10 Signs It’s Time for a Culture Change in Your Organization

Organizational culture is one of the most often overlooked aspects of success in today’s competitive business landscape. Organizations that focus on aligning culture with their respective values, objectives and missions are the ones that consistently perform in ways that exceed expectations. Organizations that fail to consider the importance of culture tend to get left behind.

According to Deloitte’s 2016 Global Human Capital Trends survey, culture is seen by most leaders to be a competitive advantage. A full 82 percent of survey respondents expressed this belief, in fact. They understand that culture drives behavior, innovation, their approach to customer service and much more. But the culture must be implemented and engaged with the right way; otherwise, it is possible to poison the well of productivity within an organization.

Unfortunately, identifying the need for cultural change within an organization is rarely simple or easy. Even the most experienced and effective leaders fail at recognizing when their organizational cultures require a tuneup. The truth is that identifying the need for a culture change is extremely difficult. It requires a highly tuned sense of awareness and an understanding that the signs can be very subtle. Furthermore, a toxic or regressive organizational culture can seem like “normal” to the people who work within it.

So how can leaders get better at recognizing the need for organizational change?

Here are ten sings you can look for as you evaluate the culture within your organization:

#1 — Financial Performance and Other Metrics Are Less than Stellar

Sure, changes in the bottom line could arise from the normal ebb and flow of business. But if your profits are falling along with other metrics like customer-service scores and quality standards, your organization’s culture could be to blame.

#2 — People Feel Reluctant to Communicate, Even When Communication Is Critical

To me, communication is the lifeblood of any organization. It is crucial at all times, but particularly critical at others. Are people within your organization unwilling or unable to communicate during times of crisis? Or are they simply tight-lipped, in general, when speaking up would be helpful? When communication stops flowing openly and smoothly within an organization, it might mean that the culture is due for an overhaul.

#3 — Employees Cannot Get on the Same Page With Leadership — Or Each Other

Communication comes into play here, too. These days, organizations recognize the benefits of hiring diverse teams of individuals with widely varying backgrounds. This means more ideas, concepts and approaches are brought to the table, which usually translates into better solutions and outcomes. But when people cannot seem to agree — with each other or with their leaders — it may be an indication that something has gone sour within the culture.

#4 — Competitors Keep Pulling Away

As a leader, one of your jobs is to keep your eye on the competition, while keeping your organization from losing market share to others. When competitors seem to be dominating the market at your expense, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your organization’s culture is bad; but it does mean that you should examine areas where you can make improvements.

#5 — Employee Engagement Levels Are Low or Nonexistent

Let’s face it — employee engagement is one of the most important indicators of organizational health. If your team is engaged, they are likely productive, successful and operating in a manner that is conducive to a healthy culture. If they are consistently disengaged, you need to see where the culture has gone wrong.

#6 — There Is a Great Resistance to Progress or Change

Organizations that recognize the nature of our modern world as constantly shifting and changing are better equipped for success than those that remain stale and static. A healthy organizational culture in today’s business world sees change not as an enemy, but as an ally. If your culture seems to automatically resist progress or any kind of positive change, you need to consider leading a transformation.

#7 — Missed Opportunities Keep Piling Up

Opportunities come and go, and you will never be able to take advantage of every single one. But if you notice that the list of missed opportunities continues to grow longer than the list of opportunities you have seized, it is probably time for a culture change. Why? Your employees do not feel activated or empowered to act on the opportunities that come their way. They probably do not feel encouraged or supported, and that is a huge problem when it comes to organizational culture.

#8 — Good People Keep Going Away

Are you finding it increasingly difficult to keep your best people on board? Is hiring high-quality employees becoming harder and harder? Productive, high-performing people like to work within cultures that support them and make them feel satisfied with their roles. So if you find that keeping good people around is getting tougher, it is a strong indication that your organization is ready for a culture change.

#9 — Everyone Is Focused on the Past

Organizationally, the focus should always be on the present moment or the future. While it can be nice to look at your organization’s past for purposes of stability or connecting with its values, focusing too much on yesterday only prevents you and your people from doing what needs to be done now to ensure a strong future. When people in your organization focus too much on the past and the “way things used to be,” your culture is going to suffer.

#10 — Leadership’s Values Are All Wrong

Culture is shaped by values. And an organization’s culture is shaped by the values of its leaders. Therefore, if you have not taken time to consider your values as a leader, you could be infecting the organization’s culture in a way that leaves your people feeling aimless, unseen or even irrelevant. Your values should be aligned with the organization’s mission, and they should be easy for your team members to discern — from your words, actions and way of being.

What Happens Next?

Identifying the need for cultural change within your organization is one thing. Taking steps to actually promote the proper changes is another. Thankfully, identifying the need for change is a process that awakens your awareness, which is the essential quality needed for real, lasting and positive change.

As a leader, you have the power to change your culture in significant ways. Now that you have noticed the signs indicating your organization’s need for culture change, you should continue to develop your awareness and presence. Then begin changing the culture by changing yourself.

What are the areas of your leadership that are not aligned with your ideal culture? How are you, as a leader, contributing to the deterioration of your organization's culture? Examine yourself and your leadership; then you can begin to make the necessary changes that will transform your organization’s culture into one that enhances its mission.

Stay tuned to this space in the coming weeks for more insights and information on ensuring that your organization’s culture is right where it needs to be.

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