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Perspectives

Catalyze culture change in the workplace for sustained results

Ready, set, activate your organizational culture change strategy

You've acknowledged that culture matters. You've aligned it to your organizational culture change strategy, and you know where you want to take it. Now it's time to make change happen and sustain the results.

Why is organizational culture important?

Your culture defines who you are as an organization. And if it's successful, it can pay impressive dividends. Organizations "with a soul" outperform the S&P 400 in terms of higher employee engagement and retention, better customer service, long-term profitability, and more than eight times return vs. S&P 400 10-year returns.

It's also the key ingredient in creating a Simply Irresistible™ experience for your workforce. Culture and values were found to be the most highly correlated factor in whether someone recommended an organization as a place to work—nearly three times higher than compensation and benefits.

What is culture?

Culture is "the way things get done" in your organization—sustained patterns of behavior over time that are supported by the shared experiences, values, and beliefs of the organization. Culture is what transforms individual employees into a collective, cohesive whole. It's continually reinforced over time as an organization orients new employees to the way things are done, makes business decisions, confronts challenges or industry disruption, and implements new processes.

When aligned with business strategy, organizational culture can drive results without having to rely on command and control. When misaligned with strategy, organizational culture can stymie growth and undermine leadership's attempts to drive change. The good news is that companies can prevent this outcome by proactively designing and activating culture change in the workplace that supports their strategy, environment, and people.

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Activating culture change in the workplace

At their core, organizations are made of up structural elements—people, processes, and systems—and the choice to activate or emphasize different behaviors results in a "product," the organization’s culture, that can enable or derail corporate strategy.

By identifying the structural elements that form and inform culture, an organization can isolate and activate those that will best enable strategic objectives. It's critical that organizations take on culture proactively to maximize this alignment with business strategy; culture will develop and evolve organically over time whether or not leaders cultivate it intentionally.

Culture is a long-term game, won over multiple short-term "sprints." Our experience has shown that culture change in the workplace can begin quickly, with small wins to build momentum, but sustained shifts—changes that become part of the fabric of the organization—require longer-term concentrated efforts. Behavior change is, at its core, identifying behaviors to activate across different populations, then turning them into habits that embed the desired culture to support the core business strategy.

Tools and accelerators, such as Organizational Network Analysis (ONA), can amplify the effectiveness of culture change in the workplace efforts by identifying the true influencers in your organization and leveraging their connections to make the change go viral.

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Leverage Deloitte's ONA to identify your company's internal influencers

Get a data-driven picture of how work gets done in your company. Data can be collected in parallel with running a CulturePath™ survey—Deloitte's proprietary culture assessment survey.

Five steps to activate culture change in the workplace

Organizations (other than start-ups) don't build a culture from scratch. Leaders must understand and embrace the culture change in the workplace they are pursuing, holding themselves and others accountable to positively influence and model new behaviors. They must assess whether their current business processes, systems, and organizational levers (e.g., talent management, organization design, workspace design) align to the desired culture and contribute to the delivery of desired strategic outcomes—or not—as understanding the baseline is foundational to understanding where the organization can go.

Step 1: Narrow your scope
Develop or confirm the vision, mission, and values around which your culture campaign will be centered. Identify the target community that will best activate the desired culture, and then, understand underlying business levers that influence their behavior—the "culture web." Finally, define core behaviors to enable activation.
Step 2: Tell the culture story
Storytelling can catalyze a culture change in the workplace. By taking your list of priorities and bringing it to life in a way that is meaningful to employees, leaders can "tell the culture story" by bringing behaviors to life in a way that is relevant and accessible to their teams.
Step 3: Ideate initiatives
Think, brainstorm, and ideate a list of potential interventions to activate desired results for each behavior in order to answer the important questions like, "How can we make these changes happen?" When ideating, establish a "judgment-free zone" so participants feel free to contribute, and emotions and nay-sayers don’t limit the creative process.
Step 4: Build and execute your sprint plan
Culture change should be approached with the understanding that initiatives will be iterative and will build upon lessons learned along the way. And don't forget about coaching for successful culture change in the workplace. Culture enablement coaches help you to understand the barriers each team faces and can help analyze all aspects of the culture web.
Step 5: Measure, iterate, and repeat
Stay agile with the culture sprint approach. Throughout execution, progress should be consistently assessed, and the approach adjusted to ensure continuous, self-reinforcing results. Critical to the agile approach is establishing and defining metrics, timelines, and feedback mechanisms to enable teams to "fail fast" and move forward.

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Activate culture change in the workplace and grow your business

Your organization's culture is an asset and an investment—the key ingredient in creating a Simply Irresistible™ experience for your workforce and a critical tool for realizing your business strategy. It’s something you can actively shape and manage. With committed leadership, a clear view of the influencers who really make work happen in your organization, and an agile sprint plan to control the levers that drive action and performance, you can activate culture and deliver dividends for your business.

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Start the conversation

Connect with our team to transform your organizational culture change strategy or get more information.

Aimee Musil
manager | Deloitte MCS Limited
Sonia Storr
partner | Deloitte MCS Limited
Ami Louise Rich
principal | Deloitte Consulting LLP
Kate Casolaro
manager | Deloitte Consulting LLP
Ya-Ting Leaf
manager | Deloitte Consulting LLP
Katherine Peterson
senior consultant | Deloitte Consulting LLP
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