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Company Culture Is Everyone’s Responsibility

  • Denise Lee Yohn

how to improve organizational culture essay

A top-down approach doesn’t work anymore.

A top down approach to building company culture no longer works for several reasons. For one, Covid-19 has upended how leaders interact with employees and how coworkers connect with each other. Next, company culture has grown in importance, thanks to recent high-profile crises at big name companies. A new culture-building approach is already in place at some organizations, one in which everyone in the organization is responsible for it. Importantly, this model doesn’t relegate culture-building to an amorphous concept that everyone influences but no one leads or is accountable for. And it weaves in perspectives from employees to customers, from middle managers to the CEO.

Here’s how organizational culture might have been handled in the past: The CEO commissions the Human Resources department to produce an effective company culture. HR designs a campaign to tout a mission statement and core values that the CEO and senior management developed. HR also implements some employee perks like free snacks in the break room or monthly birthday celebrations. Maybe they also field an annual employee engagement survey and report results back to the CEO. And then with their culture-building to-do lists completed, the CEO and HR move on to other priorities.

  • Denise Lee Yohn is a leading authority on positioning great brands and building exceptional organizations, and has 25 years of experience working with world-class brands including Sony and Frito-Lay. Denise is a consultant, speaker, and author of What Great Brands Do: The Seven Brand-Building Principles that Separate the Best from the Rest and the new book FUSION: How Integrating Brand and Culture Powers the World’s Greatest Companies .   

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What is Organizational Culture? Understanding and Driving a Strong Culture

Kristin Ryba

Kristin Ryba

July 14, 2022 | 6 minute read

What is Organizational Culture? Understanding and Driving a Strong Culture

So what is organizational culture? And how can you harness company culture to engage employees, improve performance, and make your company a great place to work?

In this article, we’ll answer what organizational culture is, why it matters, and how you can build a strong and engaging culture.

What is organizational culture?

Organizational culture is the way that organizations get things done. It’s how we make decisions, how we communicate, and how we celebrate employees. It’s the daily actions, attitudes, and behaviors that individually and collectively make up our organization.


Why is organizational culture important?

Your company culture impacts everything within your organization. It can help or hinder you, depending on how intentional you are with it. An engaging organizational culture helps you:

  • Attract high quality talent
  • Boost employee engagement
  • Increase employee retention
  • Strengthen employee performance
  • Adapt to change
  • Accelerate business outcomes

Your workplace culture is a key driver of the employee experience. It can have a positive, negative, or neutral effect on key business metrics like retention, recruitment, and engagement.

65% of millennials rank a strong workplace culture as more important than salary.

Workplace culture matters to prospective employees . For millennials, it matters more than money! A positive and engaging culture can help you attract top talent.

Employees who say their culture is positive are 3.8x more likely to be engaged.

Company culture and employee engagement are inextricably linked. If you want to improve employee engagement, take a look at your culture.

An engaging culture connects, equips, and empowers employees to do their best work.


Employees who say their culture has improved since the pandemic are 2.9x more likely to be highly engaged.

Workplaces have been through a lot of change since the pandemic—and so have their employees and cultures. Employees have taken notice of improvements in those organizations that have been intentional about shaping their culture in this new world of work.

Disengaged employees are 2.6x more likely to leave their company for a better culture.

Company culture and engagement are sticky factors that make employees want to stay. A Glassdoor survey says 7 in 10 employees would look for a job elsewhere if their workplace culture were to weaken. Culture is a critical retention strategy.

70% of high-performing organizations agree or strongly agree that culture is what drives their success on organizational and business outcomes.

There’s a reason company culture has become a top priority for leaders— especially leaders at high-performing organizations . They understand the connection between culture and success.


How organizational culture has changed

Workplace culture has historically been defined as organizational norms, rituals, and values. But how employees perceive company culture has changed.

35% of employees say their culture has changed dramatically since the start of the pandemic.

As the workplace has shifted since the pandemic, culture has shifted too. Some employees say it's changed for the better—others say for the worse. Whether or not you’re actively investing in your culture, someone or something is shaping it. 

It’s important for leaders to keep a pulse on company culture to ensure they’re driving the right changes at the right times.

1 in 3 employees has neutral or negative perceptions of their organization’s culture.

Many organizations have successfully navigated turbulent pandemic times and have adapted to remote and hybrid work. However, about a third of employees have poor perceptions of their workplace culture. This is a tough number to swallow considering the connection between culture, employee engagement, and employee retention.

50% of employees experience culture most strongly through their organization’s approach to employee performance.

In today’s employee-driven work environment, the way you manage performance has a strong impact on engagement and culture. Building a high performance culture is key. 

Our workplace culture research shows that how managers create alignment, communicate, recognize, and give feedback all shape how employees experience your culture.

Only 28% of employees experience culture most strongly through the physical workspace.

Many leaders have expressed thoughts about the importance of the physical workspace on culture. But our research shows it’s least important to how employees experience culture.

Remote and hybrid employees are more favorable toward workplace culture.

Remote and hybrid work environments are becoming the norm—and this shift has impacted employee perceptions of culture . 70% of remote and hybrid workers believe their company has a strong and positive culture, compared to 65% and 58% of on-site employees, respectively.

Tips for shaping culture in a remote/hybrid work environment

Culture cannot and will not look the same as it once did. Forward-thinking, adaptable leaders need to shape their culture strategies with remote and hybrid employees in mind. These 10 strategies, backed by our research, will help you build an engaging culture for all employees .

  • Listen to your employees through surveys
  • Evolve your approach to employee performance
  • Make culture part of your business strategy
  • Promote activities that build connection
  • Recognize and celebrate your employees
  • Find opportunities to deepen understanding of your mission and values
  • Rethink how you onboard employees
  • Develop your managers to thrive with remote and hybrid teams
  • Consider new ways of communicating and collaborating
  • Prioritize flexibility and autonomy

Learn more about shaping company culture in a remote work environment >>>

Why leaders are responsible for organizational culture

WeWork describes culture as an employee-powered concept . It truly takes every person inside your organization to build an engaging and successful culture.

But employees say leaders and managers are primarily responsible for creating and shaping culture. Culture starts at the top. Leaders should clearly define culture, communicate about it regularly, set a good example, and tie business outcomes to company values. This will empower all employees to develop, practice, and evolve cultural norms.

Tips for developing a strong organizational culture

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is your culture. A positive, culture-centric organization takes time to develop. 

To cultivate the kind of culture that inspires action, engages employees, and drives performance, you need to approach it thoughtfully and intentionally.

An article by the Harvard Business Review describes culture as dynamic —shifting incrementally and constantly in response to change. This requires a flywheel approach to collecting feedback, analyzing it, and acting on your culture. 


Ask: Gather employee feedback on culture.

You can’t rely on your gut to understand your culture. You need to ask employees about their experiences at work—they’ll tell you what they think and what they need from you. Collecting their feedback will help you understand what’s working and what’s not. 

To develop an employee listening strategy that helps you measure and improve your culture , you should gather feedback at many milestones in the employee journey. 

Don’t simply rely on your annual employee engagement survey. Supplement your listening with regular pulse surveys and employee lifecycle surveys to capture feedback at key moments like onboarding and exits.

Not sure what to ask? Here are some recommendations for employee survey questions about culture : 

  • The work I do contributes to fulfilling our organization’s mission.
  • I see behaviors displayed across our organization that are consistent with our company’s core values.
  • I have a good understanding of our organization’s mission, values, and goals.
  • Our organization constantly looks for ways to improve products and services.
  • The pace of work at our organization enables employees to do a good job.

Our culture supports employees’ health and wellbeing.

Aha: Analyze your culture regularly.

Once you’ve got some data from your employee feedback, dig into it. Don’t analyze the feedback in a silo—connect it to other data and metrics like turnover and performance conversations. The goal is to paint a picture of what’s happening across the organization.

Figure out what an engaging culture should look like and plan goals and initiatives to get there.

Act: Develop a culture action plan.

Show employees you are committed to improving your culture by making meaningful changes that better the employee experience and help everyone reach their goals. When your employees are successful, you will be successful too. 

A healthy culture drives employee engagement first and foremost. When you evaluate “how work gets done” at your organization, try to understand how each aspect could impact employee engagement. You want to ensure employees feel connected to their work, team, and organization through your culture strategies.

Find the right tools to help you improve your culture.

A robust employee engagement, performance, and people analytics platform will outline the big picture behind your culture and help you understand where to focus and when. 

With the right tools, you can uncover deep insights, measure employee perceptions, and create a thriving culture. Here are the top benefits of a robust culture platform: 

  • Understand employee perceptions of culture
  • Explore culture metrics and trends 
  • Recognize employee success
  • Create conversations around culture 
  • Align employees and teams by elevating what matters

How Quantum Workplace can help

Focus on what matters when it comes to culture. Download a copy of our  2022 Organizational Culture Research Report   today.

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Published July 14, 2022 | Written By Kristin Ryba

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how to improve organizational culture essay

Soren Kaplan Ph.D.

Workplace Dynamics

What is organizational culture and why is it important, here's how to transform your workplace culture to skyrocket performance..

Posted December 9, 2023 | Reviewed by Ray Parker

  • Organizational culture is the collective mindsets and behaviors of a company.
  • A positive workplace culture increases employee engagement, motivation, and retention.
  • The seven strategies for creating a positive culture include celebrating achievements to boost morale.

Freepic / Rawpixel

Organizational culture is like the personality of an organization. It's about how everyone, from leaders to the newest hires, thinks and acts. It shapes how work gets done and how people treat each other.

Organizational culture includes the unwritten rules and shared beliefs that guide people's behavior. For instance, a company that values open communication might have meetings where everyone is encouraged to speak their mind, leading to better ideas and stronger performance.

Alternatively, if an organization has a culture where only the most senior employees' ideas are welcomed in meetings, it might lead to frustration and apathy for everyone else because others may feel their voice doesn't matter.

Culture: The Unique DNA of Every Organization

Culture is the underlying DNA of every organization—it's what makes employees feel connected and invested in their jobs. When a company has a strong, positive culture, it can foster greater engagement, which means people care more about their work and go the extra mile. Positive cultures boost motivation , leading people to do their best and be happier in their jobs. Such feelings of connection and satisfaction can lead them to stay longer with the company, reducing turnover and building a strong, experienced team.

When a culture encourages new ideas and open-mindedness, employees are more likely to come up with the kind of breakthroughs that can change the game for a business. In such an environment, teams work better together, share more ideas, and push each other to be the best they can be, which often leads to greater success for the whole organization.

Seven Strategies for Creating Positive Organizational Cultures

There are many ways to foster a positive business culture. Managers and leaders can focus on the following:

Vision and Mission Clarity : A compelling vision and mission statement act as the psychological contract with employees, offering a clear narrative about what the company stands for and its aspirations. When a company like Google pledges to "organize the world's information," it sends a powerful message about its purpose, aligning the workforce towards a common goal. Leaders can facilitate workshops and discussions to ensure these statements resonate deeply with every team member, thereby internalizing these guiding principles.

Values in Action: Core values are the psychological pillars of an organization's culture. When the online retailer Zappos emphasizes "delivering WOW through service," it's not just a statement but a call to action that employees live by so they deliver exceptional service. Leaders can make these values tangible by embedding them into performance reviews, hiring criteria, and daily operations, ensuring they're not just words on a wall but principles that drive decision-making and behavior. It's also important that leaders themselves act in a way that's consistent with the values they want to see enacted more broadly.

Habitual Practices: The power of culture is often expressed in the small, repeated actions that become habitual. For example, Pixar's practice of holding candid "braintrust" meetings where creative ideas are dissected and debated creates an environment where innovation is routine. Leaders can create rituals or regular meetings that reinforce openness and collaboration , turning them into powerful symbols that reinforce the organization's culture.

Learning and Development: Cultures that prioritize learning communicate to employees that growth is both expected and supported. Amazon's " Career Choice" program is a testament to its investment in employee development, covering tuition for in-demand fields. Leaders can foster a culture of learning by actively investing in employee development and creating clear pathways for career advancement.

Psychological Safety: At the heart of a thriving culture is the sense of psychological safety, a term coined by Harvard University professor Amy Edmondson, which describes an environment where individuals feel comfortable expressing themselves without fear of retribution. Google, for example, found that its teams with high psychological safety were more successful than those with lower psychological safety. Leaders can cultivate this by modeling vulnerability, encouraging open dialogue, and celebrating learning from failures.

Recognition and Rewards: A culture that celebrates achievements—both big and small—can significantly boost morale and productivity . Salesforce, through its "Ohana Culture," has created a sense of community and belonging where recognition is part of the everyday experience. Leaders can implement recognition programs that allow peers to acknowledge each other's contributions, making recognition a regular part of the organizational rhythm.

how to improve organizational culture essay

Agility and Resilience : The most adaptable cultures are those that embrace change. Leaders can promote agility by encouraging a mindset of continuous learning and by designing systems that are flexible and responsive to feedback, ensuring the organization can navigate and thrive amidst disruptive change.

Creating a High-Performance Culture

Creating a culture that promotes high performance requires a deep psychological understanding of human behavior within a business context. By carefully crafting and nurturing the elements that constitute culture, leaders can foster an environment that not only drives innovation and high performance but also leads to a sense of purpose and belonging among its members. Building a cohesive community focused on achieving purposeful goals is a critical imperative for making organizations and the world a better place.…

Edmondson, Amy and Lei, Zhike (2014). Psychological Safety: The History, Renaissance, and Future of an Interpersonal Construct, Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, Vol. 1:23-43.

