As the business landscape morphs at an unprecedented pace, organizations are caught in a delicate dance. They must embrace change to thrive, yet at the same time preserve the core values and purpose. Rather than viewing workplace culture as an obstacle to change, business leaders should see it as a tool that can be shaped and leveraged to ease the transitions that all businesses will face in the coming years.
The Imperative of Cultural Agility
With AI transforming workplace processes and unpredictable economic challenges looming in the future, it is essential for companies to be ready for sudden changes. However, transformation is not easy, especially if your culture doesn’t support it.
Research conducted by McKinsey revealed that 70% of transformational failures are caused by culture-related issues. Why? Because culture, the very fabric of how things get done, can become an unyielding fortress against progress. When employees cling to outdated norms and resist new ways of working, even the best-laid plans crumble.
This isn't a call to discard cherished traditions. A strong, values-driven culture is the bedrock upon which successful change initiatives are built. Employees trust companies that are consistent in their purpose and strategies, and as explained by Organizational Renewal Consultant Mary Larson, trust is a crucial element in change. “It breeds success in change management and transformation efforts because it helps people be less apprehensive about change,” she shared in a blog post.
Preserving Your Culture While Embracing Change
How do we achieve two goals which may at first seem to pull in opposite directions? These five strategies can help companies preserve and evolve workplace culture amidst change:
1. Define and Measure Your Culture: Before navigating change, map your cultural landscape. What are your core values? How do they manifest in daily practices? Remember, culture is multifaceted; it's not just slogans on posters, but the lived experiences of your employees. Engage them in open dialogues to understand their perceptions and perspectives.
2. Align Strategy and Culture: Change initiatives that clash with your core values are destined for conflict. Ensure your strategy and cultural aspirations are in sync. If you're pivoting towards rapid innovation, fostering an open, risk-taking environment becomes crucial. Conversely, a strategy focused on meticulous execution thrives with a culture of thoughtful mentorship and precision.
3. Lead by Example: Cultural change starts at the top. Leaders must be the embodiment of the desired culture. Show your commitment to the values that you wish to promote. Employees will watch your actions and will see through false initiatives, resulting in an erosion of trust.
4. Build Bridges, Not Walls: Change can be unsettling. Acknowledge anxieties and provide ample support. Transparency and open communication are vital. Regularly share the "why" behind changes, fostering understanding and buy-in. Encourage dialogue, actively listen to employee concerns, and incorporate their feedback into the change process.
5. Reward the Emerging Landscape: Celebrate milestones and acknowledge individuals who champion the new culture. Just-in-time recognition, tailored to employee preferences, reinforces desired behaviors and builds momentum. The O.C. Tanner 2024 Global Culture Report found that employees are nine times more likely to feel they have support to deal with change in workplaces where recognition is highly integrated into the culture.
How A Change Culture Smooths Out Transitions
A strong, change-friendly organizational culture doesn’t just make it easier to deal with change; it actually encourages innovation and adaptation. For example, a study by Boston Consulting Group found that companies that focused on culture were five times more likely to achieve breakthrough results in their digital transformation initiatives. This demonstrates the essential role that culture plays in navigating innovation and change.
Transparency is another element central to change culture. “By building a people-centric change management approach, employers can communicate to employees that they matter, are supported, and are a vital part of organizational success,” advised O.C. Tanner Sales & Solution Director Karan Bhasin in a webcast for People Matters.
Including employees in change management helps iron out issues that may occur as part of transitions. In the end, they are the ones who have to implement the new strategies, so knowing what will work for them is an essential first step in change management. When employees feel valued for their contributions and empowered by their workplace culture, they become champions of change instead of passive bystanders.
Navigating the intersection of workplace culture and change management demands a delicate touch. By prioritizing cultural agility, aligning strategy and values, and leading by example, organizations can not only survive change but thrive amidst it. Remember, a vibrant, adaptable culture isn't merely a byproduct of progress; it's a driving force that smooths transitions and fosters organizational success.