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18 steps to renovate your workplace culture

Corporate Productivity Institute CEO shares blueprint for improving culture

kevin-oakes-culture-renovation


As we emerge from the pandemic, which incinerated many companies, better cultures appear to be rising from the ashes.

In a recent survey by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), CEO Kevin Oakes said 75% reported:

  • Yes, their company culture had changed in a positive way.

Empathy's increased, he told delegates of Growth Faculty’s Culture Renovation masterclass.

“We got to see more of the lives of our colleagues. We met their pets! We sometimes met their parents!” he said.  

Here, in our series of articles on good leadership, we meet our future selves...fresh from our culture renovation.

 

Importance of culture

Culture is a corporate asset, according to The National Association of Corporate Directors. 

It writes: Oversight of corporate culture should be among the top governance imperatives for every board regardless of its size or sector.

Kevin quotes Amazon board member and board counsellor Jamie Gorelick:

“My clients – corporate boards – want to know if they’re sitting on quicksand. They want to know how well their companies are run, and what the spirit of the people is…”


Find the flaws and get renovating

Healthy cultures are usually the cause of a great company, not the result, explains Kevin.

While he does recommend companies develop a “Kill the company” committee tasked with finding the flaws in your business model (to head off budding competitors); it’s renovation that he recommends for most cultures.

 

The CEO needs to be the culture champion.

Kevin’s research shows only 15% of culture change efforts are viewed as highly or very highly successful. 

But Microsoft’s successful culture renovation under Satya Nadella is a rare success story. Core to his success is an emphasis on learning.

It apparently stemmed from reading Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, a gift from his wife.

“I want a culture of learn-it-alls, not know-it-alls,” Satya Nadella explained early on. 


Blueprint for action

Studying successful companies like Microsoft led i4cp to develop Culture Renovation: A Blueprint for action.

There are three renovation-appropriate section headings:

·       Plan

·       Build

·       Maintain

…and 18 steps to get there.

 

PLAN PHASE

1.     Develop and deploy a comprehensive listening strategy.

·       This helped John Legere, the former T-Mobile CEO, reshape the company’s culture to become a "rebel". He listens to employees and customers ("I have a special line on my office phone so that I can instantly listen in on customer service calls without anyone’s knowing", "When I sit in meetings at headquarters, I know what’s going on outside, because people are constantly tweeting to me." - HBR)

2.     Figure out what to keep.

·       What values or history hold important stories about your company?

3.     Set your cultural path.

·       What culture type is your company? You might be customer-focused, learning, or purpose/mission (ie. Patagonia) etc.

4.     Define desired behaviours.

·       Ie. Microsoft’s posters: Is this going to be a Fixed Mindset meeting, or a Growth Mindset meeting? “Embrace challenges with agility” is a growth mindset mantra.

5.     Identify influencers, energisers, and blockers.

·       Identify employees who energise people, or who people turn to for advice and information.

6.     Determine how to measure, monitor, and report your progress.

·       Measures include employee NPS or referrals, engagement, sentiment, wellness/wellbeing. Methods include focus groups, surveys and sentiment analysis using AI.


BUILD PHASE

7.     Communicate change is coming.

·       Focus the message on the future, not on the past. The new CEO can often blame the past and not paint a positive vision for the future.

8.     Ferret out the skeptics and non-believers early (the most difficult step, says Kevin)

·       35% of highly successful organisations replaced senior leaders not willing to embrace and model the change. Recommended read: Bob Sutton’s The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One that Isn’t.

 9.     Paint a vision for the future.

·       Use stories and symbols.

10.  Consciously collaborate.

11.  Establish a co-creation mindset.

12.  Provide training on the desired behaviours.

·       66% of highly successful companies trained senior management on the behaviours needed to drive and embody the desired culture.

·       Over 64% trained mid-level managers and frontline leaders on the behaviours.

kevin-oakes-book

MAINTAIN PHASE

13.  Make Onboarding About Relationships Vs Red Tape.

·       Often those who don’t work out were lonely, they never really fitted in.

·       Be prepared for a talent exodus as those who were onboarded during the pandemic leave.

·       Connect new employees to the “centre of the beehive.” Tap into their unique skillset.

14.  Promote those who represent the new.

·       Capture and communicate stories about employees who live the desired values and behaviours.

15.  Change performance management practices.

·       A critical one to get right, despite how awkward the conversations may be.

·       Look at what’s working FOR and what’s working AGAINST your culture.

·       Try doing what AMP did, with a “starter conversations” sheet.

·       Provide learning opportunities for employees, have informal checkins.

16.  Leverage employee affinity groups.

·       Women’s groups, LGBTQ groups etc are often a good source for successful culture transformations.

17.  Increase the focus on talent mobility.

·       Don’t encourage talent hoarding.

·       High performing organisation (45%) do move people, promote people, and career develop their people – then they become talent magnets.

18.  Don’t Underestimate the Value of External Sentiment

·       Focus on employee and customer experience.

·       Some companies employ AI to analyse the sentiments of written statements about them.

Summary

As they rebuild our businesses after the pandemic, companies are addressing what they want to do going forward.

The pandemic has changed what flexible work means at 73% of organisations.

And, with hybrid work becoming the norm, CEOs and business owners need to pay strict attention to how they’re adapting their company culture.

In particular, they must be careful they're not accidental diminishers.

A deliberate effort to renovate your company culture to fit these changing times is essential.

After all:

Healthy culture is usually the cause of a great company, not the result.


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