Illustration by Lara Borovcic-Kurir

2021 has been quite the year. A complete rollercoaster ride for HR and recruitment, they’ve experienced some incredible highs and growth but also many lows and challenges. The battle of staff turnover alongside a surge in job openings and counter offers calls for drastic changes. A shift in culture.

In 2019, 71% of employees said they’d look for new opportunities elsewhere if their current company’s culture were to deteriorate. We’re now experiencing that fallout. Employees are reassessing their priorities, meaning that culture and values have climbed to the top of their agenda. 

Glassdoor released statistics showing that 73% of candidates wouldn't apply for a role unless their values aligned with the company. Culture is becoming increasingly critical to the welfare of an organisation and its employees, forcing leadership to finally initiate conversations on how to priorize it. But how do you transform your culture, without knowing what it is?

Traditionally, company culture has been based on the founders values, industry demands, goals and assumptions. Rather, it needs to be the aggregation of values of every single employee. A company culture doesn’t exist without its people. 

So how do you establish a positive culture in your organisation? Here’s our five-step guide to creating a better culture.

How to define and promote culture

Define your culture

Culture remains an almost mythical creature, talked about but never verified. Companies might publish their organisational values, structure plans and compensation, but how do these play out in practice?

Firstly, it’s key to review your existing culture and any challenges that come with it. What’s going well and what needs to improve in order to achieve your company's goals and growth plans. What factors does your company need to focus on to succeed? Take a look at our 12-value framework to reflect on what’s most important. Read more about our methodology here

Guiding principles: 

  • Wellbeing
  • Inclusivity 
  • Mission
  • Impact

Daily practices:

  • Flexibility 
  • Relationships
  • Learning
  • Collaboration

Organisational design:

  • Structure
  • Career
  • Leadership
  • Compensation

This ecosystem of values and practices are key to assessing the kind of culture that your organization already has. Now to understand which of these are important to your people.

Obtain data

You can’t build a strong culture without understanding what matters to your employees. So, once you’ve highlighted your company's corporate values, your next step is to replace assumptions with insight. Collect data at scale, across the entire talent lifecycle. There are a number of ways this can be done; qualitative discussions, one to one meetings, brainstorming sessions and company wide surveys. 

Understanding what your employees care most about will give insight into team dynamics and how the culture may vary across different branches or departments. Relevancy is key here, so pinpoint specific survey questions that will offer actionable data and give you an understanding of what your people need to be happy at work. This will give your staff a voice to share their thoughts, increasing engagement and improving your retention efforts.

It’s just as important to understand what your candidates value too and how this may impact your organization. Studies show that 89% of new hires leave within 18 months, due to cultural and interpersonal factors, not skills. Considering culture throughout the recruitment process is crucial to hiring successful candidates that align, reducing the cost of hire and employee turnover.

Analyse

Now you need to rip off the band aid and reveal the true insights of your organization's culture. Leadership, particularly C level, needs to lean into the discomfort of tackling their existing (or non existing) culture. 

Start by outlining the initiatives that will achieve the desired results on your culture, the factors that will bring positive change. Then conduct objective mapping on the data you’ve collected to get a benchmark and better understanding on how to create action plans around your employees’ priorities. 

Be aware that local subcultures will have different results depending on location, gender, age, seniority and tenure. This needs to be analysed on a glocal level, considering both global and local issues.

Exploration

As part of the analysis phase, you can start to create action plans off the back of the data collected. You’ll need to take a deep dive into what’s important to people across the organization and place these values into strategic initiatives that will benefit the company as a whole. Allowing time for your people to stop and really think about what matters to them will provide you with the qualitative data to give clear direction on how to lead and start moulding a workable plan in driving change.

It’s essential to consider key business goals and timeframes during this stage, to ensure the strategies can be measured and progress evaluated.

Drive and track changes

You have the data. So how do you use it to drive change? Here’s three key ways to completely shift your existing culture. 

  1. Use the data to establish an internal training programme for your people. Not everyone can see the need for change but this can be a great way to implement a healthy diverse culture.
  2. Part ways with those that don’t fit. Start to evolve and shape your culture by considering removing those that don’t align with your business goals and company values.
  3. Recruit people who are a cultural match for your organization, department or teams. Here you can target desired values and watch your culture grow organically. 

Keeping track of the initiatives and following through on employee priorities is vital to build a healthy and sustainable culture. Consistently collecting data will give you the leverage to push the culture agenda from empty talk to actionable fact. 

Transforming a culture takes time, it’s a huge shift in dynamic. So be patient, keep gathering insights and tracking results to see the progressive long-term changes that will benefit your organization.


Companies that don’t start to react to this shift in values are in danger of being left behind. The pick of the talent pool is small, so culture is more crucial than ever in a company’s branding. Create and promote a healthy working culture and you’ll spur on motivation, increasing performance and therefore revenue. Organizations capable of cultural adaptability earn 15% more than those that are less adaptive. So invest in creating a culture that puts your people at the forefront of your business, one that will initiate sustainable success.

Written by
Claire
Stone
Content Specialist
at

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