives

I worked with a client’s board of directors in a long-term care facility, and the board wasn’t happy with the CEO’s performance or where the organization was headed. After meeting the board, I sat down with the CEO and discovered he had a spreadsheet tracking 18 different business objectives. 

By focusing on too many outcomes, he hadn’t achieved any of them, which led to the board’s confusion and frustration. 

Every organization has multiple priorities, but you can’t simultaneously impact 18 different objectives. Instead, identify perhaps three or four overarching outcomes that will drive your organization’s success — and do those first. 

Once your original objectives are underway, you can start delegating the remaining goals to various teams and leaders (but make sure you have time and space to hold them accountable). 

2. Emotionally Connect Employees To Your Goals

Once you have identified the three or four key business outcomes that will drive organizational success, now you need emotional commitment from your employees to work toward these goals.

For example, most employees understand how important the customer experience is, but intangible factors can impact the experience without your employees even knowing, like revenue goals or customer retention numbers. You need to communicate why these objectives are important to driving customer satisfaction — and then your employees must be willing to commit to achieving those outcomes.

This is likely the hardest (and longest) step in any cultural transformation process, because change is hard. It can be difficult recruiting the majority of your workforce to become emotionally invested in your company’s goals — particularly for larger organizations. 

If, at the end of this process, your people are still disconnected and unwilling to change, it is likely you will need to manage them out of the organization — but be patient with them as you work through this process together, as it takes time to adjust to new objectives. 

3. Design A Compelling Employee Experience

Designing what your employee experience will look like is a vital step in cultural transformation. In order to do this effectively, you need to ask your people what they want, what you can do for them, and then deliver. 

When people at your organization have a compelling employee experience, not only will they get behind what you’re doing (and feel good about it too), but they become emotionally committed to your organization. As a group, they’ll band together and work toward organizational goals all the while talking about what a great place your organization is to be and work at. Learn why improving your employee experience is the KEY to retaining top talent. 

4. Start With The Highest Impact Goals

The larger an organization gets, the harder it becomes to design an employee experience and build that necessary emotional commitment. So I recommend that you start with the highest impact goals, and with small groups of people.

I call this the sandwich effect: Start by rolling out new objectives with your leadership team, followed by the frontline employees, and then move inward to the rest of your organization. 

To ensure this method succeeds, first ask yourself: Can we give the leadership team what they need to commit to these goals within their departments and functions? 

Secondly, can we empower our frontline employees to carry out these goals? Because they are some of the most impactful people you have when it comes to delivering a positive customer experience. 

By starting with these two smaller test groups, you get a sense of what’s working (and what’s not) before you roll out the changes organization-wide.

5. Match Employee Behavior To Your Future Culture

Once you start informing people of the new culture envisioned for your organization, the next step is to start changing their behavior. The major challenge is helping to shift their behavior so it matches the culture you’re trying to design. 

For example, if your customer experience is a top priority, ask yourself this: How do you incentivize your employees to behave in a way that demonstrates customers come first? Do you give them the authority to actually make this happen, or create a pecking order?

Much like personal relationships, employee behavior will change if they respect your organizational goals and truly care about what’s going on. It’s about more than simply being paid to change their behavior — it’s an inherent desire to be aligned with where the organization is going long term. 

6. Promote Employee-Led Innovation 

If you foster this emotional commitment correctly, and your people start changing their behavior, part of this transformation often results in those same people becoming more willing to offer ideas, solutions and criticisms when they feel they’re in a safe place.

Allowing your people to help solve your problems is huge. Many organizations struggle with this step because they believe it’s management’s job to solve problems — but that doesn’t mean management has to have the solution. 

This is where the average manager often fails, because people on the frontline see the problems, and nine times out of ten, they know how to fix them too.

Part of this cultural change and emotional commitment comes from a management team who recognizes they don’t have all the answers, and who are willing to promote employee-led innovation and solutions. 

7. Align Management With Cultural Transformation

Now, this step can be difficult because it’s a comprehensive change and management is top dog. So when we start changing culture, we have to plan for and expect to look at how we do everything: including holding people accountable. 

I worked with an insurance company after the pandemic, where each department head made a different decision on how their team would return to working in the office. There was no statistic-backed reason or company-wide policy implemented, so every manager created their own rules. With personal choice leading the decision making, you can imagine the internal chaos that followed as management struggled to understand why their employees were so upset. 

For cultural transformation to be successful, management needs to align with the changes, and be responsible for cascading them throughout the organization. 

8. Identify And Engage With Cultural Influencers

Similar to number six, this step encourages you to engage with individuals in your organization who act as informal leaders. They’re not wearing a badge or even have an impressive title, but when these people talk, others listen. As a leader, you need to engage with good influencers because they will help drive culture through the organization — by simply being who they are. 

These individuals are the kind of people who are proud of their work and who they work for. They’ve got great work ethic, and when they’re constructively dissatisfied with the organization, they make it their mission to facilitate change for the better. They have internal motivation to see and make a difference to ensure their workplace is a happy place to be. 

So needless to say, if you get influencers on board with your cultural shifts, your people will likely hop on board too. 

9. Manage Unwilling Employees Out 

I alluded to it before, but this is where changing your company culture can get tough. But the truth is: If any of your employees are actively disengaged at this point in the process, they’re going to start tearing you and the transforming organization down.

I’ve seen it time and time again: one person can absolutely destroy an organization. So, if they’re not on board, they need to be managed out. 

It’s like pruning a rosebush. The plant doesn’t like shears being taken to it, but as it gets trimmed back, it returns more beautiful and robust each season. 

10. Track Your Goals Against The Results

The final step of my cultural transformation process is to reflect: Is everything you’re doing helping you achieve the three or four key organizational goals you set? If not, you need to course correct. However, it shouldn’t be a complete U-turn if you’ve set smart goals. 

I’ve seen organizations set goals that aren’t easily trackable, and this only leads to disappointment and frustration. So whatever goals you set, you not only need to know how to track them, but also why they will positively impact your organization, whether that’s revenue or customer retention.

In the end (and at the beginning), you need measurable goals so it’s crystal clear when you hit them, or when you miss the mark and need to re-evaluate.

If you’re looking for help to achieve cultural transformation in your organization, contact me today to get started.