First steps in becoming Culture First?

Building a culture first environment within a workplace can be a long and challenging road. I’d love to hear about the small successes that you’ve had when starting on that journey in an environment which may not have such a focus on culture in the past.

What are the initial steps which you’ve seen success with? For example, would you look at allowing more flexible working arrangements to support work/life balance? Run social events to create a sense of connectness between staff? Help management increase transparency to drive trust? What’s worked for you?

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Hi @StuartC! I’ve definitely been in this position before.

I find that the most important thing to do first is build relationships and trust with people. It’s an ongoing and ever evolving process but everything stems from this, especially if the company hasn’t had a focus on culture and a people first environment in the past. I would be meeting with the leaders of the business to discuss what they’re looking to achieve in regards to a P&C strategy and slowly get them more involved with transparency and visibility.

The social events are a plus and I would introduce them incrementally, but I think it’s really important to try and get traction with the above before you add on the niceties.


Hi Stuart!

First, I’d second CSJAY’s suggestion at building relationships. Second, I recommend doing a great deal of listening. I experienced small successes in a former role (as Onboarding and Culture Manager) by getting answers to the following questions:

-What’s the perceived or goal culture?
-What’s the actual culture?
-What do the team members think is the best way to fill the deficit between the two?

Being specific, the company I worked for (350+ employees) had a fantastic branding identity document containing mission, values, etc, that leadership thought was driving the culture, but in reality a great deal of the employees didn’t even know it existed.

I started with surveying the entire staff to get a pulse on the awareness of the goal culture. Once I had that data, I began creating more awareness of the goal culture by using the values in my language with the team, tailoring the hiring system so that we hired individuals who actually fit the goal culture, and running any new programs or events through the filter of the goal culture.

All of that said, the successes I experienced there were because I had a clear path and goal. If you don’t have a goal culture, that’s where I’d start. While some things - like transparency to drive trust - are helpful for everyone, it’s important to consider what actions will best serve your team and their unique needs. Luckily, your greatest resource to figure that out happens to be your team =)

If you’d like to talk more about any of this, please let me know. It’s an enormous and worthy undertaking to positively shift company culture, and I’m excited for you!


Hi Stuart,
Great responses by CSJAY and Hannah - building relationships, listening - through survey, listening clinics or interviews are really key. I think the ADKAR change model is a good one to follow (what is the current level of awareness, desire, knowledge, ability and reinforcement).
Its critical to understand organisation strategy really well, what is the organisation trying to achieve? and what will enable it to get there - ie what cultural attributes / behaviours/ does the organisation desire to move to (as Hannah talks about what is the goal culture). then how do we get there through processes, systems, symbols, leadership etc. The Katzenbach Center has some good resources and information in this space.

The Katzenbach Center

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