How can organisational culture be improved?

4 Minutes
Requiring dedication, commitment, and active involvement from all levels of the organisation.

Enhancing organisational culture is a strategic endeavour that goes far beyond superficial changes. It involves a deliberate and systematic approach to assess the existing culture and implementing changes that align with desired outcomes. A strong organisational culture is not only a source of motivation for employees but also a critical factor in attracting and retaining top talent, driving innovation, and ultimately, achieving long-term success.

Strategies for Improvement

In this exploration of culture improvement, we will delve into six key strategies that organisations can employ to nurture a thriving and adaptive culture. Each of these strategies represents a significant building block in the foundation of a robust culture, and together, they form a comprehensive framework for fostering positive change.

Conduct a Culture Audit

Conducting a culture audit is the foundational step in the journey of enhancing organisational culture. It involves a comprehensive assessment, including gathering insights from employees, scrutinizing existing policies and practices, and evaluating the alignment of the current culture with the company's core goals and values. This process identifies both strengths and areas needing improvement, thereby providing a data-driven roadmap for change.

Real-world example: Zappos, renowned for its unique culture, undertook an exhaustive culture audit, employing tools such as surveys and data analysis to gauge employee satisfaction and compliance with cultural values. This initiative enabled them to pinpoint areas for improvement, particularly related to enhancing transparency and internal communication. Similarly, Netflix regularly conducted organisational culture assessments, leading to significant changes such as increased emphasis on innovation and employee autonomy.

Leadership Involvement

Leadership involvement stands as a pivotal element in shaping and nurturing organisational culture. To enhance the culture, it's imperative for leaders to exemplify the desired cultural traits through their actions and decisions. When leaders wholeheartedly commit to the culture, their behaviour serves as a compelling model for employees.

Real-world example: IBM, amidst its cultural transformation, actively engaged its leaders in workshops and leadership development programs, empowering them to lead the cultural shift. This resulted in a more collaborative and innovation-oriented culture within the company. During its cultural transformation under the leadership of Jack Welch, General Electric (GE) placed a significant emphasis on encouraging its leaders to embody the desired cultural behaviour, particularly focusing on values such as meritocracy and informal leadership.

Employee Participation

Organisational culture cannot be imposed top-down; involving employees in the culture improvement process is pivotal. Their insights, experiences, and perspectives offer valuable input into areas where cultural enhancements are needed. Furthermore, employee involvement cultivates a sense of ownership and commitment to the culture change.

Real-world example: Microsoft initiated the "OneWeek" program, actively encouraging employees at all levels to contribute their ideas for enhancing the company's culture. This approach led to initiatives such as revised remote working policies and a heightened focus on inclusion and diversity. Procter & Gamble (P&G) similarly engaged employees in culture improvement through working groups and forums, resulting in a more inclusive and innovation-oriented culture.

Training and Development

Training programs aligned with desired cultural traits can be instrumental in culture improvement. These programs target the development of specific skills, behaviours, or mindsets that contribute to a more positive and inclusive culture. By investing in employee development, organisations empower their workforce to embrace and embody the desired culture.

Real-world example: Toyota's commitment to continuous training and development for its employees is well-recognised. Extensive training programs in lean production and problem-solving align with their culture's pursuit of operational excellence. Salesforce, on the other hand, heavily invests in training and development programs that promote the values of equality and inclusion, ensuring the maintenance of an inclusive and diverse culture.

Feedback Mechanisms

To monitor progress and make necessary adjustments, organisations should implement regular feedback systems. These mechanisms can include surveys, focus groups, one-on-one discussions, and performance evaluations. Collecting feedback from employees at all levels ensures that culture improvement efforts remain aligned with the evolving needs and expectations of the workforce.

Microsoft has implemented a feedback system called "Growth Mindset" to encourage continuous learning and cultural adaptation. Similarly, software company Adobe introduced a feedback system called "Check-In," replacing the traditional performance appraisal process with regular conversations between employees and their managers, creating a more continuous and productive feedback environment.

Celebrate Successes

Recognizing and celebrating successes is vital for reinforcing desired behaviours and cultural values. This creates a positive cycle, encouraging employees to continue practicing these behaviours. Celebrations also demonstrate the organisation's commitment to the culture and value employees' efforts.

Southwest Airlines has a tradition of celebrating cultural milestones with enthusiasm. They publicly recognise employees who exemplify the company's values and promote a positive work environment by celebrating these successes throughout the organisation. Facebook also celebrates cultural achievements through events and public recognition, highlighting employees who exemplify the company's values and promoting a culture of recognition and celebration.

In conclusion, the journey to improve organisational culture is a strategic process that requires a holistic approach. These strategies for improvement collectively contribute to reshaping the culture to align with the company's desired outcomes and values.

Conducting a culture audit serves as the foundation, allowing organizations to gain insights, identify strengths, and pinpoint areas in need of improvement. It's a data-driven approach that informs subsequent steps in the culture enhancement journey.

Leadership involvement is central to the success of culture improvement efforts. Leaders must lead by example, embodying the desired cultural traits through their actions and decisions. Their commitment sets the tone for the entire organization.

Employee participation ensures that the culture is authentic and resonates with the workforce. Involving employees not only generates valuable insights but also fosters a sense of ownership and commitment to the culture change process.

Training and development programs equip employees with the skills and mindsets required to embrace and practice the desired culture. They empower the workforce to contribute positively to the organisation's cultural evolution.

Implementing feedback mechanisms is essential to maintaining a culture that remains relevant and responsive to the evolving needs and expectations of employees. Continuous feedback ensures that culture improvement efforts stay on track.

Finally, celebrating successes reinforces desired behaviours and values, creating a positive cycle that encourages employees to continue practicing these cultural traits. Recognising and appreciating employees' efforts demonstrates the organisation's commitment to its culture.

These strategies, when integrated and consistently applied, provide a comprehensive framework for guiding the evolution of organisational culture in a positive and productive direction. Successful culture improvement requires dedication, commitment, and active involvement from all levels of the organization, ultimately leading to a more vibrant and aligned culture that supports the company's goals and values.


Reference: Denison, D. R. (1990). Corporate Culture and Organizational Effectiveness. John Wiley & Sons.

Schein, E. H. (2017). Organizational Culture and Leadership. John Wiley & Sons.

Reference: Kotter, J. P., & Cohen, D. S. (2002). The Heart of Change: Real-Life Stories of How People Change Their Organizations. Harvard Business Press.

Reference: Cameron, K. S., & Quinn, R. E. (2011). Diagnosing and Changing Organizational Culture: Based on the Competing Values Framework. John Wiley & Sons.

Reference: Heskett, J. L., Sasser, W. E., & Schlesinger, L. A. (1997). The Service Profit Chain: How Leading Companies Link Profit and Growth to Loyalty, Satisfaction, and Value. Free Press.

Reference: Brown, T. (2009). Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation. Harper Business.

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