two employees in workplace

How to change organizational culture: 5 tips

January 14, 2019
6 minute read
Last updated May 18, 2020

“I love the feeling of dread in the morning,” said no one ever. Yet somewhere today, someone you know—someone who may work for you—woke up dreading the day ahead. The job that used to bring them joy and inspiration is now a tedious obligation. They’re disengaged and it didn’t happen overnight. 

As a leader, it’s your responsibility to identify the source of disengagement and lead change efforts to act on it. Doing so is essential to re-building company culture. This is especially true in times of crisis, when an organizational culture change may have been dictated by outside factors first. Use this opportunity to re-evaluate decision making, urging senior leaders to align every goal with the company’s culture.

The four forces of employee disengagement

We’ve identified four main forces of employee disengagement. One alone can cripple your organization. Two or more can be fatal, derailing any culture change before it gets off the ground. All four involve misalignment between the employee and one of the following: role, manager, team, and the organization’s culture. (All of the following employee engagement stats are pulled from our e-book titled Uncover the root cause of your business problems.)

1. Misalignment with role

Forty-six percent of new hires fail within 18 months. For many, that failure was predestined by a faulty hiring system. In fact, 82 percent of hiring managers surveyed acknowledge they prioritized resumes and skill checkboxes over more reliable predictors of a good match—coachability, emotional intelligence, motivation, and temperament. Keep in mind, research shows job fit is a key indicator of employee engagement. It’s important to focus on new behaviors and get it right from the start.

2. Misalignment with manager

In the U.S., 75 percent of employees cite their manager as the worst part of their job. A whopping 65 percent would take a pay cut in exchange for changing bosses. Where’s the disconnect? Only 21 percent of employees believe their managers have what it takes to motivate them to do outstanding work. They don’t trust their bosses, so they check out. This is why ensuring manager fit—by giving managers the training and tools they need to inspire effectively—is critical to performance management and a healthy company culture.

3. Misalignment with team

“Go Team!” It should be a rallying cry for group effort, but in offices where disengagement is rampant, it can sound more like nails scraping a chalkboard. Add cross-functional reporting and a geographically-diverse workforce, and the potential for cohesive and productive teamwork takes a nosedive. In fact, 86 percent of workers surveyed cite lack of collaboration and ineffective communication as the root cause of team failure.

4. Misalignment with the organization’s culture

In his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation,” 20th-century psychologist Abraham Maslow introduced a hierarchy of needs. More than 75 years later, Maslow’s hierarchy—physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization—still rings true. Noticeably, love and belonging rank as more basic human needs than esteem and self-actualization. It’s no small wonder then that lack of corporate culture, the foundation of belonging, is among the top causes of employee disengagement.

So how can you identify which of these four forces is driving the need for culture change?

You can diagnose the problem by collecting and measuring your people data. If you suspect that the problem might be the current culture, survey your employees. Examine the magnitude of the problem to determine how fast you need to act on a new culture.

four forces of disengagement

Poor corporate culture is the #1 productivity killer.

At TechJam 2018, we had a real-time opportunity to solicit feedback from local employees. We invited visitors to come to our booth to answer one question: What’s your biggest work productivity killer

Asked to choose between boss, culture, job fit, or team, the majority of roughly 1,000 respondents cited culture as the most significant factor affecting their work productivity. When your good employees don’t feel connected to your organizational culture—or are stuck working in a toxic workplace culture—they’re just one phone call away from quitting. 

A cultural disconnect affects your bottom line. Citing studies by the Queens School of Business and Gallup, Harvard Business Review revealed some startling statistics on the cost of disengagement. Disengaged workers had:

  • 37 percent higher absenteeism
  • 49 percent more accidents
  • 60 percent more errors and defects

Moreover, organizations with low employee engagement scores experience:

  • 18 percent lower productivity
  • 16 percent lower profitability
  • 37 percent lower job growth

The Engagement Institute estimates $450–550 billion in losses stemming from employee disengagement. The fix?

Not reaching your business goals?

You likely have a people problem. Learn how to solve it.
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5 tips for change management within an organization

Changing company culture can boost employee engagement and productivity. A strong, intentional, and well-communicated organizational culture is the foundation for setting a company apart from its competitors. But how do you shape—or fix—your culture change? Get started with these five tips.

Managers can change culture within an organization

1. Make sure your organizational culture change aligns to your business strategy.

Your culture must align with your company’s strategic goals. Think about it—if your strategy is to innovate, you can’t have a culture where work is expected to be 100 percent error-free or else. Innovation involves risk-taking, and risk-taking involves occasional failure. Your culture should celebrate (calculated) risk-taking and understand that failure is part of the journey.

2. Be open about your desired company culture.

Be transparent about the type of culture you are trying to create. Hold an all-company meeting and talk through what your ideal culture looks like and any steps you plan to take to get there. Make sure human resources leaders are visible and have a seat at the leadership table. And be consistent as a leadership team with the message you communicate.

3. Anticipate friction and resistance with any culture change effort.

Speaking of taking steps to get there, know that any changes you make will ruffle some employees’ feathers. Some people with a high patience drive are naturally wired to be resistant to change. Expect resistance and be prepared to explain the “why” behind what you’re doing.

4. Make sure candidates are a cultural fit.

We talk a lot about hiring smart by making workplace assessments part of the process. But it’s also critical to ensure candidate cultural fit as part of the hiring process. Have every member of the interview team ask questions designed to probe into whether a candidate fits with your organizational culture and have them use a rubric to score.

5. Reward employees who embody the corporate culture you’re trying to build.

Want employees to adopt your culture? Publicly reward employees who embody your cultural values. For example, if we take our example above of the innovative company and someone at that company consistently innovates and improves the product line, you might want to promote that person so everyone sees that type of behavior is rewarded.

It’s also important to note that culture isn’t a one-time thing. You should regularly measure and monitor your culture to ensure it continues to align with your strategy and inspire your people to go the extra mile to help your company succeed.

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