Curating company culture

Jan 07, 2019

It’s a daunting task, but can result in an energized, unified organization that can withstand setbacks while gaining strength.

Companies with a highly engaged workforce have seen a 19.2 percent increase in operating income; highly engaged staff are 87 percent less likely to leave an organization; companies with high staff morale have seen a 16 percent stock price increase compared to low morale companies. But if a company’s culture is weak, fragmented, and internally divisive – that firm has little chance for long-term survival, let alone long-term success.

Culture – whether intentional or accidental, good or bad – exists in all companies. It’s the largely unspoken set of values and norms governing what the organization considers to be appropriate behavior. It manifests itself in the day-to-day attitudes and actions of employees, but is shaped and driven by a company’s leadership.

So, what can you do if you realize that your culture is due for a change? Changing culture is complicated because, at its core, it is a byproduct of the company’s history and the various behaviors that have become ingrained in the company’s operational style. This challenge is multiplied in a large, diverse company, which is likely home to a variety of cultures needing unification rather than one single culture needing a refresh. How does an organization with diverse business lines, skill sets, markets, regions, and languages truly unify under a single banner? The answer is a three-step process: diagnose the existing culture, architect the desired culture, and engage your staff in the change.

An example is RPS. The diagnosis phase began with a global survey of the firm’s 5,600 staff to solicit feedback on topics including internal career opportunities, work/life balance, benefits, leadership effectiveness, and client commitment. The survey’s results provided vital insights and ideas, which were solidified via post-survey focus groups. Next came a series of global workshops with staff at all levels to come to agreement on the culture that we will strive to create going forward.

We are now entering the change phase and will navigate it using best practices including the following:

  • Establish key metrics upfront to measure the progress and success of the culture change.
  • Clearly communicate (frequently and using multiple channels) what the new ways of working will be.
  • Provide training to staff on desired behaviors and ensure that senior leaders role-model those behaviors daily.
  • When employees resist the new culture, respond quickly with firm feedback and reiterate the desired behaviors.
  • When employees demonstrate attitudes and behaviors that exemplify the new culture, respond quickly with praise and recognition.

Senior management and human resources leaders must not only lead the change and serve as role models of the new culture; they must also work to mobilize employees to support the change while managing pockets of defiance. It’s a daunting task but not an impossible one; when approached with insight and commitment, the result is an energized, unified organization that withstands setbacks while continuing to gain strength from its newer, clearer, healthier culture.

Jennifer Reeves is director of people and culture North America, RPS. She can be reached at

Subscribe to The Zweig Letter for free.

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.