Culture change is a long game played over successive seasons, and while it’s easy to get excited, enthused, energised and all those words when the change programme kicks off, how do you keep the momentum going?
Especially when some parts of the organisation start switching focus to different business priorities, understanding why change is needed is forgotten, and new learning initiatives start popping up, like a new sales training programme that might be well-intentioned but hasn’t been considered against the culture change agenda. And there’s that perennial challenge when learning programme participants – all enthused and energised – go back to the day job only to find that the old culture and ways of doing things still prevail.
Culture change: the big picture
While L&D isn’t solely responsible for culture change, it plays a crucial role in bringing it to life by aligning learning programmes to the desired new culture, integrating behaviour frameworks and so on. But as appetite for culture change dissipates, it’s essential to acknowledge that there’s also a bigger picture at play too. Cultural change doesn’t happen in isolation – whether that’s a digital transformation, creating a learning culture or driving greater innovation across the organisation.
The success and progress of a culture change programme are impacted in no small way by conditions and situations outside Learning and Development’s control. And given some of those external factors (economic uncertainty, pandemic hangover and skills shortages anyone?), it’s no surprise that capacity for change is limited at best right now.
So, what does that mean for L&D managers who have a remit for long-term, sustained change?
L&D Manager’s guide to fostering culture change
We’ve come up with a few ideas to help you reflect and clarify your thinking but use this as a jumping-off point. We know you’re as passionate about developing people as we are, so lean on us for an injection of energy and renewed focus.
- Culture change is for the long-term and it’s an iterative process. Keep checking in with your team, your peers, and your network. It’s easy for disconnect and misunderstandings to breed when you’re playing the long game and change fatigue hits.
- Are your L&D programmes (especially those connected to culture change like leadership development) regularly positioned against the organisational context? Take time to remind everyone why these programmes exist and why they need to attend. Learning outcomes are important, but they need to be in contextualised with the organisational culture change, the impact on others, and then individual learning outcomes and behavioural changes.
- L&D has an enviable skillset and cupboard overflowing with learning and development tools and techniques – use them all to keep banging the drum for change and to check that learning initiatives across the organisation are aligned to the change context.
- Celebrate the quick and small wins: it sounds obvious, but we still forget to do it. So, think about all those small steps you’ve taken already. They all count, create momentum and contribute to the culture change story.
- Keep talking about the need for change – few other business leaders have the same reach and opportunity to talk to employees as L&D. Think about all those touchpoints and how you can use them to keep the culture change conversation alive.
- Is there an opportunity to refresh the message? Maybe reframe culture change as evolution rather than revolution. Small tweaks to the message and how you communicate it can make a huge difference in keeping people engaged and motivated for change.
- Continuous listening: Use your reach within the organisation and leverage all the technology, data and insight at your disposal to carry out regular employee temperature checks.
Learning and Development make a huge contribution to driving organisational and culture change, but you can’t do it on your own. You’re in a great position to practise your own leadership and connect widely across the organisation so be genuinely curious to the change that is (or isn’t) happening and engage stakeholders so you can all build on the change that is taking place.
But don’t forget to check in with your own fatigue levels when you check in with your team and peers and lean on partners (like us). Let us help you to stay energised for change, because if you’re energised and enthusiastic, it’ll rub off on others.
Thanks for reading, Dan
We’re LIW and we’ve been designing and delivering research-backed leadership programmes for many of the world’s most recognisable brands for over 25 years. We love partnering with Learning & Development and senior HR professionals on a mission to make their organisations a great place to work. Our programmes bring learning and the practice of leadership into the everyday so that employees, teams and organisations can all perform at their best. All thanks to our fabulous team of 80+ coaches and facilitators and our project managers, who ensure everything runs smoothly. We’re all about delivering you a high-impact, low-maintenance partnership that lasts.