Inspiring Cultural Change

Inspiring Cultural ChangeOrganizational culture sets a company up for success or failure. A positive culture helps an organization achieve its goals and allows employees to bring their best selves to work. Major upheavals in work environments spurred by the pandemic are forcing organizations to adapt their processes and cultures to the needs of a changing workforce. However, transforming a company’s culture can be a long and difficult process.

On December 8th, I hosted the latest meeting of the Aite-Novarica Women’s Network on inspiring cultural change. Panelists Kelley Lamont-Kinney, Business Architect at MMG Insurance; Gina Popp, IT Director at Society Insurance; Carey Geaglone, Senior Principal at Aite-Novarica; and Deb Zawisza, Senior Principal at Aite-Novarica shared their thoughts on inspiring cultural change.

A Company’s Culture Is About Its People

“I have heard that you can tell what a company’s culture is by the amount of laughter in the hallway,” began one panelist. You can tell a lot about a company’s culture by how the employees treat each other, how they work together, and what they accomplish together. The culture of a company is the feeling you get when you enter a room (whether in person or virtual), and it comes down to the people and the unwritten rules about how they interact with one another.

Cultural change that sticks begins with the company’s leaders. Leaders need to buy into the new culture and lead by example. One panelist advised, “If leaders don’t believe in the culture, it will be hard to motivate employees and new hires.” Panelists agreed that as a leader of an organization in the middle of a change, “You have to live the culture yourself and show it in every interaction you have with employees.”

Communication Matters

An important step in the process of implementing cultural change is communicating with employees about how the change affects them and how they will be involved in moving the change forward. One panelist spoke of her own experience with an organizational cultural change: Following a merger, a leader took what he called the “What’s in It for Me” approach, increasing buy-in from employees by communicating with them about how they personally would benefit from the change. However, as one panelist pointed out, “Communication is key, and it is two-way. It’s not only letting people know what’s happening, but also listening to them.” Leaders need to seek input from employees and listen to their concerns to help move changes forward.

It is also important to understand what elements of the current culture are key to the success of the future culture. A historical passion for customer service or pride in the company mission are foundational elements for employees to rally around. Acknowledging how the company succeeded in the past while inspiring people to embrace the changes needed to succeed in the future is more likely to encourage buy-in and excitement than disparaging past practices.

Small, Unintentional Things Can Become Cultural Norms

Panelists also described actions leaders might take that can have an unintentional negative impact on organizational culture. Small things, such as coming to work while sick or responding to emails late at night, can set the expectation that all employees should behave the same way. It’s important to think about how your behavior might create a cultural norm you don’t want to encourage.

The annual Open Meeting of the Aite-Novarica Women’s Network will take place on January 26, 2022 on the topic of “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Agile Lessons Learned.” Speakers will include Aite-Novarica Senior Principal Deb Zawisza and myself, Nancy Casbarro. More information is available here.

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