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Driving Culture Change in the Workplace


Industry leaders continue to scrutinize culture change in the workplace as many millennials’ attitudes about earning a living no longer jibe with yesteryear corporate models.

A Gallup poll indicated that today’s largely millennial workforce values purpose over a paycheck, mentors over traditional bosses, as well as improved work-life balance and wellness over structured 9-to-5 jobs. Gallup’s State of the American Workplace poll indicated that 63 percent of millennial employees believe they can find a comparable position. With more than 73 million millennials in the U.S. workforce — representing the largest demographic — culture change in the workplace may be needed to retain talented people.

How is Corporate Culture Formed?

The formation of culture in the workplace evolves through a variety of leadership-driven factors in many cases. In others, corporate culture may form organically based on the actions of company leaders and personal interactions. Organizations that prefer to develop a specific model typically rely on industry leaders to set the tone.

Company founders or current leadership teams express corporate values through mission statements, policy initiatives, and actions. These touchstones are usually balanced against daily demands and goal achievement. Organizations can maintain their culture through an attrition-attraction-selection formula that functions as follows.

  • Attrition: It’s essential to replace counterproductive employees with people likely to maintain and further positive culture.
  • Attraction: By expressly promoting company values, the organization naturally attracts like-minded employees.
  • Selection: Human resources and recruitment teams vet potential employees for qualities consistent with existing values or a new direction.

It’s not uncommon for decision-makers to evaluate how their values and goals mesh with ever-changing industries and society norms. That’s why culture change in the workplace ranks among the best ways to remain relevant and continue attracting experienced professionals and emerging talents.

Common Types of Organizational Culture

Because workplace culture requires team members to compete in a sometimes global market, values must fit the industry at large. Small mom-and-pop operations lend themselves to more personal interactions, while the communication between employees and leadership in a Fortune 500 corporation may be purely virtual. Forbes magazine highlights the following types of organizational cultures.

  • Clan: Common among small businesses based on personal relationships, it reflects a family-style environment in the workplace. Family-owned and operated companies tend to organically develop this type of culture.
  • Adhocracy: Based on risk-taking and innovation, adhocracies generally avoid bureaucratic barriers and rely on self-motivated talents to further company goals. Successful examples include Facebook and Google, among others.
  • Market: Outfits such as Apple have been associated with a market culture that favors results first and foremost. Such environments promote competition among workers and management teams. The term “cut-throat” has been associated with this type of culture.
  • Hierarchy: Military organizations typically rely on a hierarchy culture that places high value on chain of command, efficiency, and rigid adherence to policies.

Underlying these organizational cultures are the effects each has on everyday people. It’s not difficult to imagine that “cut-throat” and rigid hierarchy workplaces put tremendous stress on employees. By contrast, small, family-owned businesses and adhocracies that value the skills of free-thinking individuals generally further a sense of wellness. The modern workplace and workers have trailed away from negative environments and embraced employee wellbeing as a value.

What is Cultural Change in the Workplace?

There comes a point when decision-makers see an inherent need to effect cultural change in the workplace to align with societal shifts. In that regard, change tends to be driven more by necessity than desire.

Unlike structural items such as shift schedules, revised employee responsibilities, and meeting updated OSHA regulations, cultural change cannot simply be mandated. That’s largely because it lives in the hearts and minds of people. Positive persuasion must be brought to bear that supports an increasingly healthy workplace.

How to Address Problems with Corporate Culture?

It’s not uncommon for decision-makers to require a cultural change in the workplace because the environment has devolved into toxicity. Applying market or hierarchy principles previously favored in the private sector no longer foster a productive environment. Outdated management approaches typically lead to heightened friction between employees, communication breakdowns, and a tense, stressful space that fails to prosper.

Industry leaders may initially enlist supervisors to resolve communication breakdowns and make hands-on personnel decisions to group workers who collaborate reasonably well. Unfortunately, such efforts amount to putting a bandage on a festering wound. Toxic workplaces usually call for a major organizational philosophy and personnel overhaul.

Why You Should Influence Culture Change in the Workplace

The driving idea behind culture change in the workplace revolves around transformation. The workplace has devolved into a hostile place. That generally means people no longer enjoy showing up and their lack of enthusiasm impacts everything from productivity to profitability to health and wellness. But by issuing a new mission statement that defines goals, best practices, and asserting new values, the following transformations are possible.

  • Hard feelings transition to positive collaboration.
  • High employee attrition rates turn into improved retention rates.
  • Declining productivity changes to increased efficiency.
  • Stagnation evolves into robust employee innovation.
  • Dissatisfaction improves to positive attitudes.

Business owners and executives often consider culture change in the workplace as an abstract idea that affects someone else. Truth be told, everyone from the CEO to the frontline workers internalize the attitudes and emotions that pervade the environment. Righting the culture change ship positively impacts the emotional health and wellness of everyone.

How to Implement Cultural Change in the Workplace

Implementing a strategy to revitalize a culture that supports positive interactions, a sense of worth, and healthy emotions tasks leaders with identifying impediments and making changes. The Society for Human Resource Management suggests clear, concise communication ranks among the most important steps in transforming workplace culture. A new mission statement supported by consistent core value articulation can form a foundation. However, culture change remains an ongoing process that includes the following.

  • Promote core values through defined actions.
  • Identify employees and managers who resist change.
  • Communicate with resistant employees.
  • Replace toxic employees unwilling to embrace company values.
  • Hire people who reflect the positive culture change in the workplace.
  • Periodically assess the organization’s culture.
  • Transparently implement subtle changes to improve workplace health and wellness.

Creating and maintaining a positive culture tasks everyone in an organization with making a good faith effort to work collaboratively. Culture change in the workplace typically trickles down based on clear communication about values, goals, and expectations. That’s why decision-makers must understand they need the right team in place to succeed.

Driving Culture Change in the Workplace Supports Wellness & Talent Retention

The shifting ideas about employment require industry leaders to rethink values, goals and create a positive atmosphere. Such strategies make people feel valued by management teams and colleagues alike. Positive attitudes can be equally contagious as the toxic ones that negatively impact people and hamstring an organization. A healthy culture change in the workplace can deliver quantitative and qualitative benefits that drive success.

Download our guide, The Culture Connection, to learn about creating a culture of wellbeing.



Caring For Remote Employees

Many organizations continue to work in remote and hybrid models as the pandemic winds down, but many employees, when given the option to return to work, would actually prefer to continue working remotely. Our new guide, Taking Care of Remote Employees: The Key To Business Success Beyond the Pandemic, gives you actionable steps to ensure that your employees feel supported no matter where they are working. 

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