- Leaders must be aware of seemingly minor cultural changes.
- Cultural drift is not always harmful, if addressed properly
- Three Lessons Help Leaders Intentionally Take Charge of Cultural Drift
In recent years, definitions of workplace culture — “how we do things here” — have changed tremendously. Many aspects (eg, processes, technology, workflows, training) are transforming as leaders adapt to global pressures and new employee expectations.
Some changes are obvious, like drastic changes in the workplace of employees. However, most cultural changes are subtle, slow, and difficult to define. For example, culture change might manifest as:
- differences in onboarding experiences and how new employees form relationships
- changes in team structures and workflows due to external pressures, such as supply chain concerns
- new communication standards aimed at keeping hybrid employees connected
Cultural drift may seem inconsequential. But when your culture changes, so do the messages you convey to employees and job candidates about what matters most to your organization. Even gradual evolution can lead to significant changes in the experiences of your employees, customers, and shareholders. In the end, a minor cultural bias can influence global stakeholders’ confidence in how well your organization delivers on its promises.
Even gradual evolution can lead to significant changes in the experiences of your employees, customers, and shareholders. In the end, a minor cultural bias can influence global stakeholders’ confidence in how well your organization delivers on its promises.
Addressing cultural drift is essential to your organization’s long-term success: a great culture attracts world-class talent and focuses and engages employees. When employees align with leaders, they can meet behavioral expectations and deliver customer experiences that set your organization apart from the competition.
Ask yourself: How much alignment do you want between employees and managers? Is your culture on par with workplaces that attract talent? Or succumb to drift? If you want exceptional alignment, where employees not only understand your vision, but also align their behaviour With that vision, you must make culture a long-term priority.
So it’s no surprise that culture is a top concern among CHROs surveyed by Gallup in 2021.
the question is not Yes your culture has deviated, but to where and how. It is up to the leaders to determine which changes are beneficial and which are detrimental.
How to refine your culture
To avoid flying blind, leaders must address several questions:
- What are the subtle and invisible changes in the way your organization “does things”?
- How has that drift affected employee, client, and candidate perceptions of what matters most to your organization?
- What employee behaviors and brand promises does your culture promote?
- How does cultural drift influence your competitiveness in the marketplace, such as your Employee Value Proposition (EVP) and customer brand?
Gallup has been studying cultural transformation for decades. Our insights and advice have helped leaders measure their culture globally, define their ideal state, and achieve their cultural goals.
The question is not whether your culture has drifted, but to where and how. It is up to the leaders to determine which changes are beneficial and which are detrimental.
As Gallup culture experts, we’ve learned three lessons that can help leaders take charge of cultural drift and intentionally direct the future of their culture:
- Be authentic with who you are. In our experience working with clients, leaders are often tempted to fit their culture into a predefined box. In reality, every culture is a complex mix of attitudes, values, beliefs and ways of working: No two work cultures are identical. Therefore, leaders must measure the strengths and weaknesses of their unique culture to determine the most fundamental and valuable aspirations for your organization.
For example, customer focus is a common ideal. But there are many ways to achieve customer centricity depending on your organization’s industry, market segment, core service, and more. Generic approaches to culture will promote generic change. But a personalized approach helps leaders achieve a differentiated culture and a unique customer proposition.
- Don’t see culture as a stand-alone initiative. Time and time again, we have found that the best leaders consider their objective Y brand designing your culture. When leaders embed a strong purpose into their work culture, they make that purpose central to how work gets done, not just words of inspiration.
And because culture determines your brand and how your business is known in the world, leaders must shape their culture in a way that promotes the brand promises they aspire to.
When leaders understand that purpose, brand, and culture are interdependent, they can align these vital elements so employees are motivated to deliver on brand promises and pursue their shared purpose.
- Collect employee feedback on your culture. In Gallup’s experience, effective leaders listen to their employees (through qualitative and quantitative feedback) as they shape their culture. When you measure culture in the language of your employees, you can shape that culture in a way that is authentic to your people. Giving employees a voice promotes commitment, engagement, and ownership.
In addition, leaders promote excellence when they consider how their top performers solve problems, analyze processes, and address success by defining shared cultural values and norms of behavior.
Remember: culture change happens gradually – leaders must commit to investing in their culture as a long-term priority. Communicate often and consistently about your vision for the culture. Ask yourself: What example do you set as a leader? The most influential and tone-setting messages for culture come from executives, so make sure everything you say and do aligns with the culture you aspire to.
cultural drift they can Be positive: it’s part of being an agile organization. What is vital is that leaders stay on top of their culture to ensure that their culture evolves in a direction that supports what matters most to their organization.
Perhaps most importantly, leaders must go beyond talking about culture. It takes long-term intentionality and dedication to build a resilient culture that inspires people around the world. No organization is immune to disruption and the resulting cultural drift, and only leaders can control it.