Changing Company Culture

Changing Company Culture Requires a Movement Not a Mandate: 5 Key Steps

Creating a thriving company culture is about more than just having an open-office plan or providing free snacks and ping-pong tables. It’s about creating an environment where employees feel comfortable and motivated to work towards the company’s mission. Sometimes, it needs to be modified to improve employee experiences. However, changing a company’s culture is a challenging feat. It requires a movement, not just a mandate from the top management. 

This blog will discuss what organizational culture change entails, why it’s necessary, and what motivates change. We will also explore the five key steps leaders can take to create organic change in their company culture. Lastly, we’ll see some challenges one might encounter when driving cultural change and how to overcome them. So let’s dive in and learn how to create a positive work environment that drives results!

What is organizational culture change?

Organizational culture refers to the shared values, beliefs, practices, and behaviors that characterize an organization and influence how its members interact with each other and external stakeholders. It encompasses everything from how decisions are made to how employees dress and speak. 

Organizational culture is often shaped by the organization’s history, leadership style, mission and vision statements, and industry norms. A strong organizational culture can help foster a sense of community among employees, increase engagement and productivity, and support achieving organizational goals. Conversely, a hostile or toxic organizational culture can lead to high turnover rates, low morale, and poor performance. 

Organizational culture change is the deliberate effort to transform a company’s values, beliefs, and behaviors. It involves addressing issues like communication, leadership, and employee engagement and can be initiated by leaders or employees at all levels. Shifting attitudes and behaviors towards a desired outcome requires a focused approach.

Understanding the need for change in company culture

Transforming organizational culture isn’t an easy task. It involves changing shared values, behaviors, and practices to align with the company’s mission and goals. The first step in this massive process by identifying the need for change. Organizational change can happen due to many reasons, such as: 

  • Changing work environments: The world changes pretty rapidly. A company culture that thrived in the 1950s could be unsustainable as well as unhelpful in the present. 
  • Changing team dynamics: Adapting to a new generation’s entry into the workforce can also call for a change in work culture, as happened recently with Gen Z, who are keener on flexibility. 
  • Addressing ethical issues or misconduct: Team cultures are designed to ensure comfort for all the relevant stakeholders but fail to do so often. This calls for change in the company culture to provide every team member with a more secure and safe environment. 
  • Attracting and retaining talent: A positive organizational culture can be a significant factor in attracting and retaining top talent. If an organization’s culture is perceived as toxic, outdated, or misaligned with employees’ values, it may struggle to attract and retain skilled individuals.
  • Enhancing employee engagement and satisfaction: A positive culture that values employee well-being, provides opportunities for growth and development and fosters a sense of purpose can significantly improve employee engagement and satisfaction. 
  • Performance improvement: In some cases, organizational culture may hinder performance and productivity. For example, a culture that promotes silos, internal competition, or resistance to change can impede collaboration and innovation.

Key motivators of change

Successfully changing an organization’s culture requires participation at all levels and a willingness to adapt. Leadership can initiate cultural change by breaking down old habits that no longer align with the company’s goals. To achieve cultural transformation, one would need to identify the root causes, which can often be: 

  • Transformed leadership and strategy 
  • A call from external factors, including economic, social, political, and legal 
  • Need for better performance to attain a competitive edge
  • Improving employee experience and organizational efficiency 
  • Enhancing satisfaction  

What is a manager’s role in driving cultural change?

A manager plays a crucial role in driving cultural change within an organization. It involves transforming shared values, beliefs, and behaviors to align with the company’s goals. It requires a long-term commitment from leaders and employees, especially during times of mergers or changes in leadership. The goal is to create a positive work environment reflecting the company’s values. Hence, the managers become active change agents in the process. 

Managers play a critical role as change agents within organizations. As change agents, managers are responsible for leading and facilitating the process of organizational change. They must explain why the change is necessary, what it entails, and how it aligns with the organization’s goals and vision. Managers generate a sense of urgency among employees to overcome resistance and complacency. They highlight the risks of not changing and emphasize the importance of timely action. Managers become role models and leaders who enable dialogue and meaningful action toward cultural change. 

Changing Company Culture Requires a Movement Not a Mandate: 5 Key Steps

As the adage goes, changing company culture requires a movement, not a mandate. The key to creating effective cultural change is building it organically rather than imposing it upon teams that do not understand why it is happening. Hence, as managers and leaders, it becomes a crucial element of your role to bring change organically through conversations rather than putting out notices. Here are five ways to get it right: 

Forming a vision

Change-makers and agents within the team are crucial to successfully initiating cultural transformation within an organization. These people should form a clear vision that resonates with all stakeholders. Elaborating upon this vision and presenting it in a digestible form for all stakeholders is vital to attaining buy-in for the entire process of cultural change. Leaders must foster open communication and feedback where everyone feels valued and included. Encouraging employees to suggest new strategies or different perspectives without fear of retribution can help ensure employee buy-in and agility. 

