Cultural transformation can be understood as the act, the effect or the way of cultivating something, but also as the complex pattern of behaviours of the institutions, the artistic manifestations, the beliefs, among others, that are collectively transmitted and that are typical of society. In companies, it’s not much different: Because organisations also function as a social system, every company has a culture.

The premise is so true that by searching Google for “companies with a strong organisational culture,” you will not only know who made the cultural transformation but also look at some examples that worked: WestPac Group, PwC Australia and Amazon are widespread cases across the network.

These companies realised that organisational culture is one of the most important assets and only exists through the experience of their employees. Thus, an organisation with a strong culture is more likely to hire, engage and retain talent, and act as a driver for business growth.

However, investing in a motivational quotes board and creating a fun environment is not enough. There is a lot of work between leisure and developing a company where employees feel part of the business. 

Mindset change is key to promoting cultural transformation

There is no shortcut to cultural transformation, but the good news is that it’s significantly easier with the buy-in of top-level management. 

Digital businesses that were born with flat hierarchies and with the purpose of fostering a collaborative and creative environment are easier to promote change. However, if the organisation is part of a more traditional marketplace that is planning to go through a cultural transformation inspired by exponentially growing startups, it is necessary to assess whether the leaders are prepared to leave the current structure.

Some points to analyse:

  • Is the company flexible enough to embrace change?
  • Is management prepared to take risks?
  • Is cultural transformation already on the company’s agenda?
  • For those who want to invest in a cultural transformation to begin the process of digital change, is this realistic for the entire organisation or just a few departments?

Questions such as these are pertinent because more traditional and established companies have grown to focus on cost control and operational efficiency through a culture based on trust and excellence in delivering products or services. For this workflow to work, processes were stable, consistent and predictable. However, those who are threatened by digital disruption already understand that there is no digital transformation without innovation and that it is essential to move the culture.

Digitalisation goes against traditional ways of working

Innovation, cultural and digital change involves transformations of mindset and breaking paradigms. It is also about taking some risks that would put any manager who operates with the security of “this has always worked” on alert. There are even those who invest in a new initiative, but when the sensation of newness passes and the activities enter the company process, it is not uncommon for the behaviours of the old culture to arise—after all, it always worked that way!

This is why companies that are in the advanced digitalisation stage have bolder organisational cultures. Here, employees take more risks with less bureaucracy, are willing to collaborate with each other and deliver the best product and/or service in the shortest possible time. All without losing sight of customer or user satisfaction.

But can something that is heavily rooted in the heart of the company change? The first step is to invest in communication. Leadership responsible for orchestrating cultural change needs to be transparent in explaining the current stage, talking about digital transformation, and highlighting the disadvantages of remaining in the comfort zone. 

The second step is to present a purpose. Including this purpose in the company’s value proposition and connecting it with employees is a strategic way to not only foster the organisation’s culture but also use it as a competitive differentiator. Recent research has shown that Australians prefer to buy from brands that defend purposes aligned with their personal values. Thus, communicating positioning beyond the organisation’s walls positively influences the buyer’s decision.

The importance of digital transformation

Of course, digital transformation goes through several other steps: rethinking the business model, adopting new technologies, adding differentials in products and/or services, among others. However, all these steps are only possible after cultural transformation and investment in team development. 

Below are some tips for promoting change in the mindset of the organisation:

  • Put customer needs first within the business.
  • Invest in employee training.
  • Create a data-based culture.
  • Foster a collaborative environment where information is freely shared.
  • Ensure that this information is available.
  • Develop a high-performance, action-oriented and agile team.
  • Foster a learning culture in which, in addition to training, it is important for team members to learn from each other.
  • Align and realign expectations as needed. This nurtures confidence!
  • Remember to ensure that communication is clear, simple and transparent.

It is emphasised once again that promoting a cultural transformation is not so simple. However, it is easier to change collective behaviour than an individual one. This is precisely why communication is the first step in this endeavour. Consider creating biweekly or monthly team meetings to align expectations, present data, and share a purpose.

A strong sense of purpose, when shared, can reduce obstacles and inspire new behaviours. Is your company ready for cultural change? Leave your opinion in the comments!

Maria Augusta Orofino

Maria Augusta Orofino is a speaker and facilitator of business workshops. She shares knowledge and co-creates solutions with businesses to positively impact the results of digital and cultural transformation. Maria has already trained more than 10,000 people in the last eight years. TEDx Speaker. Co-author of the books “Business Model You” and “Visual Tools for Strategists”.

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