Combating the Challenges of Cultural Change in Large Organisations

December 4, 2020 • 3 min read

Combating the Challenges of Cultural Change in Large Organisations

Sophia Boleckis

Sophia Boleckis

For the longest time, stability and consistency were the most enviable traits that a large organisation could possess. The happiness of stakeholders and the security of potentially thousands of employees rested upon a solid and predictable business model.

But the world has changed.

Stability and consistency no longer equal security. In today’s global, competitive and fast-paced world, to sit comfortably in your groove is to watch your competitors leave you in their dust. Your customers’ wants, needs and expectations are constantly changing, and if you do not change accordingly, someone else will. New tenants of innovation, adaptability and pragmatism have emerged to replace the old.

And if an organisation is to effectively evolve, its culture must do so first.

The challenge of driving cultural change in large corporations

Driving the necessary cultural change isn’t easy in large organisations. Size brings a range of challenges; when there are a huge variety of business needs, opinions, platforms, regional cultures and opinions to consider, simply defining the cultural areas of focus can be difficult, let alone enacting the necessary change.

If an organization is to effectively evolve, its culture must do so first.

This complexity forms the major hurdle for teams, tasked with facilitating this cultural change, but it’s also the source of endless fascination. It’s a challenge, but an exciting one.

Steps to driving culture change in a large organisation

When approaching the problem of changing the culture of a large organisation, there are two simple key starting points:

Business strategy: changing the internal culture of the organisation.

● Talent strategy: adapting your hiring processes to reflect this cultural shift.

First define your business strategy. Ensure your organisation not just understands what the strategy means, but actively buys into it.

Once you’ve defined your business strategy, it’s then time to develop a talent strategy based upon it. It is important to define your critical talent needs based on your strategy, which in turn defines who you need to retain and attract to be successful.

Your customers’ wants, needs and expectations are constantly changing, and if you do not change accordingly, someone else will.

After the ‘what’ and ‘who’ are defined, you’ll move on to the ‘how’ – your cultural ambition. You must identify the key focus areas or ‘themes’ of your culture, and work to understand how they will make you successful, and the behaviours you’ll need to encourage to drive the change.

Create a compelling and inspiring culture story that will work as the foundation of your culture change. Form a dynamic culture work group consisting of cross-functional members, from support functions to business, and make sure they are completely invested in the process.

Once all these foundations have been laid, it’s time to enact the change. Integrate your culture story into all messaging. Work on behaviours that secure cultural change by getting line managers to engage in open dialog with their teams.

Explain that this is not necessarily about change, which many people find scary, but about strengthening organizational focus – it might be that you already have the culture you want for the most part, and you’re simply trying to clarify and accelerate your efforts in that direction.

Finally, stick to the plan, have clear milestones, measure your success and celebrate the wins!

Being comfortable with change

Once a new culture takes hold, you need to focus in order for it to stick. Live by your key pillars. Integrate them into the very DNA of your organisation; in how you work, in your behaviours, in your communication, tools, processes and policies. Be consistent, and perhaps most importantly, be patient. If your entire organisation is committed to change from the top down, you can be confident it will happen, but it will take effort and time.

Once a new culture takes hold, you need to focus in order for it to stick.

The truth, in fact, is that cultural change is never complete. It’s a constant evolution, in which you stay sensitive to customer and employee feedback, adjusting when and where necessary.

Changing the culture of a large organisation is like changing the course of a large cargo ship. It takes time, but momentum will slowly build, and the pace of change will accelerate, and you’ll soon be better aligned with your destination, whatever that might be.

About the author: Sophia Boleckis strongly believes that a meaningful, impactful experience arises from fulfilled needs and exceeded expectations. as this will attract customers and empower employees. She has over 20 years of global experience and is currently the Culture Transformation Lead Director at Wärtsilä. She is passionate about people & culture, driving change, co-creating engagement and cultural disruptions via action oriented strategic HR, communications & branding, workspace design & new ways of working.