Staff productivity
May 31, 2023

6 approaches to driving cultural change

Mark Topps recommends six approaches to tackle cultural change to improve employee engagement, increase productivity, and create a better work environment.

Mark Topps
Mark Topps
Regional Business Manager

Table of contents

There are always things that can be done better, but what happens if the thing you want to improve is the culture within your business?  

A cultural change is not an overnight change and comes with its own challenges, especially within the care sector. But with the right approach, it can lead to improved employee engagement, increased innovation, and a better working environment. In this blog post, I share some of my recommendations and approaches to tackling cultural change.

Understanding the current culture

It is likely that you will have an idea of the existing culture and what is not working well. However, it is vital that you have a sound understanding to prevent any wrong decisions being made. To understand the current culture, there are a number of things you can do.

1. Work alongside your team and carry out observations

Whilst doing this, you should be looking into things like whether there are specific ways of working, how people communicate, and how people approach situations. This will allow you to know how engrained things are within the culture.

2. Gain your employees’ perspectives through surveys, focus groups and interviewing staff  

It is important that all staff are consulted and that they feel comfortable to talk freely without any fear of repercussions. Similar to being open and honest with the people you care for, I am a firm believer that our teams should be able to speak honestly and openly without any comeback so that you get transparency and truth. This feedback will provide invaluable insight.  

3. Review the current team structure from the top down

Hierarchy structure can impact the culture, and during this process you should be looking as to whether you feel the current structure hinders or aids communication and positive culture. During this review, you should also seek to understand the management styles being used and the impact (positive and negative) that this has. It is likely you may have more insight once you have your team’s perspective of how the structure works in reality.  

4. Reflection plays a key part in this process

Looking at things that have gone right and gone wrong can give you a rounded view. It is important to do a deep dive into each one to see if there are any themes, such as specific staff or certain challenges. Reflection will also allow you to identify current strengths and weaknesses.  

Defining the desired culture  

Whilst gaining an understanding of the current culture, remember to keep in mind what you want the culture to look like in the future. You might already have the vision in your mind, but how are you going to get there?  

This is the question you need to be asking yourself and those involved in the change of culture. Here are some of the steps I would take during this stage:

1. Establish new values

It is likely that you will need new values for the company. These will help to embed changes within the behaviours you see from your team, but do not assume this to be the case. Evaluate whether your current culture aligns with the values of the organisation.

2. Set achievable goals

Establish what goals that you want to achieve from your team and ensure that you have things in place to achieve this. For example, if you want to foster innovation, make sure that you are putting in steps for idea sharing, risk taking, and a non-blame culture.  

3. Collaborate consistently

Remember to involve your team and communicate using all the communication resources you have within your team. It is important that staff feel involved and on board as this will help bring them with you on the journey and prevent set back.  

4. Ensure your vision is realistic

We all want the perfect culture. But this isn’t realistic – nor is it achievable – and you will be setting yourself up for failure. You also risk increasing the frustration and disengagement of your team, so you need to consider the resources you have available, such as costs and time.

Communicating and engaging

This section should be obvious, but I fear that we overestimate the power of effective communication and sometimes don’t know what to share. Here is a starting point that can help get things moving:

  • Share the current situation and what is wrong – be honest, but also listen to others' views.
  • Paint the picture of what you want to achieve, and the impact this will make on both the organisation and your team.
  • Ensure staff can ask questions during this stage and throughout the entire process. You can do this through one-to-one meetings, team meetings, using surveys, holding feedback sessions, etc.
  • Set milestones so that achievements can be celebrated.
  • Be honest about challenges you may encounter.
  • Let people know about any resources you are going to make available to help them achieve the new vision.  

It is likely that there will be some resistance, and you will not win everyone over. However, it is important to take time to understand their concerns and provide reassurances, and remember to not take hesitations and resistance personally. Many people do not enjoy change, even though this is only natural.

Leading by example and driving the change

Culture changes must start at the top, so it is important that your senior team are on board to make this work. If they are not, you need to address this issue as soon as possible and it may be that you have to get someone to drive the changes in their place.  

Leading by example sets the tone and demonstrates the commitment to the change. Here are some other things you can do during this stage:  

  • Celebrate successes.  
  • Review how things are going with your team through verbal feedback and surveys, and adapt what you are doing if there are any issues or obstacles.
  • Address resistance straight away.
  • Provide training if needed.
  • Find your staff who are passionate about the change, and use them to reinforce the positives amongst your team.

Aligning your processes and systems

Once your senior team leads by example, your team will be reassured that everyone is accountable and that there is a real commitment to the changes.  

It is likely you will need to align your processes and systems to your new vision, and this will include:

  • Updating policies and procedures Creating visuals of your new vision, values and mission statement Updating interview questions and your application process
  • Updating job descriptions and job adverts
  • Updating your induction and refresher training
  • Adjusting fixtures, fittings, and furniture as needed
  • Implementing training so that people have the skills and knowledge  
  • Completing and communicating decision making hierarchy changes
  • Creating new focus groups and meetings as needed
  • Checking email signatures
  • Remembering to check your statement of purpose and amend as needed  

As well as these things, you should also establish how you are going to monitor progress, and what milestones and goals you want to achieve throughout the change process.  

Monitoring and adjusting to the change

It is important to regularly review the changes being made to ensure they are being embedded. Just like you did during the initial stage, you can do this by:

  • Working alongside your team and carrying out observations.  
  • Gaining your employees’ perspective.  
  • Reflecting on what has gone right and what has gone wrong.
  • Establishing strengths and weaknesses.  
  • Recognising and celebrating progress and achievements  

It is important that you are open to making adjustments as needed. This is a whistle stop tour of cultural change, and you should do more research to ensure you are ready to embark on this journey.  

Cultural change is not a one-time event or overnight story, it is an ongoing process of reviewing, reflecting and adapting. Effective communication, collaboration and being open to constructive feedback is crucial to its success.

Getting it wrong can have poor consequences on the team and the organisation, but getting it right can lead to improved outcomes, better teamwork, happier staff, increased productivity, and an overall boost for the company and the team.

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