Culture Change in the Workplace and Tips for Managing It

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published May 29, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Company culture refers to the shared values that help guide the behaviour, decisions, and communication of a company's workforce. Companies may want to initiate a culture change to help increase productivity or to respond to emerging challenges in their industry. Learning about what kinds of changes you may face in the workplace can help you be more prepared to adapt to them. In this article, we define culture change in the workplace, discuss the importance of changing company culture, provide tips on how to manage change at work, and present some points to consider when analyzing workplace change.

Related: What Is Work Culture? Definition, Elements, and Examples

What is culture change in the workplace?

Culture change in the workplace refers to a significant shift in the organizational philosophy that guides the behaviour and decision making of an organization's members. It can happen as part of a planned implementation by executives, but can also be the indirect result of structural or other organizational changes within a company. These changes may affect different aspects of your work life, such as your routine, working hours, or duties. The following are some examples of changes employees may face in the workplace:

  • Technological: A company may decide to implement new technology systems to streamline its process or optimize operations, causing changes in the normal operating procedure. Employees may require training in the new systems, or they may perform different tasks in the case of automation.

  • Management: Whether due to a resignation, promotion, relocation, or merger, a change in management can have a significant influence on a company's culture and how it executes its daily operations. This may require employees to adapt to a different management style or different expectations.

  • Colleagues: Company restructuring or relocation can cause shifts in personnel. Individual employees may find themselves on new teams if their departments merge, while teams may take time to build unity and coherence when new operating procedures are introduced.

Related: What Is Company Culture? (With a List of Different Types)

Importance of workplace culture change

Significant changes in a company's culture can affect multiple areas of the organization's operations. Company culture may change for various reasons, such as to restore or improve a company's reputation, eliminate operational redundancies, or optimize processes. In the case of a merger, a company may update its guiding principles to align them with those of the new partner organization. Companies may adapt their culture to increase employee morale or productivity, meet changing customer expectations, or establish a new direction after a challenging period. Here are the three main types of organizational change that employees or supervisors may face:

  • Developmental: This type of change refers to the modification of already-established company policies or operating procedures to improve productivity, increase sales, or eliminate inefficiencies. Changes may be less drastic and more procedural in nature, focusing on internal optimization rather than significant changes in personnel or corporate values.

  • Transitional: In this type of change, supervisors, executives, or project managers oversee a change process intended to guide a company through a transition to a new direction. This situation often occurs in cases of acquisitions or mergers or in industries that face significant disruption, such as those moving towards automation.

  • Transformational: This type of change is the most drastic and may have the most measurable effects on employees, as it relates to a shift in overall company vision or direction. Companies may plan transformational changes if they want to penetrate a new market, retire an underperforming sector in favour of more profitable activities, or focus on one type of business activity in response to industry pressures.

Read more: The Importance of Leadership and Culture in Organizations

Managing changes in the workplace

Whether you're an employee facing significant changes at work or a supervisor responsible for implementing a change strategy, the following tips may be useful to help you navigate a changing company culture:

Clear and consistent communication

If you're responsible for overseeing organizational changes at your workplace, maintaining open and multilateral channels of communication can be the key to a successful transition. Clearly communicating the company's goals and presenting the rationale behind the decision for the new direction can help provide a solid foundation for employees to adopt the new principles. Involving employees in the discussion can also help them feel more engaged in their work and better prepared to adapt to organizational changes. They may be less resistant to change if they understand the reasoning behind company decisions and what their role in the change may be.

If you're an employee facing a situation of workplace change, solid communication is equally important. You can consider meeting with your supervisor to discuss any concerns or clarify any aspects of the change plan you may be unsure about. If applicable, you may consider discussing the situation with other employees to see if other team members have concerns or questions that you can present to management together. Being well-informed can help you prepare for coming changes, adjust your expectations, and help ensure you stay productive while adapting.

Related: What Is Corporate Culture?

Plan for conflict resolution

An established process for team members to share their concerns can be a critical part of a successful transition. Actively encouraging employees to share their ideas and concerns can help ensure that no one feels left behind and that everyone stays invested in the change process. This can also help address any inconsistencies that organizers may have missed during the planning process. In cases where a company's transition results in significant changes to the structuring of departments or teams, conflict can arise more easily if the information doesn't reach the right people.

Employees may be unsure where to take their concerns or may require clarification of their new roles and changing expectations. Managers can be proactive by encouraging team discussion and interacting with employees individually to help guide them through the changes. Designing a conflict resolution process can help employees navigate change by giving them a forum to express their concerns and a structure to follow if they face a conflict with team members or new supervisors.

Alignment with business strategy

If you're a supervisor tasked with leading a team through a company's transitional period, you may face changing requirements, conflicting opinions, or resistance to change. Having a guiding philosophy can help you make connections between different parts of the process and ensure that you can take meaningful action. An effective organizational change typically aligns with other aspects of business strategy to serve the company's overall goals. This can include working with the IT department, administration, or executives to ensure that all proposed changes fit within the business strategy and serve a specific purpose.

Related: 8 Essential Tips for Leading By Example in the Workplace

Analyzing workplace changes

Considering the following five points can help you understand the context of a workplace change event and your role in it:

Reason

Understanding the reasoning behind a change decision is fundamental to implementing it correctly. For example, if the company's overall goal is to eliminate inefficiencies, you can target your activities to focus on achieving this objective within the context of your own role. If a business wants to increase its overall sales volume, an executive may decide to create a new marketing department, hire more salespeople, or open a new branch of a retail store.

Resources

It's also important to consider which resources are available to implement the proposed change and who is responsible for the management of those resources. A restructuring of personnel in a department may involve minimal resources, while upgrading technological systems may require significant investment in equipment purchases, installation, maintenance, and associated costs related to training team members.

Risks

You can also consider which risks may be involved during the change process. For example, office renovations may have implications for employee safety, while replacing existing IT infrastructure may impact the security of company data. Understanding these risks and who is responsible for managing them can make it easier to respond to an unforeseen challenge.

It's also important to understand the final goal of the proposed changes. As an employee, understanding what a company wants to achieve by implementing the changes can put you in a better position to maximize your own contributions to that goal.

Responsibility

A change process is more likely to be successful and encounter fewer complications if supervisors communicate clearly about changing responsibilities. When individual employees know what management expects of them and what specific contributions they are responsible for, they can work more effectively. Management can also support employees by letting them know whom to contact if they are unsure of their role or if questions arise during the transition period.

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