How to Change Your Organizational Culture: A Beginner’s Guide

Just how much money is spent in trying to get the “right culture” for an organization? According to a report by Gartner, $230 billion is spent in the US, and a further £55 billion in the UK. Most of that money is spent on a combination of “consultants, surveys, and workshops.”

Despite spending an average of $2,200 per employee, only 30% of organizations feel like they have the right culture.

How to Change Your Organizational Culture: A Beginner’s Guide

We can draw two conclusions from the report

  1. Organizations recognize that establishing the right culture can reduce spending on recruitment while increasing productivity.
  2. Companies struggle to find the right way to invest in company culture. Spending money doesn’t guarantee you the right culture for your organization.

Improving company culture is not just about spending on recruitment. It’s not about one-off annual surveys, artificially boosting morale through parties multiple times a year or bringing in an outside consultant to “fix” things.

How to change organizational culture in 4 easy steps

  1. Define your workplace culture
  2. Be consistent in your efforts
  3. Be positive and productive
  4. Hold regular, honest conversations with teams and leaders

1. Define your workplace culture

In order to improve and maintain a culture, senior leaders need to take the time to define what a good culture will actually look like in your company (not what business school textbooks or the latest hot trend says). It means taking the time to understand the people in your organization, and the culture that is already in place, before trying to fix anything. When you have a clear understanding of where you want to go, then you can set up processes that support everyone in the organization to consistently put it into practice.

2. Be consistent in your efforts

Consistency is important in the actions of leadership and in messaging. Once a culture has been defined leaders then need to encourage the right behavior with the right actions. For example, if an organization’s senior leaders preach wellbeing, then drive hard projects and hard deadlines with overwhelming force, it’s not consistent. There’s a disconnect between the idea of culture and the experience of it.

It’s a common thing that workplaces see these days. The Gartner report also suggests that 69% of employees do not believe in their organization’s definition of their own workplace culture. This doesn’t mean that we can’t have deadlines (every business would fail if that were the case). It just means that more has to be done about bridging the gap between the idea of culture and the experience of it.

3. Be positive and productive

At Friday Pulse we’ve studied what makes good and bad cultures. If you’re looking for how to improve your culture, then we suggest thinking about it in terms of being positive and productive. Based on our extensive research, we’ve found that there are Five Ways to Happiness in the Workplace. This free, evidence-based guide is a very good starting framework for a positive culture.

4. Hold regular, honest conversations with teams and leaders

Good culture is built on good practices at all levels of the organization. It can’t be done with one-off surveys, or the occasional office party. It takes regular, honest conversations between teams and team leaders. If you’re not already holding 1:1s, you should be! Use this guide to streamline your feedback processes.

Challenges in changing organizational culture

Changing organizational culture can be a complex and challenging process. Teams may be resistant to change, especially when it involves shifting deeply ingrained beliefs, values, and behaviors. This is particularly true if you’re transforming your organizational culture while also scaling.

It’s crucial to have strong leadership support and to cultivate a long-term mindset. Successful cultures are built over years or even decades, and changing established habits and norms requires persistent efforts to support positive change.

Larger organizations also will need to navigate organizational microcultures which can emerge with differences in team locations, functions and departmental differences.

1. Navigating microcultures

Changing culture starts with the team level and works up. A common mistake that senior leaders often make is thinking that their organization has just one culture — one that they can define from the top.

This is true to a degree, and leaders need to have a vision of where they want their organization to go. However, our data has shown that a company’s culture is made of lots of micro-cultures.

Every team faces different challenges and reacts differently to them partly because of circumstance but also due to the unique mix of personalities in the team.

2. Improving team happiness

Happy teams are the foundation of every successful work culture. In order to build these teams, team leaders need to have authentic and honest conversations with their team members on a regular basis.

Here at Friday Pulse, we suggest teams take the time every week to recognize each other’s successes and achievements as well as appreciating the support they give each other.

Too often in a fast-moving world of work we move on to the next task without reflecting on our achievements and giving recognition where it is due.

3. Creating a culture of feedback

Just as important as celebrating successes is giving teams the chance to voice any concerns or frustrations they may have. If these are caught early enough, these problems can be addressed straight away without giving it time to fester into resentment. Again, this is the power of consistency — regular conversations prevent resentment.

These conversations don’t even have to be that long — just 15 to 20 minutes each week can pay huge dividends. In our research, we’ve found that a small increase in team happiness can lead to a 17% reduction in staff turnover and a 7% increase in productivity. Just these two tangible benefits translate into an immediate 6X return on investment.

Those types of benefits don’t come from a one-off training or a day survey. No one leaves those things thinking, “Wow, all the problems I have with my team have disappeared.” It’s consistency and persistency that gives you the ability to address the problems that teams face. Because while taking the time to listen and have conversations with teams is not hard, it does take time for a relationship of trust to grow.

Ease into workplace change with Friday Pulse

Changing workplace culture takes commitment and the right support for your leaders. At Friday Pulse we’ve helped thousands of organizations prepare, strategize the right approach and implement ongoing methods to build or grow their organizational culture - with lasting results.

If you are considering changing your organizational culture, please reach out to Megan on, and she would be happy to discuss how we can help.

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