Kaplan, S. (2017). The invisible advantage: How to create a culture of innovation . Greenleaf Book Group Press.

Soren Kaplan Ph.D.

Soren Kaplan, Ph.D. , is an author, keynote speaker, leadership development consultant, and affiliate at the Center for Effective Organizations at the University of Southern California.

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How to Improve Organizational Culture [+Mistakes to Avoid]

While many organizations put great effort into improving organizational culture, it’s crucial to sustain them as the company grows. Here is how to do that effectively.

Andre Oentoro

Table of Contents

How to improve organizational culture? Isn't it something we all keep looking for irrespective of realizing our mistakes that can sabotage the organizational culture and erode it from within?

Organizational culture is a big thing many employers pay close attention to. It isn't just about providing an inspiring place for employees to work but also about motivating them and giving them a sense of community.

If you want to sustain a business long-term, consider making a positive workplace environment that reflects your values and culture.

Building and regularly improving organizational culture can help increase output and reduce employee turnover rates . However, poor company culture can reduce productivity and business performance if not appropriately shaped.

While many organizations put great effort into developing effective organizational cultures, sustaining them as the company grows is crucial.

For example, new employees with conflicting values and personalities may create a toxic team culture, sabotaging team productivity and performance.

Organizational Culture: Definition

Organizational culture refers to team members' shared beliefs, values, and behaviours. It's how people within a company think, view, and behave towards one another.

Simply put, organizational culture includes characteristics that help employees understand appropriate behaviour. Creating a positive workplace culture helps improve work and the ability of your people to adapt to change.

The Importance of a Strong Organizational Culture

An influential organizational culture should meet several criteria. It must encourage employees to take the initiative, accept responsibility for their decisions, and make the right choices when facing complex problems. These are critical factors that empower employees to respond positively to change.

If some of your employees don't possess these characteristics, it's hard to maintain a positive culture within a company. Even though most people agree that individual skills are required to succeed, bad habits can negatively affect team morale.

Here are a few benefits of having a good organizational culture and how it affects team members and the business.

1. Encourage team members to be resilient to changes.

When a company culture is working well, it can be an essential source of encouragement and resilience in the face of adversity.

When employees don't have to overcome challenging situations on their own, they feel less stressed and better equipped to handle future obstacles.

2. Build creativity

Creativity is one of the most important skills that people must possess in today's economy. Good company culture helps encourage creative thinking within teams and helps them become more innovative.

3. Improve productivity and the quality of work

Employee morale is at an all-time low in today's business world. Workers are often dissatisfied because they don't see how their work benefits the company or society.

Company culture provides the needed context for everything that happens within groups and teams, which results in greater productivity and lower turnover rates.

4. Improve corporate branding

A positive culture helps create goodwill among customers. When employees understand their purpose, it creates a sense of pride that makes them more willing to engage with clients about business matters outside of their direct responsibilities.

5. Increase employee retention

Younger generations are increasingly less interested in staying at one job for a long time than previous generations were. The reason is the perception that job security is no longer a given, and there are more interesting and exciting things to do than spend decades at the same place.

If you can create a positive environment for your employees, they will be more likely to stay with you, which results in lower recruiting costs down the line.

5 Common Mistakes that Sabotage Organizational Culture

There are a few things that clog down your business. Bad organizational culture is one of the greatest causes that employees can't deliver good work. Following are some common mistakes that hinder you from becoming a top employer:

1. Quick hires and fires

One of the most common mistakes that sabotage organizational culture is not evaluating candidates before hiring them. New staff can destroy the culture if they aren't the right fit for the organization.

This could result in a quick hire and fire, leading to bad publicity. Unfortunately, this happens all too often in companies today.

If you are part of the human resources team, take sufficient time to evaluate candidates and pay attention to the new employee onboarding session . It helps new hires experience company culture during the entire process, from hiring to onboarding.

2. Lack of communication

Lack of communication also leads to weak organizational culture. Employees are not well-informed about the company's goals, strategies, or policies.

The fact that companies hired them in the first place means they're capable of helping the company achieve its goals. If they don't know these goals, they can't do much except sit back and twiddle their thumbs while waiting for things to happen.

3. Negative reinforcement

If you consider organizational culture a machine that needs constant maintenance, rewards are one of its oiling gears.

Positive reinforcement effectively maintains this aspect of organizational culture by confirming good behaviour within the organization—increasing the chances of getting more positive responses from your employees in the future.

4. Micromanagement

A good manager will let his employees do their jobs and motivate them to see that they are doing their job in the best way possible. What's the point of working with a team if you don't value their ideas and criticism?

You should always hire someone for a specific task and monitor it, so the chances of mistakes are few. However, you need to understand that you cannot monitor everything. Some things have to be left alone for people to prove themselves. Otherwise, micromanagement will destroy them from within.

Organizational culture thrives when managers focus on harmony within teams rather than looking into everything in too much detail.

5. Lack of clear expectations

Setting the right expectations is crucial for every company. Your employees need clear instructions on what they should do and by what date they should complete their work.

If you don't provide them with all the necessary information, they might make mistakes but not because they are incapable of doing what the company hired them for.

How to Improve Organizational Culture Effectively?

Building a strong organizational culture is important but sustaining it is even more crucial. Here are the 10 effective ways to improve organizational culture:

1. Build effective communication within your company

Providing open communication means that each team member should feel comfortable sharing their opinions, discussing a problem, or asking a question. Make sure to keep a two-way communication with your employees as it helps prevent misunderstandings.

2. Be transparent

Organizational issues can damage businesses. So, there must be open communication between management and staff. Transparency will create trust, which improves engagement and productivity within the company.

When workers feel comfortable discussing issues with management, it builds rapport, increasing sales, market shares, and customer satisfaction. Providing information about your company goals and strategies can also guide employees in the right direction.

When you are transparent with employees, you can gain their trust and have a cordial and healthy relationship with them. Creating a culture of transparency can also improve employee retention .

3. Improve employee recruitment

Employees are your building blocks. You can achieve success only if you have efficient and effective employees at every level of the organization.

Orientation programs provide recruits with a clear understanding of company policies, infrastructure, transparency in communication, and more.

Try to ensure that new hires understand your culture right from their first day. This will help them adapt quickly and reduce turnover rates.

4. Create a conducive work environment

A well-informed employee is a key to organizational success. However, it depends on how well they understand their job responsibilities and what's happening around them in the company.

Creating an environment where employees feel comfortable asking questions will initiate conversations between managers and workers, which helps set clear expectations for daily tasks and assignments.

5. Provide regular feedback

Feedback is an essential part of any job. Regular feedback will help employees know what they need to improve and also helps managers understand how well their team is doing.

Managers should schedule feedback sessions at least once a month or bi-weekly, depending on the project. Using task management apps helps employees and managers keep track of current and upcoming projects while effectively sending feedback to each team member.

6. Offer rewards and recognition

Employee recognition is crucial for a business that strives for longevity. When employees feel recognized, they will most likely stay with a company rather than seek new opportunities.

What's more, recognizing employees' talent and their work can significantly reduce turnover rates.

Therefore, you should include rewards and recognition programs to retain employees long-term.

7. Understand employee wellbeing and social needs

When creating a culture within the organization, organizations need to consider their employees' needs. This means taking care of their physical and emotional needs, such as healthy meals at work, flexible work arrangements , and time off on certain days during the week.

Putting your employees first will increase competitiveness in creating new product ideas, which ultimately helps them grow their careers and makes them happier workers.

8. Measure culture with data & feedback

Measuring an organization's culture can be done by holding various employee surveys . Usually, third-party companies will ask managers and employees questions.

For example, how they feel about certain aspects of workplace life, such as trust, communication, or how often they are praised for a great job.

Creating a solid organizational culture starts with ensuring that your company's management understands that worker satisfaction strongly affects productivity in the workplace.

9. Embrace cultures with diversity and inclusivity

Having a diverse staff in an organization is essential for the overall success of the company. It provides different perspectives on approaching specific issues and offers fresh ideas that ultimately improve work hence improving organizational culture.

Tolerance, open-mindedness, and understanding are all qualities that companies should embrace about diversity.

10. Encourage collaboration between employees.

When employees collaborate, they can bounce ideas off of each other, which gives them a broader knowledge base and leads to the development of new ideas that will ultimately benefit the company.

Make sure to provide a mentorship program for your employees. The program is beneficial because it brings together two employees with different strengths and weaknesses to overcome certain obstacles together.

In this way, both employees learn from each other, promoting growth within the organization and personal growth for each person involved.

Closing thoughts

People tend to ignore that organizational culture is about creating an environment that helps everyone thrive. As organizational culture plays an essential role in one's productivity and performance, you must understand whether the culture meets your company's needs and helps achieve its goals.

Engaging with new hires and introducing them to company culture from the start is also essential. Problems such as miscommunication can severely damage productivity and the work culture.

If left unchecked, they can cause high turnover rates as employees don't feel they fit with the culture. This article should help you find what mistakes sabotage your company culture and how you can improve it to keep your business sustained in the long run.

What are Total Rewards: Here’s A Holistic View

Employee grievances - how to handle them appropriately, unlock the biggest secret of engagement to retain your top performers..

Andre Oentoro

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This article is written by Andre Oentoro. He is the founder of Breadnbeyond, an award-winning explainer video company. He helps businesses increase conversion rates, sales, and get positive ROI.

Let's begin this new year with an engaged workforce!

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Organizational culture: From always connected to omni-connected

Creating value for people and business through omni-connected experiences


Our devices may be always on. But do people feel highly connected—in a human sense—at work?

Only one in six people feel highly connected to their organization and the people they work for and with. Only one in five people feel comfortable sharing problems or raising conflicts with colleagues. Only one in four report that leaders are responsive to their needs, communicate regularly and feel that team members are treated equally. In other words, just a small fraction of any team—your team—feels like they are getting what they need and truly connecting on a human level. When people feel highly connected to each other, their leaders and their work, their companies stand to gain a 7.4% revenue growth boost per year. Organizations enjoying the advantages provide what we call omni-connected experiences.

how to improve organizational culture essay

What is an omni-connected experience?

Omni-connection levels the playing field so people can fully participate and have an equitable experience. (Omni-connection does not mean always on or connected 24/7. Quite the opposite.) Through these experiences people are able to forge relationships, create both personal and business value and impact, and grow their careers. The four key actions to create value through omni-connected experiences are:

  • Instill modern leadership: Lead with empathy, transparency and trustworthiness.
  • Grow a thriving culture: Nurture cultural norms that prioritize purpose, authenticity and psychological safety.
  • Enable the agile organization: Take flexibility further and scale new ways of working.
  • Empower people through technology: Provide access to a robust foundation and the ability to experiment.

how to improve organizational culture essay

Why this matters now

Culture and talent are top of mind in the c-suite….

In fact, organizational culture and the impact of the pandemic on culture was a topic in 53% of company earnings calls we analyzed between January 2020 and April 2022. And one in two CEOs are investing to unlock talent to drive their business transformations. However, many people are fundamentally re-thinking their relationship with work—out of choice or necessity due to the mental health epidemic, isolation, social upheaval, widening equity gaps, the global impacts of the war in Ukraine, supply chain disruptions, rising inflation and more. It’s all taking a toll on people’s resilience.

People are not only experiencing a new world of work but living in a new world. Unfortunately, too many conversations about organizational culture are still anchored to space and place. Omni-connected experiences that result in a heightened sense of personal—and measurable business—impact truly thrive through vibrant, human relationships.

…but something is missing

Leaders generally overestimate the connectedness of their people by 2x.

how to improve organizational culture essay

How to build a strong organizational culture at work

Only 17% of the people we surveyed felt they were benefitting from omni-connected experiences at work. However, when companies put omni-connection at the heart of employees’ experiences and their culture, people and the business both benefit in meaningful ways:

how to improve organizational culture essay

Omni-connected companies experience a 7.4% revenue growth premium per year.

how to improve organizational culture essay

People benefiting from omni-connected experiences are 29% more likely to experience a deeper level of trust toward their organization and team.

Where there’s greater trust, there’s a stronger likelihood of people delivering high-quality work and nurturing work relationships that, among other things, foster innovation.

how to improve organizational culture essay

Being omni-connected accounts for 59% of an employee’s intention to stay. When the cultural norms of the company have people feeling that they work for a purposeful organization, that they can create value and be effective in their team, they’re more likely to stay. These all matter more than a slightly bigger paycheck.

how to improve organizational culture essay


Of employees who benefit from omni-connected experiences, over 90% say they can be productive anywhere—and that’s not just perception. In a 2021 study by the University of Chicago and the Mexico Autonomous Institute of Technology, 40% of respondents found their work-from-home productivity to be greater than when they’re on-site (just 15% felt the opposite).

Start by meeting human needs to unlock people’s full potential at work

Our Net Better Off framework uncovered the six human needs that contribute to unlocking two-thirds of a person’s potential at work (see figure 1).

Leaving people net better off is by far the most important predictor of successful omni-connected experiences.

Figure 1 Net Better Off addresses fundamental human needs.

The majority of organizations invest most in Financial & Employable—a job and a paycheck. Yet what matters more to unlocking potential are the Emotional & Mental, Relational and Purposeful dimensions. A strong sense of inclusion and tools to support mental resilience are also critical to helping people feel net better off at work, yet there’s a gap in what people need and what leaders provide.

how to improve organizational culture essay

Roadmap: building organizational culture with omni-connection

Creating value through omni-connected experiences: 4 key actions.

