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Corporate culture is the set of all those shared values, rules and behaviours that characterise an organisation and define its identity. Even if it’s invisible, it can be felt in every work related activity through the way people think, interact and work together.

In a long term perspective, corporate culture is a key element for success, as it influences employee performance, customer satisfaction and the company’s all-round reputation.

However, what happens on a daily basis at work doesn’t always reflect the real desire of the company owner: in borderline cases, we can even speak of a toxic corporate culture. Under these circumstances, a transformation is necessary both to align activities with the company’s vision and mission and to retain the most virtuous employees.

But how should this corporate culture change be managed? There are several schools of thought, but all of them envisage a well-planned process that can be broken down into stages.

I. Awareness and definition phase

To start an effective transformation process it’s important to understand why the transformation is necessary in the first place and how to implement it, involving all stakeholders. This includes both company’s staff and external stakeholders, such as suppliers, consultants and customers.

  • A carefully planned approach at this early stage can make the difference between a successful change and a failure.
  • Take the time to analyse the current culture and identify the areas that require improvement.
  • Involve staff and openly communicate the need for change.
  • Develop a detailed action plan that includes clear goals and deadlines.

II. Implementation phase

Changing corporate culture requires a lot of initial work: the company owner, together with managers and human resources have to make sure that employees adopt the new procedures. This phase requires a focus on training and communication, so as to ensure a lasting and deeply rooted transformation.

  • Communicate the change as a new corporate rule that everyone must follow.
  • Provide training and help your staff to adapt to the new procedures.
  • Be sure to monitor progress and provide support when needed.

III. Consolidation stage

At this stage, the company has already adopted new behaviours and practices, but still needs to consolidate the change in order for it to become an integral part of the corporate culture. This stage also requires constant commitment at all levels.

  • Recognise and celebrate the successes achieved during the change process.
  • Continue to provide support to employees.
  • Make sure to maintain a cohesive and inclusive company culture. Managers, supervisors and HR must be good examples.

IV. Continuous improvement phase

The last phase shifts the focus to the future, through constant observation and improvement of existing activities with a view to innovation, experimentation and collaboration.

  • Remain committed to the implementation of new ideas and strategies.
  • Constantly evaluate results to identify possible areas for improvement.
  • Communicate openly with staff to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the corporate culture.

Being aware of the various stages of cultural change can help anticipate challenges and opportunities along the way, providing a useful frame of reference. Only a well-defined strategy and constant commitment, however, can yield true long-lasting results.

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