Culture change consultants haven’t been a part of American corporate culture for very long. But they have become more prevalent as businesses understand the incredible importance of organizational culture for achieving and maintaining success.
A strong culture is built on strong, sustained values.
Every company will go through trying times. When a company grows rapidly, for example, the environment can change seemingly overnight. But change doesn’t have to come at the expense of a great corporate culture, and many companies undergo change while keeping the underlying cultural foundation intact.
Sometimes, however, negative cultural changes become entrenched. The results of entrenched cultural problems include higher employee turnover, lower employee engagement, poorer customer service, strained relationships with suppliers, and a less impressive bottom line.
How to Identify Systemic Cultural Problems
Systemic cultural problems can show up in subtle ways, and positive cultures show a consistency that negative cultures don’t. For example, in a company with a problematic culture, frontline employees may act completely different when engaged in their everyday work than they do when the CEO stops by for a chat.
Likewise, a company with cultural problems may demonstrate poor customer service, except for the month when they are required to ask customers to complete customer surveys when they know customer feedback will be scrutinized.
Complacency is another subtle sign of cultural problems. When leaders tacitly conclude that the company has “made it” based on its great cultural reputation, it can be too easy to coast along and stop paying attention to culture. Maintaining an outstanding culture is a project with no endpoint.
What to Expect from a Culture Change Consultant
A culture change consultant should make their own independent evaluation of company culture. They should also understand key performance indicators like the level of employee turnover, hiring trends, and revenue trends.
Culture change consultants must present a clear portrait of current culture and show where weaknesses exist. They should show how these weaknesses affect performance and (with the help of leaders and front-line employees) develop goals for addressing each one of them.
Culture change consultants should provide assessments, actionable plans, and ways to measure success.
As change takes place, culture change consultants must track the changes and the effects they have. And before leaving, consultants must create an actionable plan for the company so they can maintain momentum and continue to improve culture.
The Key to Maintaining Positive Cultural Change
I have said it many times before: leadership is the single most important influence on company culture. When leaders express certain cultural goals and then act in opposition to them, everyone notices. Leaders must walk the talk. Without buy-in at the top levels of leadership, culture change consultants cannot help companies get lasting results.
Every leader must understand the importance of corporate culture, and how it is a living entity. Manifestations of culture may evolve over time, but the values on which they’re built remain constant. Culture change can be disconcerting because change, in general, is disconcerting. But the efforts leaders, culture change consultants, and front-line employees make to strengthen and improve culture affect everything from how happy people are to come to work every day to the profits that show up in the quarterly reports.
It’s not easy to know whether your company is experiencing a temporary cultural strain or whether it’s in the grips of more systemic problems. The difference is that the temporary strains tend to go away once the hiring push, relocation or other stressor is over. Systemic changes persist despite pep talks and reassurances, and if they’re not addressed, they can lead to expensive problems like increased employee turnover.
Corporate culture is far more than just a popular buzzword. It has always existed, but it hasn’t been until recent decades that companies realized just how important it is to company success. Companies that pay attention to culture have integrity. They strive to make sure that core values are practiced and represented at every level and that those values don’t go away when changes are necessary. If you would like to learn more, I invite you to explore my corporate culture transformation advisory services.