How to Hold Employees Accountable to a Culture Change

Culture change begins when leaders, like great football coaches, recognize when the game isn’t going according to plan and make critical halftime adjustments to reverse the outcome. To institute a new culture, leadership must coach employees at all levels, from the bottom of the organization up, to embrace the transformation and commit to its success.

culture changeIn our 30 years of staffing, we have seen hundreds of corporate culture changes implemented. We’ve seen rousing victories and catastrophic collapses. In observing these extremes and every result in-between, we have drawn conclusions about which strategies typically win and which lose. If your culture change will fundamentally alter the way you do business, we recommend these steps as a basis for your game plan:


  1. Identify the Problem

You first have to convince everyone in the organization that there is a serious problem. Innovative competitors, loss of talent, new technologies, shifts in buying patterns, and new industry regulations are common culprits. Effective leaders ensure that everyone appreciates the likely consequences of these issues, understands the current organizational culture and strategy, and recognizes the need for the proposed change.

  1. Set Expectations

Engage management to determine the changes necessary for every role in the organization. Then communicate expectations about role changes in detail – preferably in writing – to each employee. Many organizations choose to rewrite job descriptions.

  1. Ask for Agreement

Organizations that fail often fail because they believe they can impose change. While the hierarchy suggests you should be able to do so, a percentage of your workforce will resist change unless they feel empowered to contribute their own ideas and solutions. Employees need equity in order to be engaged. We recommend each employee be given an opportunity to contribute to the new culture, and then be asked to commit to individual performance goals.

  1. Create Performance Metrics

Some culture changes fail when organizations try to institute a “spirit of accountability,” which is a clear paradox. Where there is accountability, there must be specific measures by which performance goals can be evaluated. Whenever possible, use quantifiable metrics.

  1. Resolve Performance Gaps

Provide employees with regular reporting of their performance against expectations and work with them to identify issues and close any gaps. The ability of your managers to pinpoint causes for performance gaps, provide quality feedback, and positively incentivize improvements is critical to the success of any culture change.

In football, the smartest game plans often fail. Winning on the field is correlated most to players understanding their roles in the context of a scheme, practicing their assignments, and executing to perfection under pressure. Creating a successful culture change is remarkably similar with regard to the importance of buy-in and accountability. Whether you need coaching or players (or even cheerleaders) to build a winning culture, contact your Imprimis agent. We’re here to help.