Managing Culture Change with Data

Company-Culture-Data

Catherine Spence 


Catherine Spence is co-founder and head of product at Pomello, the data-driven applicant screening software that helps you scale your company culture. Follow Catherine and Pomello on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Leading a growing company is an exciting time for any leadership team. Growth solves any number of problems at newer companies, but it also creates a couple of new problems as well. Chief among these is a need to evolve your company culture.

As your company grows, your business strategy evolves to reflect different priorities. Where an early stage company might focus on experimentation, a company in high growth may focus on scaling and execution. These changes in strategy require that your employees focus and prioritize different types of work, and this is where culture change should originate.

Company culture is a set of norms and behaviors that are valued, recognized and rewarded within an organization. When your business strategy evolves, by definition some part of your culture is likely going to evolve as well. Many companies do not proactively manage this process, and end up playing catch up when they want to be running at full speed. The key to managing culture change is to know where you are starting and where your destination is. From there it is just a matter of plotting the most efficient route.

Taking Stock of Your Current Culture

The first step in creating your culture change strategy is to understand your current core values You can do this informally by leading structured discussions with your team about what they perceive as the most valuable behaviors, and then grouping behaviors underneath common core values. You can also use a tool like Pomello to gather and visualize culture data. Below is an example of how one technology organization within a larger company captured their current culture across seven core values. Their clear focus is on collaboration and results-orientation.

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Now for companies that are comfortable with their current culture, staying on course using these metrics are enough. But this company’s CTO was looking to drive culture change within his organization in order to coincide with a strategic change for the larger business. The strategy involved moving from executing within existing markets to experimentation in new markets. With this in mind the CTO felt that he needed to create a different culture that would be better equipped to excel within the new strategy.

Defining Your Aspirational Culture

The second step in driving culture change within your organization is to define an aspirational culture. Leaders typically gather this information from a subset of their current employees who represent the type of culture leadership they wish to see exemplified in the future. By explicitly asking these individuals to define an aspirational culture you can get a clear picture of your destination. The same technology organization featured above did just this, and found a clear emphasis on driving their culture towards greater adaptability, results-orientation, integrity, with a moderate drop in precision.

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The increased emphasis on adaptability resonated with this technology team. With a move into new markets the team felt a stronger need to focus on taking risks and moving fast, while moving away from high predictability and avoiding conflict. The CTO came away with a clear mandate to galvanize his organization towards greater adaptability while sacrificing a modest amount of precision.

Getting from Point A to Point B

The final step in managing culture change is to engineer the change you seek to create. Companies like the one we’ve featured here typically focus on three avenues to effect change:

Strategic Communication with Your Current Team

Your current team members are your most important asset in creating change. Always over-communicate why your culture must evolve. Listen to their thoughts and feedback on where they think the culture should be in order to succeed. This will allow everyone to be excited and bought into your plans. Give everyone a clear understanding of what they can expect, and how they can individually help drive the change.

Reviewing and Updating Promotion/Compensation Criteria 

Although everyone thinks about compensation and promotion, it is often overlooked during strategic shifts. If you are asking your team to prioritize different things than they have in the past, then the chances are that your compensation and promotion criteria could use a review. If your incentive systems don’t evolve with your strategy, then any culture change initiative will be swimming against the current.

Hiring

Who you hire is the highest leverage activity for teams undergoing culture change. On the one hand you don’t want to continue hiring the people who fit your current culture. But you also can’t hire based on your aspirational culture immediately, because a lack of fit can lead to high turnover. Instead, we have found that companies who consistently look for candidates that are moderately over-indexed on their aspirational core values make the most progress towards their goals without creating churn. 

Tracking Your Success

Culture change takes time and persistence, but it is an essential part of any leadership story. Having strong core values is often taken for granted until it becomes problematic. The best leadership teams and the highest performing companies manage their company culture proactively. These companies are constantly strengthening their long-term competitive advantage through culture management, and have the results to prove it.

Defining your company culture is one step toward building a strong talent brand. Learn how to get started by downloading our eBook, "How to Create Your Talent Brand."

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Image courtesy of blackcareernetwork.com

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