We developed insights from 1,100 C-level executives and 5,000 workers working in multiple roles and ways—front-line and fully on-site, hybrid and fully remote—in 12 countries. In doing so, we’ve identified the key actions companies can take to create value for people and business through omni-connected employee experiences.

01 Instill modern leadership: Lead with empathy, transparency and trustworthiness

Create connections in safe places. It’s one thing to make people feel safe and able to share their ideas and perspectives. It’s another thing entirely to ensure that leaders return that honesty with compassion and trust. Organizations need to invest in developing leaders who make individuals feel safe and respected. No one should feel diminished because they chose to speak up or show vulnerability.

Be transparent to build trust.  Feeling out of the loop, not understanding how your work contributes to company goals or lacking constructive feedback causes significant disconnection. Leaders must be willing to communicate openly and with compassion all the time, not just in times of crisis. Not only must they role model this themselves, they must foster it in their teams.

Listen, learn and act.  To inspire trust, leaders need to listen, learn and act—individually and collectively. Start with a robust listening framework to make sure all voices are heard, then turn those insights and ideas into action. When people trust their leaders to listen, act and be transparent about progress and feedback, more and better ideas will follow.

02 Grow thriving culture: Nurture culture norms that prioritize purpose, authenticity and psychological safety

Connect people to purpose.  The more that people understand how the work they do is aligned with the company’s greater purpose (beyond boosting the bottom line), the more fulfilled and driven they will be. People become even more engaged when they can expand their skills and grow. Investing in people’s development and helping them achieve their aspirations is a clear signal to them that the work they do has meaning.

Make it safe to be yourself.  When people can demonstrate their strong sense of self, they forge stronger connections with their team. But this assumes leaders are creating safe spaces for people to be heard and seen—and demonstrating that different ideas and experiences matter to the success of the organization. Along with providing mental resilience resources and tools, leaders must be willing to show their own vulnerability and focus on self care, which gives their team agency to do the same.

03 Enable the agile organization: Take flexibility further and scale new ways of working

Look beyond where—to what, when and how.  After two-plus years of remote or hybrid work arrangements for millions of people, it’s easy to confuse the commute from the bed to the desk with the notion of flexibility. They’re not one and the same. Location is only one small piece of the larger idea of flexibility, which should also consider what people work on, when they work and how. Today, fewer than one-fourth of workers surveyed feel they have permission to be flexible and have the autonomy to manage their time to be most productive.

Create a flexibility framework.  Flexibility will have a different definition or set of boundaries at every organization and for people in different roles. One size never fits all, not even most. It’s up to leaders to gain a clear understanding of where, when and how people work. From there, they can build a flexibility framework—moving away from rigid structures and hierarchies and designing instead around people and connectivity. They can then apply the framework based on people’s responsibilities to reach the best solution for the role and the individual.

Redefine what it means to ‘come to work’.  The entire notion of “coming to work” is ready for a refresh. That means figuring out how teams can maximize the benefits of both time together and time apart—and what matters most to people to make their commute worthwhile. It also requires thinking ahead and designing for people across multiple types of work locations and arrangements. And just like individuals, the entire organization must be able to pivot quickly, given that work and world circumstances will remain fluid.

04 Empower people through technology: Provide access to a robust foundation and the ability to experiment

Establish a robust technology foundation.  Companies that use cloud to build a seamless technology and capability foundation are able to support the ever-changing needs of the business by meeting the ever-changing needs of people. At the start of the pandemic, business continuity for many companies depended on people’s equal access to stable internet service and the power of cloud to keep them connected and collaborating. This robust technology foundation is essential to help people work in new ways, wherever they need to be.

Think like a technologist.  Armed with access and tools, the next step is to empower people with collaboration technology like Teams, Zoom or WebEx, along with a decent Bluetooth headset. These are still vital, but access isn’t empowerment. Companies need to encourage their people to think like technologists and experiment—using the data and tools in their hands to discover new processes and solutions in their work. When people have this level of autonomy, a stronger sense of connection will take hold along with new levels of innovation.

Look beyond the tools of today.  Those companies that are expanding their people’s technology toolbox, along with their agency, are seeing the benefits. Our research found that 86% of workers surveyed who claim to experience omni-connection also reported upgrades to their company’s technology and skillsets, allowing them to work in new ways. That means looking at the upside of emerging technology—like the metaverse—to support equitable opportunities to participate and contribute. It’s also worth exploring the promise of human-machine collaboration. By allowing seamless collaboration between humans and machines, people can contribute to higher-value work and experience a greater sense of purpose.

What about front line workers?

Whether it’s health practitioners, grocery store clerks or delivery drivers, an estimated 2.7 billion front-line essential workers keep our world working. And while they may not have a choice in work location, there are other areas of flexibility that companies can explore to provide more autonomy in their work experiences—through the tools they use, decisions they make, benefits they select and schedules they keep.

It’s also an opportunity to take a more nuanced look at the roles and tasks which may offer greater flexibility when you apply an omni-connection lens. In one example, lab workers were expected to work fully onsite. Yet after analyzing their different responsibilities, they found that certain tasks—like recording lab notes or writing research grants—could be done productively outside the lab.

Our change journey in action

That is, we preach the power of omni-connected people because we’ve seen the benefits for ourselves .

But it’s important to remember that the work of being omni-connected and strengthening culture doesn’t end—it evolves. As we embrace continuous change, the journey involves listening to your people, gauging progress and acting with intention to close gaps. Below is just a snapshot of our recent efforts toward improving our own sense of belonging and connection.

  • In 2021, we collected over 900,000 pieces of feedback from employees.
  • We found key learnings against a number of omni-connected levers, including modern leadership, thriving culture and agile organization.
  • We’ve seen passion, inspiration and drive soar. And we also get early warning signs when people are experiencing distress and anxiety, so we can work to address them proactively.
  • We’ve heightened efforts around team mental health, belonging and time protection.
  • Results are viewed in aggregate, as well as at local and business unit levels, so actions can be tailored, swift and impactful.

All of this was achieved against the backdrop of implementing a new growth model in nine months during the pandemic and, in 2021, we promoted a record-high 120,000 people and welcomed 100,000 more to our Accenture family.

how to improve organizational culture essay

Make the (omni) connection

Omni-connected employee experiences meet leaders’ goals for growth, speed and sustainability—and employees’ needs for flexibility, equity and meaning. To do so, they must be envisioned and executed with trust at heart and value at the core. Companies that embrace this opportunity strengthen culture strategically, unlock people’s potential and move their organizations forward, by design.

Most CEOs would agree that the past two years can be defined as an equal mix of unpredictability and tough decisions. Working toward omni-connected experiences, however, is the opposite. It results in lasting, positive outcomes for people and the business alike. That, of course, makes it one of the best investments a leader can make.

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Author Talks: How to gain a competitive edge with organizational culture

In this edition of Author Talks , McKinsey Global Publishing’s Raju Narisetti chats with James Heskett, UPS Foundation Professor Emeritus at the Harvard Business School. In his book, Win from Within: Build Organizational Culture for Competitive Advantage (Columbia Business School Publishing, January 2022), Heskett provides a road map for achievable and fast-paced culture change. An edited version of the conversation follows.

What gap does this book on organizational culture fill?

There are two major themes that it addresses that may not be addressed as well as they should be right now: the whole matter of agility and the need for changes in strategy that are associated with the whole phenomenon that we think of as agility. An effective culture makes change easier.

It actually makes leadership easier to the extent that leadership is about the management of change. To have an agile strategy, you’ve got to have a culture that will support that phenomenon. And it also means, because culture is not easy to change, it takes a while. It means a culture that’s able to support more than one strategy or to support strategy change. I think that’s one major theme that the book addresses, and the idea that we look for the kinds of values that support agility, things like teamwork, learning, and personal development.

The other major phenomenon is the change in the nature of work and the implication that has for an organization’s culture. I devote an entire section of the book to the whole idea of the hybrid organization and the kind of culture that’s needed to make that successful.

But, in fact, we have to face it: hybrid organizations are going to be a major change or a challenge to organizational culture. There’s no question that if you have some of your people working remotely some of the time, you’re going to have a different phenomenon when it comes to the organization’s culture. Through the example of an organization like Critical Mass, which is located in Calgary, Canada, and Dianne Wilkins, the CEO there, I tried to characterize the challenges that changes in the nature of work are going to have for us.

Why do you think culture change is an urgent issue?

I try to inject a sense of urgency into the whole process or the challenge of changing a culture. I think changing a culture is too much like climate change. If we all agree it’s necessary, and we all agree that we need to do something to address it, but it’s off there somewhere in the future—it’s probably something we can’t do during our tenure as a leader. Therefore, it gets shoved aside, unfortunately, and perhaps rarely addressed.

For example, a study done by faculty members at Duke University found that leaders, by and large, get the notion that culture is important and an important determinant of performance. Over 90 percent of leaders said that they could probably improve their culture. Fewer than 20 percent said that they had actually done anything about it. People get it; they just don’t do anything about it.

The reason they probably put it aside or postpone it has to do with a lot of the way we think about, for example, climate change. We all agree that we need to address it, but it takes too long to do it. It’ll probably have to be handed off to some other leader. Frankly, we’ve just got too much to do today to deal with shorter-term problems. We’ll get to it later. And, of course, they never do.

Preparing for the future of work

What’s the role of middle management in a hybrid-work culture?

I think the jury is probably still out, but I’m certainly willing to consider the notion that middle management is not dead and, in fact, may be revived to some extent in a hybrid culture. There are several things we probably agree on as being important in that kind of a culture.

We agree that working in a hybrid fashion is going to be a real challenge to organizations that wish to maintain their culture. It was Greg Carmichael, the CEO of Fifth Third Bank who said, “If we’re going to be great, we have to have people in the office. We can manage in a hybrid fashion, but we’ll never be great.” And he used that as a rationale for bringing them in. I think hybrid organizations can be successful. The Critical Mass example that I mentioned earlier is an example of an organization that is trying to make hybrid work successful, not only for themselves but for their clients as well.

It requires not just coaching but also advocacy for people who are working remotely. And who’s going to be the advocate if we don’t have a middle manager somewhere in that mix who is tuned into what’s going on back at the office and can make sure that the people he or she is working with are tuned in as well?

Secondly, you’ve got to have face-to-face contact. That’s pretty clear. And the question is how much, and when and how, and that varies from one organization to another. But without face-to-face contact, it will never provide the kind of boost that really leads to a great organization.

I don’t think organizations assume that they’re not going to get their people together occasionally. I think if we’re expecting increases in productivity, we might get modest increases. The way we’ll do that is by redesigning work in such a way that the creative work can get done in certain time slots and the routine work probably gets done in other time slots. Overall, it seems to me that an effective culture will ensure that there is adequate advocacy, that there is the right amount of face-to-face contact, and that certain really important values come to the fore: inclusion and voice.

My colleague, Amy Edmondson, talks about the importance of voice. Voice will become more and more important because those people working in their own residences still need to have voice and the idea that they are included, and that their ideas are being considered. Otherwise, I fear that we’re going to have serious problems with an organization’s culture if we’re not taking care of those things. So, in a sense, it’s a symbiotic relationship, but an effective culture can make hybrid work more successfully .

If you can’t hack a culture, what can be borrowed by studying other organizations?

There are some things that are common to all organizations, so that when a Zappos or a Disney invites people in and shares their secrets regarding organizational culture with them, what they’re really sharing is a process for considering a change in culture, and I think that can be communicated. That can be hacked.

You can talk in terms of the kinds of people that are needed in certain situations. And that’s easily shared. You can talk about the way we do things around here, and wouldn’t that work for you? The part of it that can’t be hacked lies in that particular set of values and behaviors that you choose for your organization that relates to agility, for example, that you wish to have in your strategic activities.

It depends on the people you hire. I find that’s the part of the process where this so-called standardization or hacking process breaks down, because you’ve got to hire the right people, and you’ve got to fire the right people. It’s the old Ken Kesey saying that Jim Collins quoted: “We have to get the right people on the bus and in the right seats, and you have to get them off the bus, too.” That’s where this process of transferability of ideas, transfer of cultures breaks down.

What are your thoughts on the ‘culture eats strategy for lunch’ theory?

I think that’s a misguided idea. Culture and strategy are not in some kind of competition, so to try to juxtapose them that way doesn’t make any sense. Instead, there is a symbiotic relationship. An effective culture has to support an organization’s strategy. I would argue it has to support more than one of an organization’s strategies, but it has to support strategy. At the same time, its culture may be an important part of an organization’s strategy.

For example, if you go to Handelsbanken in Sweden, the culture of the bank, which has to do with transparency and best practices and a variety of ideas that everybody agrees are important, is an important competitive element of that bank and has been for some period of time. At the same time this culture needs to support strategy; it can be an important element of an organization’s strategy. For somebody to say “culture eats strategy for lunch” just doesn’t say anything to me. It strikes me as a random set of ideas thrown together that doesn’t help us very much.

Change from the bottom up

How can a junior colleague help change culture?

The book implies some things that can be done at all levels, but it’s primarily addressed to leaders. If I were a young person entering an organization with a culture that left something to be desired, I would feel it in my team. If the organization is built around teams, I would be able to see whether I’m being included, whether I’m being given a voice, whether my ideas are at least considered and whether my leader is sensitive to the needs and differences among the members of the team—whether my team is three people or a dozen.

