It is no small feat to transform an organization’s corporate culture.  Culture takes years to fully form; and becomes ingrained in the values and beliefs of its employees, suppliers, and board of directors.  However, sometimes a major event like a merger or acquisition will occur where it becomes necessary to change an organization’s culture.  This can be extremely difficult where two polar opposite cultures collide; and need to merge to become a unified “new” organizational culture.   The place to start is to clearly understand the culture.

  • Participate in a culture walk – by simply taking a walk around the work environment, you can pick up a lot about an organization’s culture.  Observe what pictures hang on the wall.  If there are a lot of portraits of past CEOs (e.g. old guys in suits), this may indicate a paternalistic environment.  Is there a wide discrepancy in office sizes, chair quality, technology, and other status symbols?  This may indicate a status oriented work environment.  Some questions to ask during this culture walk include:
  1. How is the space allocated? Where are the offices located?
  2. How much space is given to whom? Where are people located?
  3. What is posted on bulletin boards or displayed on walls?
  4. What is displayed on desks or in other areas of the building?
  5. How are common areas utilized?
  6.  How often do people communicate with one another?
  7. What interaction between employees do you see? How much emotion is expressed during the interaction?
  • Conduct employee culture interviews:   It may be difficult for staff to articulate exactly the values, behaviours, and dynamics of their organization’s culture, but you can be sure that at a visceral level they understand it.  By asking the right leading questions, you can gain important information that will help you understand the organization’s culture.
  1. What would you tell a friend about your organization as a prospective employer?
  2. What is the one thing you would most like to change about this organization?
  3. What is your favorite thing about working at this organization?
  4. What types of employees are not “good fits” with this organization?
  5. What is your favorite question to ask a job candidate?
  • Complete a culture assessment:  this is typically a survey that employees complete answering questions about the current organizational culture; and the any ‘desired’ changes to the culture.  The assessment may be purchased off-the-shelf; or customized based on the results of the culture walk around and culture interviews.

Workplace culture is critical to the future success of your organization.  It will directly impact the quality of candidates who apply to job postings with your organization; as well as the leadership style of your management team.  There are various strategies and tactics for evolving an organizational culture to shift it in the direction you desire.  This takes a real commitment on the part of organizational leaders; and is essentially a long-term major change management project.  Stay tuned for future blog updates on how to create a desired organizational culture for your organization.