How Do You Sustain Culture Change?

June 10, 2021
June 10, 2021 Maddie Grant

This is probably one of the biggest fears among leaders when it comes to culture change: what if we start making the change, and then the effort just fizzles out? After all, culture is something that is easy to ignore, since it has the power to live and grow without your attention. Here’s are three quick tips for making sure your culture work stays on course.

1. Give culture a home. You don’t just randomly ask staff people to make sure all your financial management tasks get done—you have a finance department. Well, you don’t necessarily need an entire culture department, but you do need some structures/processes and people identified who will be doing the work. Many of the clients we’re working with are creating some kind of permanent culture team, drawn from throughout the organization, to continue analyzing and making recommendations on culture. And the team always has someone from the senior team on it.

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2. Over-communicate. Particularly as you’re launching a culture change effort, develop the habit of telling everyone what you’re going to do, then tell them what you’re doing, and then tell them what you’ve done. And then repeat. Come up with creative ways to tell the culture story. And try to be honest and authentic with it, rather than sales-y or bragging about how awesome your culture is. It’s fine to emphasize the things that make your culture great, of course, but if it sounds like you’re trying to convince, it becomes much less believable.

3. Invest time in metrics. Presuming that you are intentionally moving your culture in a specific direction (more transparency, stronger capacity for innovation, increased emphasis on accountability, etc.), then come up with some metrics to determine if the culture is moving in that direction. Many of these may be qualitative, but you definitely need SOMETHING to show people that what you’re doing is having an impact. It takes time to get these metrics up and running, so start this sooner rather than later.

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Photo by Noah Buscher

Maddie Grant

Maddie Grant, CAE, is an expert culture designer and digital strategist who focuses on helping organizations unlock the power in their culture and navigate culture change. She has specific expertise in digital transformation and generational differences in the workplace. She has explored the language of workplace culture for several years through her books, co-authored with her partner in business and life Jamie Notter, including Humanize: How People-Centric Organizations Succeed in a Social World (2011), the Amazon category best-seller When Millennials Take Over: Preparing for the Ridiculously Optimistic Future of Business (2015) and the Non-Obvious Guide to Employee Engagement (2019).
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