But that’s the unit of work, it seems to me, at which you can start. Typically, teams that exhibit that kind of behavior rise to the top. They show their success along the way, compared to the other teams. That means your career is going to rise, and your area of influence is going to increase. As your area of influence increases, you have greater influence over how we do things around here and what kinds of values we share and the sort of issues that we speak out on as a corporation, which is really a rather recent phenomenon that has become more and more important.

You build it as you build a reputation within the organization. Now, the organization has to honor that kind of behavior. Organizations with effective cultures that I’m familiar with would love to have someone like that working at the lowest levels to make sure that those shared values and behaviors are being propagated on the front line.

Success isn’t about having a ‘strong’ culture, is it?

One big surprise was that in spite of the fact that John Kotter and I started our work on organization culture 30 years ago, I’m still finding a number of organizations that have ignored the work or didn’t access it in the first place.

We started with a hypothesis that a strong culture will produce good performance. We measured the cultures of a number of organizations and came up with a group of organizations that we were told had very strong cultures in their respective industries. What we found is that some of the best performers were in that group and some of the worst performers were in that group. So, our hypothesis got thrown out the window, and we went back to try to discover what was different about those organizations that had strong cultures but either were or were not performing well.

What we found was that those that weren’t performing well had a strong culture all right, and they were not adapting to change. Typically, they were in command-and-control types of cultures—strong, not very effective. I’ve told the story of several of those in the book.

This was a surprise to me because I thought perhaps our message had gotten across, but in too many organizations I found an effort to create the strongest kind of culture with insufficient adaptability to support the changes in strategy that are coming faster and faster these days.

We had to go back, rebuild the study, and found that adaptability—that’s what we called it at the time; agility at that time didn’t seem to have much cachet—was also important. But we still find organizations today that are striving to have a really strong culture that is not very adaptable, which is a big mistake.

What surprised you when researching the book?

One of the surprises was the leaders who understand the importance of culture to performance still aren’t doing very much about it. Another surprise was the degree to which there really isn’t a very good notion among top managers of what’s going on in the organization. Something is wrong with the channels of communication in too many organizations. Even though, if you think back, Tom Peters and Bob Waterman told us years ago that management by walking around is really an important thing to do.

Some organizations understand that, but too many still don’t. And it’s too easy to stay in the ivory tower and stay out of what’s going on in the field. That, for example, is one of the core premises today of an organization like Walmart, where those people are out in the field four days a week, meeting with not just store managers, so that they know their senior managers and, more important, their senior managers know them, and they know what’s going on in those stores.

Whenever somebody says to me, “Why isn’t Walmart’s turnover higher? Those people are loyal because they know who their boss is. They know who their boss’s boss is and they know that those people care. And that makes a big difference. I was surprised that there are still too many organizations that don’t get that message.

If you run through the numbers and calculate the impact of culture on bottom-line performance, it’s those organizations that have the most people in direct contact with customers that provide the greatest opportunity for improved performance through improved culture. I wanted to call the book Compete Through Culture , but the publisher wasn’t too excited about that. But I honestly believe that culture is a critical competitive weapon, if you will.

What are the warning signs of a lagging culture?

There are many warnings signs that a culture is starting to lag. For example, how much of my time is spent in meetings? That’s one very practical thing. To what extent do people listen to each other? To what extent do people agree to do things in meetings and then ignore what they’ve agreed to? To what extent do managers, in general, set expectations that they can’t meet with the people who are working for them? In other words, to what extent are they able to manage down, rather than manage up?

Those are all just very practical signs that something isn’t quite right and that we really ought to sit down and think about that. At Microsoft, for example, the senior managers decided that the dynamic at meetings was to be the smartest person in the room. And you were in competition with other people who also wanted to be the smartest person in the room. They decided that that wasn’t a particularly productive behavior and used that, among many other things, as a rationale for rethinking the culture at Microsoft that resulted in a tremendous turnaround over the past five or six years.

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Author Talks

Visit Author Talks to see the full series.

James Heskett is the UPS Foundation Professor Emeritus at the Harvard Business School. Raju Narisetti is the leader of McKinsey Global Publishing and is based in McKinsey’s New York office.

Comments and opinions expressed by interviewees are their own and do not represent or reflect the opinions, policies, or positions of McKinsey & Company or have its endorsement.

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What It Takes to Build an Organizational Culture That Wins

There’s a feeling among many business leaders that culture is both everything and nothing. That it’s squishy and can’t be quantified. That it’s nice to have until something more urgent gets in the way [read: all the time].

Author James L. Heskett systematically takes apart those beliefs in his forthcoming book, Win from Within: Build Organizational Culture For Competitive Advantage , which is a how-to roadmap for improving an organization’s culture.

Heskett, the UPS Foundation Professor Emeritus at Harvard Business School, argues that an effective organizational culture provides businesses with a major competitive advantage, allowing for higher employee and customer engagement and loyalty, all of which translate into greater growth and profits. Although many business leaders are aware of these benefits, too few are focused on boosting their organizations’ cultures. And maybe that’s just because they don’t know how to get there.

In the book, Heskett shares a collection of stories that illustrate the real-world ways a number of CEOs have swiftly and effectively tackled cultural change, spurring their employees to become more loyal, productive, and creative.

Take the tale of Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft who assumed the reigns of the software giant at a juncture when growth had plateaued and ennui enshrouded the mission. Nadella undertook a speedy cultural transformation at the same time he engineered a shift in strategy toward cloud computing. Heskett charts how Nadella led a renewal of the company by discarding performance metrics that discouraged risk-taking, aligning employees behind a mission to empower customers, and proclaiming that the “C” in his title stood for culture.

The book, forthcoming in January, tackles head on some of the logistical hurdles of cultural change and provides a playbook to help leaders hire productive employees, organize around teams and values, and lead by inclusion. In a nod to the times, he devotes space to tips for creating and maintaining culture in remote settings. The book is peppered with advice on the role of the leader, including how to lead with passion and how to create an inspirational mission.

In this excerpt from the book, Heskett takes on the corporate adage that “culture eats strategy for lunch.” Culture and strategy don’t have to be in conflict, he argues. Instead, an effective culture can be a springboard for strategic change.

Book Excerpt

Win from within: build organizational culture for competitive advantage.

James Heskett

Win from Within book cover

Effective Cultures Anchor Strategic Change

Most discussions of the relationship between culture and strategy focus on the limiting effects of culture on strategy. The notion is that a culture limits the kinds of strategies that can be executed. As Edgar H. Schein has put it, “More and more management consultants are recognizing ... that, because culture constrains strategy, a company must analyze its culture and learn to manage within its boundaries or, if necessary, change it.”

I see it differently. Think of it as a glass-half-full vs. a glass- half-empty view. An effective culture embodies learning, innovation, and change. Cultures centered around transparency and trust pave the way for change. In this way, culture is an enabler of an agile approach to strategy. It makes the leadership and management of all kinds of change easier.

There is a catchy, popular, oft-repeated view that “culture eats strategy for lunch.” This implies a relationship that is not helpful. Culture and strategy are not in some kind of competitive race for success. It’s more useful to think of culture and strategy operating in tandem to produce competitive superiority.

"It’s easier to change a strategy than it is to change a culture."

Culture and strategy complement each other in the most successful organizations. For example, we’ll see later how Satya Nadella went about leading a turnaround of dysfunctional aspects of Microsoft’s culture. But at the same time, he was leading a major change in strategy away from the domination of Windows software, a change made more difficult by the market share and huge wealth that Windows had produced for Microsoft. It was time for the company to begin to play catch-up to Amazon in cloud computing, and fast. The culture had to be reshaped to foster trust vs. infighting, a greater reliance on judgment vs. formal controls, and higher engagement of both employees and customers that could lead to faster and easier change—including a shift in strategy within Microsoft. The shift to a greater emphasis on a cloud-based service strategy to take its place alongside an extremely successful Microsoft software strategy was facilitated by the simultaneous effort to address the culture—how things would be done—at Microsoft going forward.

The point here is that an effective culture provides a base, a platform, from which a range of strategies can be launched and executed. It’s easier to change a strategy than it is to change a culture. In a competitive era demanding, in many industries, frequent changes of strategy, any one culture needs to be designed to support a range of strategies. This lays waste to the notion that culture and strategy must be in perfect alignment at all times. The range of strategies associated with any particular culture is, however, not unlimited. For this reason, cultures and the range of strategies they are capable of supporting have to be mutually supportive.

One useful way to think about the relationship between culture and strategy is that an effective culture can provide a competitive advantage for a very long time, often much longer than any strategy. This is a particular advantage in a world in which some claim that strategy today confers only short-term competitive advantage. In her book, The End of Competitive Advantage , Rita Gunther McGrath argues that the management presumption that competitive advantage is sustainable creates all the wrong reflexes in a world in which the best one can hope for is “transient competitive advantage.” It’s a world in which, among other things, smaller, faster, more agile organizational entities marshal resources rather than own them and management-by-consensus is replaced by management governed by shared overarching beliefs.

Think of an effective culture as one that provides a platform, in the high-tech sense of that word, one that is designed to foster the ability to learn, adapt, innovate, and change anything, including strategy. It is this kind of platform from which strategies with transitory competitive advantage can be developed and executed. The figure below shows this. It describes, in a nutshell, much of what this book is about.

Here’s how to read the figure. An organization’s culture is the foundation for phenomena leading to two of an infinite range of outcomes, track A or track B. Both can produce strategic success. But track A is a successful strategy owing little to an effective culture. The culture itself is characterized by an authoritarian management style with today’s ubiquitous mission to “be the best” at something. It may make claims to be customer-centered and emphasize employee development but it allows only limited employee voice and gives limited support for cross-boundary (read silo) cooperation.

As a result, organizations employing a track A culture can expect only moderate levels of trust with a relatively heavy reliance on controls to produce desired behaviors. That slows down decision making and execution. Employees (and, as we will see) customers are loyal only to a point.

This is a culture designed to support one strategy. It may be a strategy built around a highly successful product, an effective distribution system, or even government protection. An organization may execute the strategy very well and enjoy success. But a problem presents itself when it becomes necessary to change that strategy or to make any important change in the organization. Change is very difficult. The strong, authoritarian culture makes it difficult. Success may validate the rightness of the culture—until it doesn’t. But that success is relatively short for organizations on track A in a competitive environment that is changing faster and faster, much too fast for any change in culture needed to support a new strategy.

Compare this with the organization on track B in the figure above. It too has a strong culture, but one centered on a participative (vs. authoritarian) management style. The mission is inspirational (to change the world vs. to be the best). It is a team-oriented, employee- and customer-centered culture with an emphasis not only on employee development but also on cross-boundary cooperation and organizational learning and innovation.

The culture associated with track B fosters a high level of trust; therefore, it functions well with a heavy reliance on employee judgment (vs. more formal controls) among a group of people that is comfortable with “how and why we do things around here.”

This is a place where employees like to work and are highly engaged, leading to both employee and customer loyalty that is directly linked to growth and profitability (as the numbers will show later). This is a culture in which the leadership of change— change of any kind—is easier than most. Ease of change extends to the matter of strategy.

"That’s an interesting thing about cultures: they form with or without management intervention."

A track B culture can support a range of strategies as well as a change from one to another. It is a culture geared to the long-term success of an increasingly rapidly changing panoply of strategies in an accelerating competitive environment based on a stream of new ideas and constant change. At no time has the importance of this been driven home more than during the COVID-19 global pandemic, for which no plan could be made. Agility, not long-range planning, is the answer to hard-to-predict events. Finally, effective culture is especially important for organizations in the start-up phase of their development in which several business models or strategies may have to be tested to find the one that can provide sustained success. Repeated strategic success (and even failure for the right reasons) validates the rightness of a track B culture.

Of course, you have the option of largely ignoring issues of organizational culture. That’s an interesting thing about cultures: they form with or without management intervention. But as a leader, you ignore them at your own risk. As Ben Horowitz, founder and leader of LoudCloud, a pioneer in software as a service, put it, “If you don’t methodically set your culture, then two-thirds of it will end up being accidental, and the rest will be a mistake.”

Adapted from Win from Within by James L. Heskett. Copyright (c) 2022 James Heskett. Used by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

[Image: Unsplash/Jason Leung]

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Business Leadership Today

How to Improve Workplace Culture (11 Steps)

Matt Tenney, Author of Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process

As many of our readers know, organizational culture can make or break a business.

Because culture is the primary factor for determining how well an organization executes on every other aspect of organizational performance, continually nurturing a strong culture that values people is an ongoing challenge for leaders.

Whether recruiting top talent, keeping employees engaged, building and raising brand awareness, or inspiring an environment where innovation is the norm, organizational culture drives success. But even strong workplace cultures can always be improved upon.

Here are 11 essential steps to improve workplace culture in your organization.

Step 1: Embrace Authenticity

In our recent interview with Dave Gordon, thought leader and author of TIP: A Simple Strategy to Inspire High Performance and Lasting Success , he spoke of authenticity as one of the building blocks of culture.  

Dave says, “When you are building a culture, it’s got to be about your authenticity as a leader.”

When a leader shares their true self with their team—who they are, what they stand for, their values, their purpose, their vision for the work the organization is doing and will do in the future—this reinforces cultural alignment and demonstrates a level of transparency that is sure to build trust between employees and leadership. 