Building a facilitation team

Creating a successful organizational culture change without mandating it requires a cultural transformation movement. One key is building a dedicated team to facilitate this change by modeling behaviors and values themselves. Encourage open communication and feedback among employees at all levels. Empower employees to take ownership of cultural change by involving them in the process. Celebrate successes like Southwest Airlines did when focusing on inclusion led to profitability. 

Displaying effective leadership

Effective leadership is crucial to create a new organizational culture that embraces change management. Leaders must model the desired behaviors and values themselves to promote cultural transformation. Encouraging open communication, active listening, and a shared sense of purpose among employees promotes inclusion and agility in the workplace culture. Providing opportunities for learning and growth inspires long-term employee retention. Managers need to lead by example to showcase the elements of the new culture they want to espouse. For instance, if the manager is focusing on taking ownership at work, they should demonstrate the same by taking charge of the tasks handled by them. Cultural practices are best adopted through norms set by authority figures.

Engaging the entire workforce

Leaders must engage stakeholders throughout the organization to create new behaviors among employees that align with a company’s new culture. The best way to do this is by setting a clear vision statement and communicating the desired changes. By sharing this vision with different perspectives, from staffers, team members, and HR professionals to senior executives, it provides dedicated teams working towards organizational change with a guideline to follow. Leaders should lead by example by modeling their desired behavior, encouraging open communication and active listening among team members, providing opportunities for learning and growth, and inspiring personal and professional development. Empowering your workforce creates agility enabling your organization’s success within new challenges presented by market conditions or even new technology.

Conducting effective diagnosis

To successfully implement cultural change in an organization, conducting an effective diagnosis is essential. Thus, a manager should identify exactly what parts of the current organizational culture are harmful and must be pruned. Meanwhile, they should keep a firm hold on the healthy elements and incorporate more of the same nature. It involves involving stakeholders at all levels in the change process and creating a clear vision for the desired cultural transformation. Regular communication with transparency about progress is critical while providing resources/support for adaptation. 

Developing a plan for change

To develop a successful plan for cultural transformation:

  1. Start by identifying your organization’s current culture and desired future state.
  2. Encourage employee involvement in the change process and create a clear message emphasizing how significant these changes are to your company’s success.
  3. Reward behaviors that support the new behaviors you’re hoping to cultivate within your team.
  4. Ensure your management tools help your vision statements and timeline so you can successfully navigate any challenges along the way.

Overcoming Challenges to Cultural Change

Successful organizational culture change requires overcoming challenges. It’s necessary for an organization’s profitability and agility. Identifying and addressing resistance to cultural change within the organization is crucial to achieving this. Communication regarding the importance of cultural transformation and the involvement of stakeholders at all levels can help overcome a lack of motivation and ownership. Providing training and resources to support employees in adapting to new cultural norms is an essential tool for leaders driving cultural change efforts. Reinforcing the significance of thriving organizational culture change over time helps bring lasting results.

Resistance to change

Cultural change is difficult, but it can be overcome with the right approach. Communication is vital to overcoming resistance to change, as is ensuring that employees understand the reasons for the change and how it will benefit them. Resistance typically arises from a fear of change, possibly due to comfort in the status quo or lack of understanding of the incoming change. The involvement of employees in the process is also essential, as is providing training and support so that they can adapt quickly and positively. As a result, cultural change can be a successful initiative that benefits both the team and its members.

Lack of motivation to change

When it comes to changing organizational culture, a lack of motivation to change is a significant obstacle that leaders face. To overcome this challenge, leaders must communicate how organizational culture change aligns with their team’s core values and goals. By involving stakeholders at all levels of the organization through employee surveys and providing resources such as training programs, companies can ensure their workforce feels confident during this period of cultural transformation. 

Lack of ownership and complacency

Overcoming a lack of ownership and complacency is crucial for successful organizational culture change. Empowering employees to take ownership is vital; creating a sense of urgency and clear goals helps combat complacency. Regular communication, feedback loops, and recognizing those who embody the new desired culture are effective tactics. These steps require buy-in from stakeholders at all levels, as new behaviors may challenge existing norms. 


In conclusion, it’s important to remember that changing company culture is not a quick fix but a continuous journey that requires collective effort and participation. By taking the time to understand the need for change, motivating your team members, and engaging the entire workforce in the process, you can create an organic movement toward a new and improved culture. Overcoming challenges such as resistance to change or lack of motivation requires effective leadership and a willingness to listen to feedback. Remember, cultural change is not a mandate but a movement. Start your journey towards creating a better workplace culture today by implementing these five key steps.

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