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Navigating the uncharted waters: Organisational or cultural change?

August 8, 2023 | Operational Excellence

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At a Glance

  • Businesses have undergone rapid transformation initiatives to keep up with the changes during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Every organisation expects to undergo some degree of transformation as they adapt to these ever-changing conditions
  • Should we choose for organisational change or cultural change as a more appropriate solution?

Globally, businesses and organisations have undergone rapid transformation initiatives to keep up with the whirlwind of change during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The unprecedented situation forced leaders, senior managers and even employees to reassess their working practices. 

Some of the working practices that have emerged during the pandemic are having a lasting impact on organisations, forcing them to navigate the uncharted waters.

  • Hybrid working arrangements have now come to the fore, following the introduction of work-from-home (WFH) arrangements that allow employees to perform their duties remotely.
  • There is increased awareness and discussion of mental health and well-being within workplaces.
  • The “quiet quitting” trend, which has swept social media platforms, demands a work-life balance.
  • The widespread trend of the “Great Resignation” has driven workers to quit or switch jobs in droves.
  • There is a trend towards pay transparency, as employees demand to know the salary their colleagues are earning to ensure they are being fairly compensated.

Organisational change to weather the storm

Organisational change is common in today’s dynamic economic climate and volatile marketplace. Every organisation expects to undergo some degree of transformation as they adapt to these ever-changing conditions.

However, with the emergence of these new ways of working that challenge the interests of key players such as business leaders and stakeholders in the context of organisational change, is this exercise a critical consideration?

Let’s go back to the basics – what is organisational change? It is deliberate action taken by an organisation to modify major components of its organisation, such as organisational design and systems, employee experience, structures, culture, and ways of working.

At times, organisational change stemmed from dissatisfaction with the allocation of resources, which can also be categorised as interests. Interests have been linked to values and power, and those who are most privileged in the current workplace or system are those whose interests are most likely to be met.

Values are critical to organisations as it helps them to manoeuvre and respond to new challenges such as climate change, inequality, health crises, and the COVID-19 pandemic. The significant changes that have emerged during the pandemic have changed people’s expectations of their workplace.

Nevertheless, the expectations can vary – for example, some employees appreciate the hybrid flexibility of remote working, while others report feelings of isolation, leading to mental health issues.

Organisational change vs cultural change

Amidst the emergence of new workplace practices challenging traditional organisational approaches, a thought-provoking question arises: Should we choose for organisational change or cultural change as a more appropriate solution? 

Cultural change refers to the process of changing the values and beliefs to drive behavioural shifts within an organisation. The two concepts – organisational change and cultural change are related concept – that can help an organisation navigate turbulent waters to achieve desired business outcomes.

An organisation may recognise the need for cultural change through indicators such as low employee engagement or a high turnover rate of new hires. In addition, the global pandemic has ushered in changes in working practices, including the adoption of a hybrid working model and increased digitalisation.

Essentially, embracing these two concepts promotes employee engagement and satisfaction, innovation, and adaptability, leading to improved performance and sustainable success. Embracing change could be the key for businesses to stay ahead or relevant in an ever-evolving business landscape.

Finding the right balance for success

The complexities of adapting working practices, both during and after the pandemic, cannot be underestimated. Disregarding these challenges can have serious consequences for those seeking to achieve their business objectives.

Implementing new changes and getting all employees to adapt require time and effort. But when it happens, the payoff is well worth the investment.

In today’s ever-changing landscape, planning and strategizing for meaningful change that align with new operating contexts can be overwhelming. Nevertheless, it is a critical undertaking that cannot be ignored.

With 28 years’ experience in implementing measurable and effective changes for our clients, our change management expertise ensures the new ways of working are rapidly adopted by your organisation and that a new culture of working is achieved.

I’m ready to talk to someone about transformation for my organisation and my team.

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