Step 2: Foster an Environment of Inclusion

One of the most important functions of embracing authenticity is that it makes employees feel more comfortable being their authentic selves at work. This relates strongly to the idea of inclusion, which is becoming increasingly important to job seekers. 

Inclusion goes beyond diversity and is also a necessary component of a diverse organization; creating an inclusive environment is essential for successfully building a diverse team.

If an organization does not provide an inclusive environment for all employees, including those employees whose backgrounds and characteristics differ from the majority of the organization’s employees, recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce becomes much more difficult.

Inclusion is a fundamental part of a healthy culture because it can improve overall diversity and employee performance. An organization that embraces inclusiveness is demonstrating a level of care for employees that makes them feel like truly valued members of the organization. 

Step 3: Build Trust Through Mentoring and Coaching

Since leaders play such a vital role in setting the tone for corporate culture and helping it develop, if employees don’t trust leadership or have weak relationships with upper management, employees will be disconnected from other aspects of culture as well.

The O.C. Tanner 2019 Global Culture Report revealed that when leaders serve as mentors, actively foster employee development, and help connect employees with meaningful opportunities, employees and leaders develop deeper connections.

When leaders move beyond simply managing and gatekeeping, to coaching their employees in their career development, the research reveals some surprising statistics:

  • 76% increase in feeling like part of a larger purpose
  • 72% increase of connecting strongly with leaders
  • 102% increase in feeling motivated
  • 320% increase in a favorable perception of their leader

As a leader, consider speaking “with employees” instead of “to employees” so they feel more appreciated, supported, and valued. Regular one-to-one meetings can provide wonderful opportunities for mentoring and coaching employees to be the best version of themselves. 

In our recent interview with author and thought leader Andrew Freedman , he discussed how useful they can be in helping leadership gauge how their employees are doing and identify areas where they may most need coaching:

Step 4: Recognize Employees for Their Contributions

Recognition is an essential component of any strong organizational culture.

It is important because it meets a core human need for both the employee and the manager. Meeting this need is a key aspect of a strong company culture because it increases job satisfaction, employee engagement and retention, and quality of work.

Successfully cultivating both appreciation and recognition is a great leadership move and yields a variety of positive results. When organizations routinely recognize the contributions of employees, it makes them feel valued and more satisfied in their jobs.

As Mike Robbins explains in a thought-provoking talk at TEDxBellevue , recognition, not just on its own, but as a part of a caring culture that values and appreciates people beyond achievements, is an important factor in employee satisfaction.

Recognition can boost engagement, lower turnover, attract better employees, help employees find meaning in their work, and reinforce positive attitudes and behaviors.

Step 5: Provide Regular Feedback

Recognizing the accomplishments of employees is an essential mechanism for ensuring a happy work environment where employees flourish. However, it’s important to ensure that praise and recognition are just part of the communication process.

Consistently providing feedback to employees, even when it isn’t about recognizing an outstanding accomplishment, is a vital part of the communication process between employees and top leadership.

Fostering a culture that is rich in feedback gives managers the information they need to measure cultural alignment and build the sort of companies they aspire to build .

In surveys , employees regularly report that they aren’t receiving enough feedback from leadership regarding their performance or career trajectory. This can hurt employee engagement.

One of the ways feedback boosts engagement is that it builds trust between leadership and employees, creating a safe, trust-based environment where employees feel that their opinions are valued and help drive decision-making.

Step 6: Communicate Expectations Clearly

Poor communication makes it difficult for employees to fully understand their roles, develop in those roles, or grow into new roles, and for organizations to identify and address issues that must be corrected for success.

Many leaders would agree that setting clear, measurable expectations is a vital part of their leadership duties and an essential part of healthy communication at every level of an organization.

However, leaders often underestimate the amount of time and work good communication can take. Too little communication or unclear expectations can cause employees to be unsure of what’s expected of them within their roles, how to excel in their work, and can hinder the collaborative efforts of teams.

To remedy this, leaders can take the initiative to guide their team members and help them thrive by providing regular communication and setting clear expectations.

In our recent interview with Libby Gill , acclaimed author of The Hope-Driven Leader: Harness the Power of Positivity at Work , we discussed the importance of leaders clearly communicating expectations—and living up to those expectations themselves.

Step 7: Offer Employees Flexibility

A hybrid working study conducted by Harvard Business Review asked over 5,000 knowledge workers around the world what they wanted from their future work arrangement. 

The results revealed that 59% of respondents feel “flexibility” is more important to them than salary or other benefits, and 77% of respondents said they would prefer to work for an organization that gives them the flexibility to work from anywhere.

Work–life imbalance can negatively impact employee sustainability and the physical and mental health and well-being of employees. 

With prolonged work-disrupting events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, providing employees with the flexibility they need to perform at their best while also successfully managing the needs of their families and personal lives becomes even more important for maintaining a good workplace culture and a high level of morale. 

Work-life balance is so important for employee success, whether an employee works on-site in an office or remotely. Organizational cultures need to support more flexibility to achieve this balance in the “new normal.”

Reexamining your organization’s culture to ensure that it is providing the kind of flexibility that will help your employees thrive is one of the most effective ways to improve workplace culture. 

Step 8: Provide the Autonomy Employees Need To Succeed

It is important to equip employees with the tools they need to succeed. One tool we’ve mentioned that employees greatly value is flexibility. Increasingly, this means the ability to work independently and with autonomy. 

With hybrid and remote work becoming not only popular but essential in many situations, flexibility by way of autonomy may be key to boosting performance and ensuring that culture doesn’t suffer. 

Employee autonomy and empowerment are vital to building a high-performing team. When employees are given the trust and encouragement to work autonomously, they can accomplish amazing things. 

Shane Green, thought leader and author of Culture Hacker offers this helpful advice to leaders:  

“I have to ask myself, ‘what is my number one role?’ If I look at any manager’s role, it’s to make sure that the people can perform every day, so the first thing is to enable them. My job is to make sure they have the right training, skills, tools, information, and support to do their job.”

Equipping employees with the tools they need to work independently sets the stage for a high-performance culture that engages employees and helps them flourish. 

If employees think and act with the knowledge that as long as a decision they make or an action they take is legal, very unlikely to destroy the organization, and is aligned with the organization’s core values, do they need to ask upper management’s permission to make the decision and take action? 

Step 9: Offer Learning and Development Opportunities

New research has shown that the second most important factor in workplace happiness for employees is the opportunity for development and that “heavy learners” are more confident, successful, and happy at work. 

Because learning is essential for employees to develop new skills and find fulfillment in their work, companies that foster a learning culture and offer development opportunities to their employees are laying the groundwork for long-term success with a team of engaged employees who do their jobs well.

We recently sat down with author Mark Sanborn to discuss how to be a good leader in the new normal, and one of the things he mentioned was how important it is to continue to grow yourself as a leader and grow your team.

Mark says, “The only way you can increase capacity is with focus and improvement, skill and knowledge improvement. When you add a new skill or improve an existing skill, you can get more done with the same amount of time available.”

Step 10: Eliminate Toxic Elements

If you notice burnout or dysfunction within your team that is hindering performance, lowering morale, and hurting trust, the positive culture you have worked so hard to build may be systematically being destroyed by toxic situations. 

In fact, toxic culture is one of the top predictors of turnover currently and a contributing factor to the Great Resignation.

Toxic work culture can adversely impact employee engagement, performance, and well-being, and is one of the main reasons many workers are experiencing job dissatisfaction and lack of engagement. 

Top leadership can ensure organizational culture stays true to a company’s mission, vision, and values by addressing toxic situations as soon as they arise so they don’t impact morale or cause irreparable damage to the positive culture leaders and their teams have worked to create.

Toxic cultures can involve harassment, microaggressions, unequal treatment of staff members, lack of inclusion, or behaviors from senior management that devalue employees and make them feel expendable. These issues can do significant damage to organizational culture.

To weather the future, it is essential for leaders to nurture the development of a culture that consistently demonstrates to employees that they are valued and vital to the success of the organization.

For this reason, leaders want to maintain cultures that are inhospitable to toxic behaviors. 

Step 11: Regularly Revisit the Mission, Vision, and Core Values

Because it is so hard to copy and affects the organization at so many levels and in so many ways, particularly where employee engagement and retention are concerned, culture can be both a company’s greatest asset and its greatest challenge to develop and maintain.

All the steps outlined here can help you develop a strong culture where employees are not only engaged but thriving. It can also help you create an organization where team members consistently perform at a high level. 

Even if you feel your organization is already nailing it culture-wise, it’s always important to check in frequently to make sure you are executing well on these steps and to determine if there are new or better ways to follow them. 

One way to do this is to revisit your organization’s mission, vision, and core values. 

The key to getting employees to buy in and be conservators of your organization’s culture is to clearly define, regularly refine, and continually reinforce the organization’s mission and vision and to continually model core values as a leader. 

Leaders should constantly fine-tune culture as part of the improvement process. This means providing what employees need to succeed but also addressing inconsistencies between cultural philosophy and daily practice that could create a less-than-engaging environment for employees.

If you are dealing with a truly dysfunctional team, it may be necessary to do a complete overhaul of your organization’s culture and revisit core values to determine where things are going wrong. 

When leaders find themselves in this situation, these steps can guide them toward improvement. Employees can also guide leaders toward identifying areas where core values need adjusting or could be better implemented. 

Matt Tenney has been working to help organizations develop leaders who improve employee engagement and performance since 2012. He is the author of three leadership books, including the groundbreaking, highly acclaimed book Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process.

Matt’s ideas have been featured in major media outlets and his clients include numerous national associations and Fortune 500 companies.

He is often invited to deliver keynote speeches at conferences and leadership meetings, and is known for delivering valuable, actionable insights in a way that is memorable and deeply inspiring.

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How to Improve Company Culture: 15 Brilliant Ideas

You found our guide on how to improve company culture .

Company culture encompasses the everyday behaviors, attitudes, and policies that affect a company’s work environment. A company builds a superb team culture through a series of choices that empowers employees to work at their best. For example, by opening up communication, starting a company culture committee or investing in team building. This process is also called “improving office culture.”

However, companies sometimes either lose track of or do not put a lot of thought into the company culture being built. In these cases, businesses may be surprised to find that the company’s culture has developed into something unintentionally toxic. These toxic team cultures can potentially interfere with your team’s productivity, and thus hurt your company’s revenue and reputation.

This article include:

  • ideas for improving workplace culture
  • how to improve workplace culture quickly
  • how to increase company culture
  • company culture examples
  • how to improve culture at work
  • how to improve organizational culture

Here we go!

Ideas to improve company culture

From creating a safe space to opening up opportunities for professional development, these ideas are all aspects of how to improve company culture.

1. Establish purpose

One of the most basic ways to improve team culture is to show what your company is about by establishing purpose.

Establishing purpose in the workplace can take the form of:

  • Posting your company mission statement
  • Circulating your company core values
  • Setting clear expectations for team members
  • Specifying project timelines
  • Holding regular all-hands meetings where departments share their progress

Clarifying your company’s focus gives your team a sense of direction to buy into and support. Knowing how individual efforts fit into the bigger picture boosts productivity and motivates employees because then team members feel their work truly matters.

You can learn about developing a purpose in business strategy books .

2. Open up communication

When communication is not forthcoming, employees can easily feel stifled or out of the loop. If your team has suggestions to boost team performance, then you should provide a space where employees can speak their mind. Similarly, if you do not communicate expectations or updates about where projects are going, team members feel disengaged, undervalued, and directionless.

Some examples of opening up communication are:

  • Being available for employees
  • Setting up an anonymous feedback system
  • Listening to feedback
  • Checking in regularly with employee one-on-ones
  • Encouraging cross-functional team collaboration

In addition to opening up communication between employees and managers, you should also encourage your team to cooperate cross-departmentally as much as possible. Your team will not only have a better idea of what coworkers do, but employees may be inspired by hearing more about different working styles or viewpoints.

You can also focus on developing team building skills .

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3. Lead by example

If you have ever heard the adage, “if you talk the talk, then you gotta walk the walk”, then you will be familiar with the ethos behind this idea to improve team culture. While successfully articulating your company values or mission statement is commendable, management needs to see these concepts through with actions for lasting change to occur.

Leading by example is crucial because it helps build employee trust toward the company. If your company professes “Level 10 integrity”, then your employees will experience a great deal of cognitive dissonance if they see management engaging in unethical behavior. This cognitive dissonance results in employee disengagement and productivity loss.

If this skill doesn’t come easily to you, then read about how to develop management skills and books on teamwork.

4. Create psychological safety

Psychological safety is when people feel comfortable being and expressing themselves. In the workplace, creating a psychologically safe environment makes the office a more pleasant place to work by letting workers feel recognized and included. Psychologically safe employees also feel emboldened to take risks and innovate without fear of retaliation in case of failure.

Some ways to create psychological safety are:

  • Institute committees for sexual harassment, underrepresented groups, and similar important initiatives.
  • Demonstrate respect for everyone, no matter their role
  • Give employees autonomy by not micromanaging
  • Enact an environment of reform, not retribution, when employees make mistakes

Introducing psychological safety uplifts your team and gives everyone an equal chance at success, while your organization benefits from increased productivity and innovation.

You can read diversity and inclusion books to learn more.

