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Culture change and the importance of internal communications

A healthy culture is quite crucial for any organisation. But, there might be a need for culture change when big things are happening. This is where internal comms come in.

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Krishan Patel image

Written by Krishan Patel

15 Feb, 2023  –  7 mins read


An organisation’s culture is essential because it can help make employees happier, more productive and better at their jobs. It also helps ensure that you recruit and retain the top talent in your field. In fact, around 86% of job seekers say they will avoid companies with a poor reputation regarding company culture.

Having the right culture also ensures that employees work towards the right goals and work cohesively as a team. It’s no wonder that almost three-quarters of companies report an increase in success and productivity when they change to a more positive workplace culture. The expectations of employees and the state of the business can require you to assess and transform your organisation’s culture.

In this article, we will look at how and why you might want to consider a culture change, focusing on how good internal communication can make or break this change.

What is culture change?

Cultural change is where an organisation shifts the behaviours, mindsets and working practices they encourage in their employees. This can ensure that everyone working within the company has their aims aligned with the business’s goals, boosting productivity and success. These changes can be done all at once or gradually over time, with each approach being better in different circumstances.

The culture of a company can include things such as:

  • Company policies
  • Company practices
  • Leadership structure
  • How leadership and employees interact
  • Overall values
  • Beliefs and priorities
  • Shared experiences
  • Attitudes
  • How people work as a team
  • How people inside the business interact with clients, suppliers, or other businesses

As you can see, the company culture includes many different aspects. As these are all people-focused issues, some believe they are less important. However, building the right culture in your company can increase productivity by up to 17%, alongside supporting employee retention and fostering better links with members of the public.

Changing your company culture means assessing what works and doesn’t work and making adjustments for it to work better. This can be a complex process, so it’s important to know how to use internal communication to improve. It’s also worth knowing exactly when to think about shifting the culture of your workplace.

When might a culture change be required?

There are plenty of times when you need to look at changing organisational culture. Some of the major times to look at making a change of culture in the workplace are:

Declining business

If you notice that business is declining, you might need an organisational culture change. This could be because the company has slipped in terms of productivity or worker engagement. It could also be because the company has stagnated in an ever-changing field.

While the culture might not be responsible for business performance, it can still contribute to it. Plus, implementing a change of culture can help motivate employees to put more effort and time into helping the company recover. If you’re faced with a problem like this, consider looking at some slow, steady cultural adjustments.

Leadership/strategy change

When you change strategy or have new leadership, this is a great time to look at the culture of the workplace. A large change-up provides an opportunity to assess how things are being handled so far and to only continue with what works. You will often find that your company has cultural aspects that worked with the old strategy but won’t work with the new one. In this kind of circumstance, turning over a new leaf can mean having a more rapid and complete change of culture.

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Change in the external environment

While internal factors can spark change, so can external factors. The market is always changing and if you want to keep being a profitable and successful company, you have to keep up to date with these changes and have a culture that matches.

This usually means making constant small changes, such as embracing more sustainable policies or adjusting to flextime for employees. However, it could also mean more rapid shifts in times of extreme crisis. Recent instances include the 2008 financial crash and the 2020 Coronavirus epidemic when companies suddenly had to encourage good teamworking and focus on goals while working from home.

Mergers and acquisitions

Merging with another company means that two different organisations with two different cultures will be coming together, which necessitates change. You might most likely need to ensure that both companies can work well together, creating a cohesive workplace culture. This could also mean more decision-making happening at different sites, leading to new requirements for communication and teamwork within the company.

Of course, these are not the only times when you might need to look at changing the culture in an organisation. There are plenty of other times when companies can benefit from making cultural adjustments, too.

What are the signs that you need a culture change?

There can be lots of hints that it’s time to change your organisation’s culture. Some things to look out for include:

  • Poor performance from employees
  • Low employee engagement
  • Poor employee retention and high turnover
  • Low customer service scores or quality standards
  • Poor turnover compared to competitors in your field
  • Not enough communication between employees, managers and departments
  • Disagreements between employees and leadership
  • Hesitancy to embrace small changes
  • Too many missed opportunities
  • New technology is not used to full effect
  • Struggling to find people within your organisation to take on new or changing responsibilities

The role of internal communication in culture change

Once you have decided that it is time to implement some cultural changes, you’ll be looking at how to shift your organisational culture. One of the key elements needed is a strong and well-planned internal communications strategy.

Internal communications are vital for disseminating your message through your company, ensuring it reaches every employee. Looking at internal comms for ways to change culture at a workplace, there are tools such as:

  • Your company intranet
  • Internal newsletters and email courses
  • User-generated video content
  • Employee surveys for feedback
  • Collaboration tools
  • Community channels for specialised fields within your company
  • Instant messaging tools
  • Notice boards, digital sign boards, and more physical display areas
  • Employee social media tools

All of these can help you get the right messages to everyone in your company and provide positive reinforcement of the culture you are trying to encourage in your workplace. Cultural changes can be hard for some employees to get on board with, so having a wide approach is beneficial.

How to use internal communication for successful culture change

As well as using the tools above, there are certain things you should bear in mind when using internal communications for cultural changes.

Be transparent about the changes you are seeking

It’s essential to be clear about what changes you are trying to put in place, as well as the reasoning behind them. Many people need to know why they are making a change to truly embrace a new way of working. You should also be clear about how well these adjustments are going and any stumbling blocks you encounter. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should brashly call out previous behaviours your employees have shown — try to focus on the positives you are hoping to get from the change.

Use clear leadership messaging

Communication should be straightforward for employees to understand. This includes a set idea of what leadership should communicate to the employees they manage. Be clear with your messaging with all leadership to avoid having different members of management say different things. This will only confuse employees and create hesitancy or pushback against changes.

Foster bottom-up communication

First, you need to decide what kind of cultural change the company needs, but one of your best assets for this is your employees. They will help give feedback on how the change is going and any problems that management might not have thought of. They can help make sure that everyone is receiving the correct message. Bottom-up communication can help massively when you want to assess your cultural changes.

Gauge the effects of change and communicate back to employees

Change is hard for everyone and you will only sometimes get it right the first time. That’s why it’s important to judge the effects of change and update your messages to employees accordingly. However, try not to change the goalposts too often as this can confuse workers.

Summary: Culture change

Knowing how to change the culture in a workplace is vital, as this helps make sure that your company and its employees are working at their best. Internal communications are necessary to ensure smooth changes to new values, leadership structures, protocols, and more. There are plenty of tools that can help you use internal communications for a culture change. Just be sure that your communications are clear and concise and encourage feedback from your employees to gauge how well it is going.


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