5 great examples of cultural change in the workplace

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Many people think organizational culture focuses mostly on the way a company presents itself to the public. This could be, for example, through the general dress code, mission statement, and the design of the working spaces of the organization. Yet, while brand image is important, it’s not the defining principle of company culture.

The way you hire can make or break the company culture that you’ve worked so hard to build. So it’s essential to assess your candidates’ values and behaviors and see if they align with your organization’s. 

Using skills and personality tests will help you evaluate objectively if a candidate shares your company culture. You can build a strong and supportive team by implementing the Culture Add test into your hiring process. 

Cultural change is often necessary if you want to transform the work environment for the better. It can inspire employees, enhance their performance, and increase productivity. 

With that in mind, this article will talk about the ways you can manage change, looking at five examples of successful cultural change.

But first, let’s look at the most important question: What makes culture so important?

Why is organizational culture so important for your business’s success?

Organizational culture is an integral part of any company. It defines its values, customs, norms, and general beliefs. The culture sets the tone for the experience employees will have working there – their objectives and achievements, the leadership they have to follow, and the values they need to uphold to align with the company’s mission. 

Strong company culture is essential for the success of any business because it provides consistency, direction, and guidance, fuelling people to develop their potential.

And culture is one of the highest priorities for workers: Glassdoor reports that 56% of employees say company culture is more important to them than salary when it comes to job satisfaction. Nearly nine in ten adults believe it is important for a company to have a clear purpose and direction. 

Employees prioritize workplace culture over salary

How can you successfully manage cultural change in an organization?

Times are changing rapidly. We now possess a variety of digitalization tools that help transformation move at a faster pace. 

But, as Winston Churchill once said, with opportunity comes responsibility. Companies must deliver rapid results in a fast-paced and competitive environment. Leaders have to make the right decisions faster, managers must react to opportunities before they slip away, and employees need to be more flexible and creative than ever. 

However, innovation comes at a price. A study reports that only 15% of companies succeed in cultural change. If your organization is devoted to mastering the art of transformation, you need to take a strategic approach and put the right effort into achieving it. 

Cultural change is implemented collectively, and it’s rarely easy to alter people’s shared habits and perceptions of how things should be done at the workplace.

Here are 3 ideas on how to ease the cultural change in your workplace.

1. Digitalize

Wearable technology, adaptable interfaces, integration with social platforms – there are many digital tools you can use to make innovation faster and more effective. According to McKinsey, there are five areas in which digitalization can be particularly helpful for cultural change in your company. 

  • Providing just-in-time feedback

  • Personalizing the experience

  • Creating direct connections

  • Communicating progress

  • Developing a sense of community and shared purpose

2. Assess your company’s culture

Before you start making any changes, you must be clear about the current organizational culture in your company and how it aligns with your stated values. 

This will allow you to build effective strategies for improving working practices and to be intentional about your organizational culture. A cultural assessment should be done regularly (for example, every year).

Read more about cultural assessment here at TestGorilla

3. Learn from social movements

HBR tells us the story of G.V. Prasad, the chief executive of Dr. Reddy’s, a 33-year-old global pharmaceutical company. The story shows how good leaders can learn from the initiators of social movements to engage and mobilize their employees. There are significant differences between private enterprises and society but we can still learn much about change from social movements. 

5 inspiring examples of cultural change in the workplace

5 inspiring examples of cultural change in the workplace

When trying to achieve change, you should look at cases where companies have succeeded in building a strong culture aligned with their mission. Here are five inspiring examples of cultural change in the workplace. 

1. Aetna

Aetna, a managed healthcare company, is a striking example of the importance of organizational culture and its effect on productivity and satisfaction

In the early 2000s, Aetna had many issues. Its rapport with customers and physicians had deteriorated, its reputation was damaged by lawsuits and public backlash against healthcare organizations, and it was losing $1 million per day.

These problems were credited to Aetna’s culture. The company encouraged employees to remain steadfast to the point of losing any flexibility and becoming suspicious of change. After merging with U.S. Healthcare in 1996, this situation got even worse. Aetna couldn’t adapt to the shift and was suffering the consequences.

This continued until John W. Rowe, the fourth chief executive in five years, finally managed to identify the problem. Instead of trying to force a cultural shift in a company whose culture has been resistant to change, Rowe engaged with employees and involved them in the planning. 

This helped him identify Aetna’s problem: The company had focused on managing material expenses while alienating patients and physicians. This in turn harmed the company’s strengths, including the deeply rooted concern for its patients and the pride in its history. 

That realization was the beginning of a positive and sustainable cultural change for Aetna, which turned it into an efficient growth engine.

2. Squarespace

Squarespace is a website-building and hosting SaaS company that enables users to use templates and other elements to build and modify their websites. The company helps millions of businesses personalize their online presence and democratizes access to best-in-class design. 

Squarespace’s mission is to help people with creative ideas succeed, and their company culture is focused on encouraging employees to express their creativity and help with innovative ideas for their shared purpose. 

The company’s rapid growth – from 30 employees in 2010 to 550 in 2015 and over 1000 at present – required an intentional approach to its culture that focused on making sure employees are happy at all stages of Squarespace’s journey. 

This is reflected in the ratings employees give to the company: 94% of employees are happy to be working there.

3. Salesforce

The cloud-software giant Salesforce is widely known as one of the best workplaces worldwide. Its strong employer band is largely down to a strong company culture, which has evolved over time. 

Salesforce has devoted itself to building a sense of community, stressing four core values that enable everyone to feel at home: trust, customer success, innovation, and equality. The last one is especially important to Salesforce as they aim to eliminate the wage gap and hire without bias. 

The company is also famous for its community giveback concept, the 1-1-1 model. Giving back to the community has proven beneficial, as it supports team building, attracts outside support, and entices new employees to become devoted to the cause. 

4. Zappos

The online shoe and clothes retailer Zappos has such a renowned company culture that they offer a three-day culture camp to teach HR personnel how to build a culture like theirs. 

Zappos invests heavily in its employees’ training and development. They compensate new employees for quitting if they don’t feel the job is right for them, making it a positive experience to sustain a team aligned with the company’s culture. 

By focusing on a set of 10 core values, Zappos makes sure every team contributes to the company and is satisfied with their experience there. It is living proof that investing in customer service, company culture, and employee development is always beneficial. 

5. IBM

As a technology corporation, IBM specializes in innovation. However, this focus isn’t limited to its products but also extends to its company culture. 

One way IBM has developed a strong culture is by creating an innovative employee feedback system that doesn’t use a strict 1-10 rating scale but allows for deeper, more personalized insights into each member’s experience. This encourages improvement and creates a more people-oriented environment. 

At the heart of any successful business are devoted, hard-working employees who share the company’s values and mission. To navigate cultural change better, you should be intentional about creating your organization’s culture. 

Making the right hiring decisions is key to building a strong company culture. Try out TestGorilla’s Culture Add test to improve your hiring process and build a strong, diverse team that shares your company’s purpose.  Register for free today.

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