5. Schedule team building

Depending on the team culture you are building, scheduling team building games can be key to cultivating badly needed employee friendships. Through regular team building programming, your team will have opportunities to communicate informally and learn each others’ strengths.

Team building not only lightens an otherwise serious workplace environment, but the bonds that result also spur employee engagement by helping employees feel more invested in each other and the company. By making team building part of your company culture, you demonstrate that you care about employee well-being and providing a good time at work.

Adding icebreaker questions or get to know you questions to meetings can be an easy way to get started with team building too.

6. Reward excellence

When team members turn in good work, be sure to recognize achievements. Rewarding excellence encourages employees to go above and beyond and prevents team members from feeling unappreciated.

Additionally, a company that acknowledges your accomplishments builds a team culture of mutual respect by letting the rest of the team know of their coworkers’ amazing deeds. To publicly reward excellence, create a Slack channel dedicated to employee shout-outs. Our internal channel is called #you-are-awesome.

7. Encourage mentoring

To create a more open workplace, encourage mentoring among more experienced employees. Not only will mentoring engage your senior team members, but it will also pave the way for newer hires, who may benefit greatly from a mentor’s experience and connections.

This knowledge sharing signals to your team that your company values collaboration and that others in the organization are invested in professional development. Set up a mentor buddy system and pair mentors with new employees in the same department. When you instill these principles in your team, team culture will improve as employees help better each other.

Here is a list of books about mentoring at work .

By the way, you may want to recognize your mentors and boss too. Here are some Boss’s Day gift ideas .

8. Provide further learning

Similar to the previous idea, it is critical to provide learning opportunities from outside the company, as well. Bringing in knowledge from other sources forms a team culture that is inquisitive and willing to learn, which increases productivity.

Some ways you can set up opportunities for professional development are:

  • Stipends to attend industry conferences
  • Funds to help your team purchase books to further their education
  • Scholarships for team members to take online classes to pick up new skills
  • TED talk-like events where team members can share specialized knowledge
  • Invitations to bring influential speakers to the company
  • Book clubs to encourage team members to learn together

Granting these resources for further learning is an investment in your team. Not only will employees gain essential knowledge to bring back to the company, but the organization will show the desire for employees to grow and excel.

You may want to read team building books too.

9. Be transparent

For a company to be successful, create trust between employees by embracing transparency. Transparency lets employees feel comfortable, so your team is not left second guessing what management is doing or the reasoning behind decisions.

Some aspects of the company you should be transparent about are:

  • Company policies
  • Company direction
  • Management’s expectations
  • Rewards and why they occur
  • Wrongdoing and its consequences

Creating a transparent team culture enables your team to fully engage and make informed decisions at work. Greater trust also helps team members cooperate, which raises team performance.

10. Abolish problematic behavior

If you see any problematic behavior, then it is your responsibility to call it out and abolish it. You must display that this behavior is undesirable and actually leads to consequences.

While these actions may seem harsh, clearly defining what behavior is not tolerated creates boundaries and differentiates between what the company endorses and what it does not. If your company sets standards and does not follow through, then your employees will easily lose trust in management, which causes your team culture to suffer.

Ways to improve workplace culture at the office

If your team culture is due for some fine-tuning, then this procedure will help you continuously optimize and maintain your team culture.

11. Revisit your company’s core values

First, think back to your company’s roots. When your team culture gets off track, sometimes it is easy to forget about your company core values. Thus, consider what these values were and why you designated them as founding principles in the first place. Decide if these principles are still as important to you now as they were before. Re-share your core values with your team, or hold a meeting to unveil new ones. Consider asking your employees for input on company values.

Learn more about how to develop company core values .

12. Take stock of your company culture

Once you are reminded of what your company stands for, then take stock of your current team culture. Be brutally honest and determine what parts of the culture falls short of the ideal, and what parts are still working. Ask for genuine feedback from your team about what it is like to work at the company.

13. Brainstorm improvements

When you are clear about your company’s current state, call a meeting with other members of management to brainstorm improvements to redefine your company culture. During the meeting, put together a set of policies that restructures your company’s attitude towards working, the workplace, and each other.

14. Execute your plan

Now that you have formed new company policies, share them with the rest of the team and start enforcing them. If team members start acting in a way contrary to the new team culture, then hold the employees accountable and educate them on your team’s plans for evolution.

15. Ask for feedback periodically

After executing your plan, you may think that the process to improve your company culture is over. However, growth for your company does not stop with these improvements. In fact, your team culture is constantly changing with every decision you and your team makes, which means you must continually assess your team culture’s progress.

To help with your recurrent appraisals, ask for feedback from your team periodically. When your team raises areas of concern, that unease may be the first sign that your team culture is diverging and you must start the process over again.

Making the workplace a more pleasant place is an important part of being an effective leader. Thus, tweaking your team culture to make members feel more included and comfortable to work at their best is one of the top skills a manager has.

Final thoughts

Improving company culture is an important part of operating a successful business. You can and should invest in team culture because it will help improve communication, collaborating and many other factors.

Next, check out our list of team building quotes you can share to inspire team cohesion and culture.

We also have a list of ways to improve team culture virtually , a list of company culture building activities , and a list of the best company culture committee ideas .

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FAQ: Improving company culture

Interested in learning more about team culture? Here are some commonly asked questions about ways to improve team culture.

What is company culture?

Company culture comprises the attitudes, values, and conduct that teams espouse in their day-to-day operations. Team culture is important because it determines whether the workplace is an enjoyable environment for employees to thrive.

How do you build team culture?

Building team culture includes both direct and indirect elements. For example, you may build team culture by planning team building activities or by creating inside jokes. Team culture can also be affected by company values, mission and other organizational parameters.

What are the benefits of team culture?

Team culture helps groups of people coordinate and communicate better. As a result, you can expect a healthy team culture to correlate with business and revenue growth, as well as metrics like improved engagement and retention.

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Author: Jessica Chen

Content Expert at Team building content expert. Jessica has a double major in English and Asian Studies, and experience working with teams across cultures; including 3+ years in Taiwan.

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How to change organizational culture in 2024: A complete guide

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In the dynamic landscape of 2024, organizations find themselves navigating a sea of unprecedented challenges , from rapid technological advancements to the ever-evolving expectations of a diverse workforce.

Amidst this transformative environment, the significance of organizational culture stands out as a linchpin for success. The ability to adapt, innovate, and thrive hinges on an organization's capacity to create an innovative culture and not just respond to change but to shape its cultural fabric proactively.

Our blog delves into the vital question of "How to Change Organizational Culture in 2024." Cultivating a workplace culture that fosters resilience, collaboration, and continuous improvement has never been more imperative.

As businesses strive for agility and relevance, leaders must rethink traditional approaches to culture transformation. Drawing on the latest insights, strategies, and case studies, we unravel the intricacies of instigating meaningful cultural shifts.

What is cultural change in an organization?

What is cultural change in an organization?

Cultural change in an organization refers to a deliberate and significant shift in the shared values, beliefs, behaviors, and norms that define its working environment.

It is a strategic initiative aimed at reshaping the fundamental aspects of how individuals within the organization interact, collaborate, and approach their work. This transformation goes beyond superficial alterations and seeks to permeate the core of the organizational identity.

Cultural change often becomes necessary in response to external factors such as market dynamics, technological advancements, or shifts in societal expectations.

It can also arise from internal needs, such as improving employee morale, fostering innovation, or enhancing adaptability in the face of evolving challenges.

Successfully implementing cultural change involves engaging employees at all levels, aligning organizational values with strategic objectives, and fostering a shared commitment to the new cultural paradigm.

It requires effective leadership , clear communication, and a recognition that organizational change is a continuous process rather than a one-time event.

Ultimately, cultural and change management strategy is about creating an environment that supports the organization's goals, encourages positive behaviors, and enables individuals to thrive in a dynamic and ever-changing business landscape.

Why is there a need for organizational culture change?

Employees are discussing on an idea

Organizational culture change becomes necessary for various reasons, each driven by the evolving dynamics of the business model and external and internal business environment. Here are several compelling reasons why organizations often find themselves in need of cultural transformation:

Adaptation to external changes

Rapid technological advancements, shifts in market demands, and changes in industry regulations can necessitate a cultural shift to enable the organization to adapt and thrive in the new landscape.

Innovation and Creativity

To foster innovation , organizations may need a culture that encourages risk-taking, experimentation, and the free exchange of ideas. Cultural change can help break down barriers that hinder creative thinking.

Employee Morale and Engagement

A positive and supportive culture is vital for employee satisfaction and engagement . If the existing culture is causing dissatisfaction, burnout, or a lack of motivation, a change is needed to create a more conducive work environment.

Enhancing Performance and Productivity

Organizational cultures that promote accountability, collaboration, and continuous improvement can positively impact performance and productivity. A cultural change may be necessary to drive these improvements.

Mergers and acquisitions

When organizations undergo mergers or acquisitions, cultural differences between the entities involved can create challenges. Cultural change is often required to integrate diverse teams and establish a cohesive and unified culture.

Improving diversity and inclusion

As diversity and inclusion become increasingly important, organizations may need to change their culture to foster an inclusive environment that values and respects individual differences.

How do we change the culture of an organization?

Employees are working on an idea effectively

Changing the culture of an organization is a complex and multifaceted process that demands strategic planning, committed leadership, and active engagement at all levels.

First and foremost, leadership plays a pivotal role in initiating and driving cultural change. Articulating a compelling vision, aligning values with organizational goals, and fostering transparency are essential leadership components.

Communication is equally critical , as leaders must consistently convey the need for change, articulate the benefits, and address concerns.

Employee involvement is paramount. Creating a culture change task force, involving employees in decision-making processes, and soliciting feedback empower individuals and generate a sense of ownership.

Additionally, providing training programs that align with the desired culture cultivates the necessary skills and mindset. Recognizing and rewarding behaviors that exemplify the desired culture reinforces the change.

Moreover, organizational structures, policies, and procedures should be realigned to support the cultural shift. This may involve revising performance metrics, adjusting hiring criteria, and promoting inclusivity.

Over time, consistent reinforcement, adaptability, and a willingness to learn from setbacks contribute to the gradual transformation of the organizational culture.

Why is organizational culture so difficult to change?

Two employees having two different opinions

Organizational culture is inherently resistant to change due to its deeply ingrained nature and the complex web of interconnected elements that constitute it. Several factors contribute to the formidable challenge of altering organizational culture.

Firstly, culture is a product of shared beliefs , values, and behaviors that have evolved over time. This embedded nature means that cultural aspects become deeply rooted in the organizational identity, creating a sense of stability and continuity.

Attempts to change culture can be met with resistance as employees may perceive it as a threat to their familiar work environment.

Secondly, organizational culture is often upheld by established norms and social patterns. Individuals within the organization conform to these norms, creating a collective mindset that can be resistant to deviation.

Breaking away from these ingrained patterns requires a concerted effort to reshape behaviors and challenge existing paradigms.

Moreover, organizational culture is closely tied to leadership styles . If leaders are not aligned with the desired cultural change, their influence can perpetuate the existing culture, hindering transformation efforts.

Resistance from leadership or a lack of consistent messaging can create confusion and skepticism among employees.

Additionally, the interconnectedness of various cultural elements poses a challenge. Changing one aspect of culture may require simultaneous adjustments in other areas, creating a complex and interdependent web of modifications.

Lastly, cultural change often involves confronting entrenched power structures, overcoming resistance to new ideas, and addressing individual and collective fears of the unknown. This inherent resistance, combined with a natural human tendency to resist change, makes transforming organizational culture a prolonged and challenging process.

5 Challenges of managing culture change in the workplace

Employer facing challenges in the workplace

Here are the top challenges of managing culture change in the workplace.

1. Resistance to change

The most common challenge in managing culture change is resistance from employees . People may be attached to the existing culture, and fear of the unknown or concerns about the impact on their roles can lead to pushback.

Overcoming this resistance requires effective communication, transparent leadership, and involvement in the change process.

2. Inconsistent leadership alignment

Achieving consistent alignment among leadership is crucial for successful culture and change management. If leaders within the organization have conflicting views or behaviors, it can create confusion and undermine the change initiative.

Ensuring that leaders model and reinforce the desired cultural values is essential for organizational coherence.

3. Cultural fragmentation in large organizations

Large organizations often face the challenge of cultural fragmentation, where different departments or teams may have distinct subcultures.

Harmonizing these diverse cultures to create a cohesive organizational culture requires targeted interventions and a comprehensive strategy that addresses the specific needs of each unit.

4. Lack of employee involvement

Engaging employees throughout the company's culture change process is vital, but a lack of involvement can hinder success. When employees feel excluded from decision-making or insufficiently informed, they may become disengaged or resistant.

Creating avenues for open communication, feedback, and active participation helps foster a sense of ownership and commitment.

5. Short-term focus and impatience

Culture change is a long-term endeavor, and expecting immediate results can be a significant challenge. Impatience or a focus on short-term gains may lead to the abandonment of the change initiative prematurely.

Maintaining persistence, setting realistic expectations, and celebrating small victories along the way can help sustain momentum over time.

Examples of change in the organizational culture

Employees sharing their ideas with each other

Emphasis on diversity and inclusion

Organizations may recognize the importance of diversity and inclusion , leading to a cultural shift.

This involves implementing policies and practices that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as fostering a culture that values and leverages diverse perspectives. This could include training programs , mentorship initiatives, and creating an inclusive work environment.

Agile and collaborative culture

In response to the need for greater agility, organizations may transition from a hierarchical and siloed structure to an agile and collaborative culture.

