Skip to main content
University of Sunderland

Influencing organisational behaviour and cultural change

Posted on: August 15, 2023
Surreal abstract geometric floating wooden cube with word " CHANGE & CHANCE " concept float on wood floor and white background

According to the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), organisational culture is “made up of shared values, beliefs and assumptions about how people should behave and interact, how decisions should be made and how work activities should be carried out”.

Understanding these cultural interplays, and possessing the skills to influence and direct them, is critical to effective leadership and management. To examine how a company’s current culture stacks up, closely consider employee engagement, leadership style and work environment. Taking a realistic look at the current situation – to gain a clear vision of where the business is headed, and what cultural specifics are required to support its ambitions – is the only way leaders will be able to make the right decisions.

What is organisational cultural change?

Cultural change refers to the process through which an organisation leads and encourages its workforce to align their attitudes and behaviours with wider organisational goals and values.

Business leaders should note that widespread, meaningful and lasting cultural change is often a gradual process. Change initiatives and interventions must be sustainable, responsible and thoughtfully developed to manage employee adjustment and wider acclimatisation and minimise adverse responses.

So, what sort of factors have the potential to influence culture shifts within businesses? Here are a handful of examples:

  • a transition to hybrid and remote working
  • actions, behaviours and beliefs of team members and other individuals
  • mergers between organisations
  • major changes to company leadership, structure, direction and values
  • market fluctuations or financial downturns.

Any number of planned, or unplanned, factors can greatly impact, shape or threaten corporate culture. It pays for leaders to stay alert to changes in culture and be prepared to respond accordingly to ensure their organisations remain on track.

Why is organisational culture change important?

Successful culture change can bring about a number of important business benefits that have widespread ramifications.

To understand why leaders, managers and business owners should be vigilant about embedding a positive, strong culture in their organisations, we only need look as far as statistics related to cultural change.

  • 94% of entrepreneurs and 88% of jobseekers believe a healthy work culture is vital to success.
  • Highly engaged employees can lead to a 202% increase in performance.
  • A culture that attracts high-calibre employees can lead to a 33% revenue increase.
  • Millennials, who account for 35% of the global workforce, prioritise culture and fit above all else.

Clearly, prioritising change efforts goes far beyond what it’s like to work for a business day-to-day; it’s fundamental to organisational performance management. Happy, satisfied and valued employees increase metrics across the board, from productivity and retention to engagement and profit.

New cultures often mean fresh starts, which can be pivotal if a company has experienced a sustained period of weak culture: at best this could mean culture is lacking or ineffective; at worst, toxic. It also serves to unite employees, management and other stakeholders under shared values, facilitating understanding, collaboration and teamwork. This, in turn, means organisations are more likely to achieve their longer-term objectives.

The culture change checklist

How can leaders achieve the desired culture they’re striving for?

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), based on case studies from businesses undergoing cultural change management, suggests considering key success factors and challenges of change is pivotal to successful implementation. Expanding on this, PwC states leaders should consider the following three determinants to help improve their odds: how culture is connected to broader business mission, how change translates to frontline team behaviours, and the extent to which plans may adapt in future as culture evolves over time.

Here is a rough framework leaders can use to support implementation – and help ensure any cultural shift is as well-received and robust as possible.

  1. Plan the culture change. Begin formulating a clear action plan for the change, asking key questions to help clarify reasoning and intentions. Why is a new way of working required? How will the culture more closely fit organisational goals? What will the culture look like? Are there existing good practices to retain? How will the business ‘own’ the new culture?
  2. Consult the right people. Be open, honest and transparent about the level of stakeholder involvement that will be required. Which stakeholders need to be involved in the change, and why? To what extent is their involvement required? Will employee experiences and views help to shape the new culture? How can respondents’ perspectives be factored in? When would involvement be most useful? What role will human resources (HR) play?
  3. Lead from the front. Leaders and managers should act as role models to embed cultural change. A top-down approach to new behaviours, values and ways of working must be visible and proactive. Is messaging consistent? What role will team leaders and line managers play? Is any professional development required? Are the right people in the right places?
  4. Encourage employee buy-in. Draw employee focus to why the change is required, and how it aligns with organisational values and ambitions. How can teams emotionally engage with the shift? Can values be brought to life through storytelling? Are team perceptions of how they are treated being considered and respected? At what stages is buy-in likely to be easier or more difficult? Will relevant incentives help to garner support?
  5. Ensure infrastructure supports culture. Ensure structural foundations exist for lasting change to take root. Do existing structures support or impede change? Which undermine new ways of working and how might they be mitigated? What visible cues of the reformed culture can, or need to, be implemented?
  6. Develop the relevant capabilities. Identify any gaps in skills, knowledge or learning that are required for change to be feasible. Do skills and behaviours need addressing? How will this be achieved? Are there creative ways to use resources and individual employee capabilities?
  7. Measure the impact. Company culture also evolves over time, so continuous monitoring and adaptation is essential. Is there qualitative and quantitative data available to assess the impact? How will data be collected and analysed? What will be done with the findings? How can team members be encouraged to keep supporting change going forward?

Lead the way in transformational change management

Want to develop the skills to forge positive, lasting company cultures that serve business goals?

If you’re ready to step into senior leadership and management positions, join the University of Sunderland’s online International MBA programme.

Whatever industry or sector you work in, you’ll grow into a capable, inspirational leader with expertise in strategic decision-making, building operational resilience, navigating challenges, and managing complex, international organisations. Your studies will be grounded in real-world theory and practice, spanning topics such as global corporate strategy, international trade, financial management, digital marketing, organisational behaviour, entrepreneurship, HR management, operations, and much more.

« Previous EntryNext Entry »