This change involves adopting agile methodologies, breaking down organizational silos, and promoting cross-functional collaboration to enhance adaptability and responsiveness.

Customer-centric culture

Organizations aiming to prioritize customer satisfaction may undergo a cultural shift towards becoming more customer-centric.

This change involves instilling a customer-focused mindset across all levels, implementing customer feedback mechanisms, and aligning business processes to better meet customer needs and expectations.

Shift towards innovation and risk-taking

In response to industry changes and a desire for increased innovation, an organization's culture might transition from a risk-averse culture to one that encourages experimentation and calculated risk-taking.

This change could involve initiatives such as dedicated innovation programs , fostering a culture of learning from failures, and rewarding creative problem-solving.

6 Solutions for managing organizational culture

Employees making sure the idea they came up is clear

By implementing the following solutions in a coordinated manner, tailored to the organization's specific context, can significantly contribute to successfully managing cultural change.

1. Leadership commitment and alignment

Strong leadership commitment is crucial for managing organizational and culture shifts. Leaders should articulate a clear vision, align their behaviors with desired cultural values, and consistently communicate the importance of cultural change. When leaders actively champion the change, it sets the tone for the entire organization.

2. Employee involvement and engagement

Involving employees in the cultural change process is essential. Organizations can create cross-functional teams or task forces dedicated to driving the change. Soliciting input, feedback , and ideas from employees fosters a sense of ownership and increases commitment to the new culture.

3. Clear communication and transparency

Open and transparent communication is key to managing cultural change. Leaders should communicate the reasons for the change, its expected impact, and the steps involved. Regular updates, town hall meetings, and accessible communication channels help address concerns and build trust among employees.

4. Training and skill development

Providing training programs that align with the desired culture helps employees develop the skills and competencies needed for the change. This may include workshops, seminars, or online courses focusing on areas such as collaboration, adaptability, and leadership skills that support the new cultural and management paradigm.

5. Rewards and recognition

Aligning rewards and recognition systems with the desired cultural values reinforces the change. Acknowledging and celebrating behaviors that exemplify the new culture encourages employees to embrace and embody the desired company values. This can include both formal recognition programs and informal acknowledgment.

6. Adapting policies and procedures

Organizational policies and procedures should be realigned to support cultural change. This may involve revising performance metrics, updating HR policies, and integrating the new cultural values into decision-making processes. Ensuring consistency between stated core values and day-to-day practices is crucial for sustained change.

Motivating employees to accept company culture

Employees are feeling motivated in the workplace

Motivating employees to accept and integrate into a new company culture starts with transparent communication. Clearly conveying the purpose, benefits, and anticipated impact of the cultural change fosters understanding. Leadership must lead by example, embodying the values and behaviors expected from employees.

Their commitment and consistent demonstration of the desired cultural traits create a compelling narrative for others to follow. Actively involving employees in the change process, seeking their input, and recognizing their contributions reinforces a sense of ownership.

Additionally, aligning rewards and recognition systems with the new cultural values provides tangible incentives for employees to embrace the evolving and changing company culture itself.

Employee survey questions to ask employees before changing organizational culture

Employee survey questions to ask employees before changing organizational culture

Conducting an employee survey before changing organizational culture is crucial for understanding current perceptions and identifying areas for improvement. Here are sample questions to include in such a survey:

  • How would you describe our current organizational culture?
  • What values or behaviors do you believe are currently emphasized or de-emphasized in our workplace?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how engaged do you feel in your work and the overall organization?
  • What aspects of your job contribute most to your sense of engagement?
  • How would you rate the effectiveness of our current leadership in fostering a positive work culture?
  • Do you feel that leaders exemplify the values they communicate?
  • How would you rate the transparency of communication within the organization?
  • Do you feel well-informed about organizational decisions and changes?
  • To what extent do you feel a sense of collaboration and teamwork in your department or team?
  • Are there any barriers to effective collaboration that you perceive?
  • How would you rate your current work-life balance?
  • Are there aspects of our culture that you believe contribute positively or negatively to work-life balance?
  • Do you feel adequately recognized and appreciated for your contributions?
  • How effective is our current feedback system in helping you grow and improve?
  • How inclusive do you perceive our workplace to be?
  • Are there any diversity and inclusion initiatives or practices that you believe could be improved?
  • How comfortable do you feel with the pace of change within the organization?
  • Are there specific changes you would suggest to improve our adaptability?
  • What specific changes or initiatives would you recommend to enhance our organizational culture?
  • Are there any additional comments or concerns you would like to share?

Navigating successful organizational culture change requires a thoughtful and inclusive approach. Employee feedback, transparent communication, and leadership commitment are paramount.

By understanding current perceptions and addressing concerns, organizations can foster a positive and adaptive culture that aligns with strategic goals and propels sustained success.


Santhosh is a Jr. Product Marketer with 2+ years of experience. He loves to travel solo (though he doesn’t label them as vacations, they are) to explore, meet people, and learn new stories.

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Understanding organisational culture for healthcare quality improvement

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  • Related content
  • Peer review
  • Russell Mannion , professor 1 ,
  • Huw Davies , professor 2
  • 1 Health Services Management Centre, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  • 2 School of Management, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, UK
  • Correspondence to: R Mannion r.mannion{at}

Russell Mannion and Huw Davies explore how notions of culture relate to service performance, quality, safety, and improvement

Key messages

Organisational culture represents the shared ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving in healthcare organisations.

Healthcare organisations are best viewed as comprising multiple subcultures, which may be driving forces for change or may undermine quality improvement initiatives

A growing body of evidence links cultures and quality, but we need a more nuanced and sophisticated understandings of cultural dynamics

Although culture is often identified as the primary culprit in healthcare scandals, with cultural reform required to remedy failings, such simplistic diagnoses and prescriptions lack depth and specificity

If we believe the headlines, health services are suffering epidemics of cultural shortcomings. Extensive enquiries into failures and scandals in the NHS over several decades have indicated aspects of hospital culture as leading to those failings . ( box 1 ). 1 2 The recent report into over 450 premature deaths at Gosport War Memorial Hospital mentions culture 21 times. 3 After such reports, widespread and fundamental cultural change is typically prescribed as the remedy ( box 1 ). 4 5

Centrality of culture to healthcare scandals: from Kennedy to Francis

From Ian Kennedy’s review of the failings in paediatric cardiac surgery in Bristol during the 1980s and 90s 2 to Robert Francis’s inquiry into the systemic failings at Mid Staffordshire Hospital Trust over a decade later, 1 culture has been implicated.

Culture as culprit

“There was an insular ‘club’ culture [at Bristol], in which it was difficult for anyone to stand out, to press for change, or to raise questions and concerns” (p302) 2

“Aspects of a negative culture have emerged at all levels of the NHS system. These include: a lack of consideration of risks to patients, defensiveness, looking inwards not outwards, secrecy, misplaced assumptions of trust, acceptance of poor standards, and, above all, a failure to put the patient first in everything done” (p2357) 1

Culture as remedy

“The culture of healthcare, which so critically affects all other aspects of the service which patients receive, must develop and change” (p277) 2

“The extent of the failure of the system shown in this inquiry’s report suggests that a fundamental culture change is needed” (p65) 1

Ideas of culture are also central to quality improvement methods. From basic clinical audit to sustained improvement “collaboratives,” business process re-engineering, Lean Six Sigma, the need for cultural reorientation is part of the challenge. 6 Yet although the language of organisational culture—sometimes culprit, sometimes remedy, and always part of the underlying substrate at which change is directed—has some immediate appeal, we should ask deeper questions. What actually is culture in health services? How does culture relate to healthcare quality, safety, and performance? And can changing culture lead to improvements in care and organisational performance?

Greater specificity around both culture and performance enables us to understand more precisely the possible relations between them: quality improvement work is ill served by broadbrush accounts of culture and service quality. We seek to move past the use of culture as simply a rhetorical tool used by politicians and in policy edicts. Instead, we outline a more nuanced account of the social dynamics of healthcare services.

What is culture in this context?

Healthcare organisational culture (from here, just culture) is a metaphor for some of the softer, less visible, aspects of health service organisations and how these become manifest in patterns of care. The study of organisational practices derives from social anthropologists’ approaches to the study of indigenous people: both seek to unravel the dynamics of unfamiliar “tribes.” The view that culture can be managed to remedy past deficits and produce desirable future outcomes is often smuggled in through this re-application of the ideas of culture to organisations. This view needs some critical scrutiny, 5 one that explores a more nuanced account of organisational culture in healthcare.

In one common framing, 7 the shared aspects of organisational life—the culture—are categorised as three (increasingly obscured) layers ( box 2 ). First, and most visible, are the physical artefacts and arrangements, as well as the associated behaviours that get things done. These visible manifestations of culture are seen in how estate, equipment, and staff are configured and used, and in the range of behaviours seen as normal and acceptable. These include the embedded and accepted care pathways, clinical practices, and communication patterns, sometimes referred to as “the way things are done around here.”

Three levels of organisational culture in healthcare 7 8

Visible manifestations of healthcare culture include the distribution of services and roles between service organisations (such as the long established divides between secondary and primary care and between health and social care), the physical layouts of facilities (receptionists behind desks and doctors in consulting rooms), the established pathways through care (including the ubiquitous outpatients appointment), demarcation between staff groups in activities performed (and the tussles that challenge or reinforce these), staffing practices and reporting arrangements, dress codes (such as different coloured scrubs for different staff groups in emergency departments), reward systems (pay and pensions, but also the less tangible rewards of autonomy and respect), and the local rituals and ceremonies that support approved practices. Visible manifestations of culture (sometimes called artefacts) also include the established ways (both formal and informal) of tackling quality improvement and patient safety, the management of risk, and the accepted ways of responding to staff concerns and patient feedback or complaints.

Shared ways of thinking include the values and beliefs used to justify and sustain the visible manifestations above and their associated behaviours, as well as the rationales put forward for doing things differently. This might include prevailing views on patient needs, autonomy, and dignity; ideas about evidence for action; and expectations about safety, quality, clinical performance, and service improvement.

Deeper shared assumptions are the (largely unconscious and unexamined) underpinnings of day-to-day practice. These might include ideas about appropriate professional roles and delineations; expectations about patients’ and carers’ knowledge and dispositions; and assumptions about the relative power of healthcare professionals—collectively and individually—in the health system.

The second level is the shared ways of thinking that are used to justify the visible manifestations ( box 2 ). This includes the beliefs, values, and arguments used to sustain current patterns of clinical practice. In this way, the local clinical culture is expressed not only through what is done, but also how it is talked about and justified.

Deeper still, and thus much less overt and accessible, are the largely unspoken and often unconscious expectations and presuppositions that underpin both dialogue and clinical practice (the shared assumptions; box 2 ). Such attitudes may be formed early, go deep, and be less amenable to modification.

These three levels are linked, of course, but not simply. Some of the deeper values and assumptions are taught in early professional education (the so-called hidden curriculum), reinforced through ongoing professional interactions, and then made visible as accepted practices. Other cultural manifestations are created or shaped externally, perhaps by the macro policy environment (for example, service configurations or reward systems), but over time these can influence shared ways of thinking and even deeper assumptions (about who or what is valued, for example). As healthcare becomes more global, with regular movement of care staff across national borders, major shapers of the cultural aspects of care may also include national, ethnic, or religious cultures.

Organisational culture, then, covers how things are arranged and accomplished, as well as how they are talked about and justified—that is, the stories and narratives about what is done and why, and the presuppositions that underpin these. Taken together these can reflect a shared and commonly understood view of hospital life manifested in patterns of care, safety, and risk. Although we focus on the hospital environment here, these arrangements and narratives are found (albeit in different forms) across all healthcare organisations from general practices to community trusts. Those wishing and situated to improve services need a sophisticated understanding of the social dynamics and shared mental schema that underpin and reinforce existing practices and inform their readiness to change.

An important additional layer of complexity is that shared mental schema may be confined to subgroups within care services, with important implications for patient experience and service delivery.

One culture or many subcultures?

Healthcare organisations are notoriously varied, fractured by specialty, occupational groupings, professional hierarchies, and service lines. Some cultural attributes might be widespread and stable, whereas others may be shared only in subgroups or held only tentatively. Important subcultures are delineated most obviously, as professional groups, and the faultlines are most obvious as these groups compete for resources and status. 9 Other subcultures can emerge over time. Some staff groupings may excel at articulating and enacting desirable values and practices, which may be helpful to organisational goals; for example, specialist teams or centres of excellence. Less helpfully perhaps, other subgroups may actively work to undermine changes promoted from external sources (often construed as countercultures). Whether such countercultures reflect unwarranted resistance to change or a more appropriate defence of enduring values may be hard to discern and depends on both perspective and context.

Hospitals, then, are a dynamic cultural mosaic made up of multiple, complex, and overlapping subgroups with variably shared assumptions, values, beliefs, and behaviours. Two of the major professional groupings concerned with quality improvement—doctors and managers—may differ in several important ways, for example. Doctors may focus on patients as individuals rather than groups and view evidence through a positivist natural sciences lens. Managers may be more concerned with patients as groups and value a social science based experiential perspective. 10 These cultural divergences have important implications for collaborative work, especially for people in hybrid roles who may either retain a cultural allegiance to their base group or seek to adopt the cultural orientations of their new role. They also form an important target for purposeful cultural reform, which might sometimes seek to strengthen current trends or at other times to inhibit them.

In sum, specific subcultures may be powerful catalysts for innovation and improvement or defenders of the status quo (for good or ill); they can be useful safeguards against risk or covert countercultures quietly undermining necessary reforms. Making sense of this subcultural diversity should be an essential part of any cultural “diagnosis” in seeking quality improvement.

Can culture be assessed and managed?

There are two distinctive views of culture. The first is optimistic about the potential for purposive cultural management, seeing culture as something that an organisation has— an attribute that can be assessed and manipulated to improve care. By contrast, the second view is more concerned with securing insights about organisational dynamics, without focusing on whether they can be manipulated. It sees organisational culture as something the organisation simply is — an account of local dynamics not readily separable from the organisational here-and-now.

These two perspectives take us down different routes of assessing and managing local healthcare cultures. The first emphasises the use of metrics to assess the prevalent organisational culture around a performance domain, such as patient safety. This approach assumes that a strong “safety culture” is associated with better outcomes for patients. Such measures may identify targets for managed change, and repeated measurement may be used to gauge progress against cultural objectives, with the hope that improvements in care will follow (for example, the Safety Attitude Questionnaire; box 3 ). Many such tools exist to assess different aspects of culture, although the science behind them is often weak 11 and their reliability and validity are questionable. 12

Two examples of culture assessment tools directed at patient safety

The Safety Attitude Questionnaire (SAQ) is a major (quantitative) assessment tool developed in the United States and widely used in the NHS to help organisations assess their safety culture and track changes over time. The SAQ is a reworking and refinement of a similar tool widely used in the aviation industry. There are various versions of the SAQ, but these typically comprise some 60 survey items, designed in the form of five point Likert scales, in six safety related domains: safety climate; team work; stress recognition; perceptions of management; working conditions; and job satisfaction. Completed by individuals, scores are then aggregated to give an indication of the overall strength of the organisation’s extant safety culture.

The Manchester Patient Safety Framework is a facilitative (qualitative) educational tool. It aims to provide insight into safety culture and how it can be improved among teams and organisations. The tool explores nine dimensions of patient safety and describes what an organisation would look like at different levels of patient safety. Assessment is carried out in facilitator-led workshops, and the assessments can be used to prompt reflections, stimulate discussions, and understand strengths and weaknesses.

The second view seeks to explore local cultural dynamics, often working through dialogue and perhaps using images and narratives rather than measurement instruments. This view is more modest about the potential for manager-led purposeful change but may still see cultural assessment as part of an overall influencing strategy (for example, the Manchester Patient Safety Framework; box 3 ).

Although both perspectives draw on assessment tools, they do so for different reasons: the first emphasising quantitative measurement to identify targets for change and to track progress (a summative approach); the second using qualitative insights more discursively to prompt reflection, learning, and shared actions (a more formative strategy). In practice, many researchers, organisational leaders, and quality improvement specialists will seek insights from across these approaches, despite the (at times uncomfortable) accommodations needed between their divergent assumptions.

Does culture matter?

It seems obvious that the shared, cultural aspects of organisational life must have some bearing on organisational outcomes. Yet because of the complexity of healthcare cultures and the ambiguity around health service “success,” establishing such links through research is not easy. 13 Nonetheless, the most recent systematic review of work in this area found a “consistently positive association . . . between culture and outcomes across multiple studies, settings, and countries.” 14 So, culture does seem to matter. Individual studies can also offer important actionable insights, such as on the importance of leadership, the need for balanced cultures, and on the contingent nature of the relationships between culture and performance ( box 4 ).

Insights from empirical study of the links between culture and care

The importance of leadership.

A recent intervention study (Leadership Saves Lives) focused on leadership actions to promote positive changes in organisational culture in 10 hospitals in the US. It found that changes in culture over a two year period varied substantially between hospitals. 15 16 In the hospitals that experienced substantial and positive cultural shifts, changes were most prominent in specific domains, such as perceptions of the learning environment, senior management support, and psychological safety. Hospitals with marked positive shifts in culture also experienced significant decreases in risk-standardised mortality rates (in this case for treatment of acute myocardial infarction). These findings from the US show which elements of culture need attention from hospital leaders—in particular, fostering a learning environment, offering sustained and visible senior management support to clinical teams, and ensuring that staff across the organisation feel “psychologically safe” and able to speak up when things are felt to be going wrong.

The need for balanced cultures

Research has shown that, in addition to cultural types, the balance between different cultures is important. Shortell, for example, found that, in a sample of chronic illness management teams, balance among team members relating to the cultural values of participation, achievement, openness to innovation, and adherence to rules and accountability was positively associated with both the number and depth of changes aimed at improving the quality of care. 17

The appearance of contingent relationships

The research indicates that there is no single “best” culture that always leads to success across the full range of performance domains. Instead, the aspects of performance valued in a given culture are enhanced in organisations with strong congruence with that culture. Early studies in Canadian, UK, and US hospitals found, for example, that hospitals with inwardly oriented cultures that emphasised managing through informal interpersonal relationships performed significantly above average on measures of employee loyalty and commitment than those with outward looking cultures. 18 Conversely, hospitals with outward looking cultures and procedural management performed better on measures of external stakeholder satisfaction. More recently, large scale longitudinal research in English NHS hospital trusts 19 replicated some of these findings.

The influence of the wider organisational environment

A qualitative case study of six NHS hospitals found clear differences in the cultural profile of “high” and “low” performing hospitals in terms of: leadership style and management orientation; accountability and information systems; human resource policies; and relations with other organisations in the local health economy. 20 Each of these provides potentially important targets for purposeful cultural change aimed at performance improvement.

Clearly, the relations between culture and quality, safety, or efficiency are unlikely to be straightforward. Culture, although important, offers no “magic bullet”—the challenge becomes one of understanding which components of culture might influence which aspects of performance.

Moreover, any relations between culture and health service outcomes are likely to be mutual and recursive: that is, perceived performance is as likely to shape local healthcare cultures as culture is to shape local healthcare performance. Virtuous circles of high performance leading to reinforcing cultures of high expectations may be seen, as can spirals into decline where perceived performance failings lead to demoralisation and resignation to those poor standards. 20 In these arguments, we can see how narrative practices about performance can have important effects on local cultures and that this has implications for clinician leaders, managers, and policy makers in how they talk about and manage performance and improvement.


Too often the term culture is used as a metaphor for something the organisation is thought to have. But acknowledging that culture is a complex construct can allow more judicious application of the concept. Paying greater attention to the multilayered and multifaceted complexity underlying the term—and recognising that many and varied cultural subgroups make up our healthcare organisations—opens new avenues for understanding the deeply social and discursive nature of complex organisations.

How these insights are used in quality improvement depends on both other conceptual framings of the healthcare setting, the aspect of service quality or performance to be improved, and on the precise nature of the quality improvement methods to be used. 6 For some framings and improvement methods, culture is key; for others, cultural aspects are in the background. Our view is that the cultural dimensions of organisations are an important substrate on which improvement focused change is being sought and that, although never fully manageable, cultures can be better understood and must be purposefully shaped.

Finally, the cultural framing of healthcare organisations draws attention to specific aspects of organisational life: the shared patterns of feeling, thinking, talking, and accomplishing that underpin local practice. In doing so, other equally important aspects of organisational life may be marginalised or neglected, such as individual skill, attitude, and responsibility; governance and performance management arrangements; the macro structural arrangements within which local service lines are embedded; the incentives spread across the system; and the availability of material resources, human capital, and knowledge. Each of these aspects interacts with and can sometimes overwhelm cultural features, with a resultant effect on the ability to shape and improve culture and services. The choice to focus improvement efforts on healthcare culture to the exclusion of, say, policy frameworks or resource constraints, inevitably has political ramifications, and these should be dealt with rather than ignored. Cultural reform in healthcare is no substitute for adequate resourcing. That said, the cultural perspective outlined here provides an insightful way of thinking and a practical set of tools to support wider quality improvement work in healthcare.

Competing interests: None declared.

Provenance and peer review: Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

This article is one of a series commissioned by The BMJ based on ideas generated by a joint editorial group with members from the Health Foundation and The BMJ , including a patient/carer. The BMJ retained full editorial control over external peer review, editing, and publication. Open access fees and The BMJ ’s quality improvement editor post are funded by the Health Foundation.

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See: .

  • ↵ Francis R. The Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust public inquiry. 2013.
  • ↵ Kennedy I. The Report of the Public Inquiry into children’s heart surgery at the Bristol Royal Infirmary 1984-1995. Learning from Bristol. 2001.
  • ↵ Gosport Independent Panel. Gosport War Memorial Hospital: the report of the Gosport independent panel. 2018.
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The “Trade in the Digital Era” interactive training course is available from the WTO e-Learning platform , one of the key capacity-building programmes provided to WTO members and observers by the WTO's Institute for Training and Technical  Cooperation.

“The move to digital trade gives developing economies opportunities to leap forward and some have done so with mobile payment and banking solutions,” said DG Okonjo-Iweala. “To do so, however, access to modern information and communication technologies is not enough. They require a deep understanding of the digital trade landscape, its opportunities, challenges, and the role of policies and trade rules.” Her full video message can be found here.

Designed for trade government officials, policymakers and the public at large, this new series provides essential tools and concepts for improving participants' knowledge of digital trade. It will comprise a total of five courses, to be rolled out consecutively over the coming months. The first course gives a general overview of how the digital revolution is transforming trade, as well as the benefits and challenges of the digital economy.

Topics covered by the four other courses will include policy issues and WTO rules and discussions, the role of new technologies in international trade, especially artificial intelligence and blockchain, and provisions in members' regional trade agreements that relate to trade and the digital economy.

Also speaking at the launch ceremony was WTO Deputy Director-General Xiangchen Zhang who stated: “During the 13th Ministerial Conference, many of you expressed concerns about the digital divide and the need to build developing economies' capacities so that they may seize the benefits of digital trade. The WTO Secretariat is well aware of these challenges, which is why we have been stepping up our technical assistance activities related to digital trade to help bridge the digital trade gap between WTO members.”

Rwanda's WTO Ambassador, James Ngango, said: “I sincerely hope that this capacity-building opportunity will attract many participants from across regions and contribute to further unlocking the potential of digital trade.”

Singapore's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the WTO, Hung Seng Tan, said: “Singapore recognises the critical importance of capacity-building and sharing of technical knowledge on digital trade for developing and least-developed country  members. Singapore is committed to continue working with partners, including the WTO, to deliver on the development dimension of digital trade.”

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Ways to Improve the Performance of an Organization Essay

Introduction, case review, works cited.

An organization is a social arrangement of a group of people who are unified under a given objective. An organization therefore involves activities that are geared towards its goals and whose results can be used to rate the performance of that particular organization.

This paper seeks to investigate ways in which a management can improve the performance of an organization. The paper will look into a case review and use it to illustrate ways in which a manager can enhance the performance of an organization.

Improvements in organizational management are identified to follow adoption of certain methods of administration. Whether in government ministries or in private sectors, the overall structure of an organization together with the capacities of the individuals given the task to manage such an organization plays a crucial role in the level of performance that the organization registers.

It is for this reason that recommendation is made for the management duties of an organization to be delegated to individual technocrats that include specialists. The identified individuals are then incorporated into the organization as board of directors to oversee and control the operations of the organization.

An established board of directors is then mandated to formulate policies for the organization and subsequently monitor the implementation of such policies to ensure that performance of individual employees and that of the organization as a whole is improved. This is attained in two stages.

The first stage involves the outlaying of goals and specified strategies to attaining those goals while the second stage is concerned with the actual administration into the attainment of the set objectives.

At this level, the board makes provisions for management and defines rules that guide operations in the organization. Such regulations are the guidelines into the desired improvement in performance (Case Study 2).

In their operations, the board of directors of an organizations, which is the executive arm of the organization, determines feasibilities of proposed programs through extensive consultations with experts and determines the best approaches for implementation of approved programs.

The directors are in addition supposed to have continuous forums with experts for suggestions and opinions. The adoption of this form of administration will save an organization from lack of or disrupted continuity that will consequently affect the level of performance; such disruptions are witnessed when the administration is centered on an individual person (Case Study 2).

The basis of success of any organization is its investment to “strategic thinking” which is then relayed to different departments in an organization’s structure. It is the strategic thinking in an organization that will determine its culture and hence its performance level.

An organization’s main plan that defines operations in the entity will, for example, align the organization into a given performance level. Elements such as monitoring and evaluation of an organization’s activities and structuring the organization into teams are also tools to checking on the performance (HVS 16).

According to Swanson and Richard, the main step to improving an organization’s performance is the analysis of elements of the organization such as its culture, employees, machineries and improvement trends among others.

Once such analysis has been undertaken, appropriate measures are taken depending on the organization’s administrative structure to ensure that appropriate measures are implemented for the attainment of desired performance goals (Swanson 400).

Improving an organization’s performance calls for the existence of an efficient management system that can make informed decisions regarding operations and management. A continuous such management can be ensured by an established board of directors that forms a continuous administrative system contrary to a management system that is centered on individuals.

Case Study. Management . Case Study, n.d. Class Notes. Print.

HVS. Improving organizational performance . HVS, 2001. Web.

Swanson, Richard. Analysis for Improving Performance: Tools for Diagnosing Organizations and Documenting Workplace Expertise: Easyread Large Edition . San Francisco, CA: Cengage, 2009. Print.

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