8 tips for managing cultural change

office and Mac

Rapid advances in technology, changing attitudes to work, plus multigenerational and diversity trends are all contributing to a cultural shift in the workplace.

Don’t be intimidated though, because this ‘new work order’ represents an opportunity for leaders to empower employees and put them on the path to success.

Takashi Sato, European managing director of Unipos shares some simple yet effective strategies to help leaders take their team through this period of workplace change and optimise employee engagement.

Tip 1: Be patient

Embracing change doesn’t happen overnight. People will naturally be resistant at first. To create significant, lasting change you need to first acknowledge that this is a process. Track your team’s progress and be prepared to weather a little bounce-back at first. That being said, do set time-bound goals to keep transitions on track.

Tip 2: Enlist support

Who are your hidden influencers? The cheerleaders who had the power to take others with them? Identify some core individuals who can act as change advocates and help you shepherd in new initiatives. These people should represent a diverse cross-section of your employee base, and they will become your best resource to garner buy in from your team.

Tip 3: Bottom up, not top down

Hand the reins to your employees. A bottom up approach means equipping your employees with the agency to build their own culture. Tools or initiatives that encourage cross-departmental contact, or provide opportunities to share positive feedback, are excellent places to start.

Tip 4: Double down on your values

Deloitte research shows that millennial employees, in particular, have more loyalty to companies which are purpose-driven. So, ask yourself, what does your business stand for? How this can relate back to company culture? By doubling down on your company values and lifting these up as shared signifiers of success and purpose, you will give employees a sense of working towards something bigger than themselves.

Tip 5: Focus on the individual

There’s nothing worse than feeling like a cog in a machine. With increasingly diverse workplace cultures, employees have varied needs, priorities and motivations. Leaders need to identify large scale tactics that don’t seem too generic or “catch all”. But before we can practice inclusion, we must first understand what really matters. Run surveys, diverse focus groups, and find out what’s important to your employees across various career stages, generations, genders, backgrounds, ethnicities, and functions. Enabling your employees to simply feel seen and heard is a crucial part of successfully managing cultural change.

Tip 6: Incentivise

Don’t we all remember being rewarded with a movie or an ice cream for good behaviour as kids? Despite appearances, not much in our psychology has evolved with age. The cornerstone of effective incentivising is to find balance in the reward. It needs to be enough of a reward to pique interest, but not too big a reward that the incentive becomes the only motivating factor. Where possible, find a way to incentivise that is steeped in authenticity and that aligns with the values of your company.

Tip 7: Lead with positivity

Too often workplaces devolve into competitive, toxic environments. Remember, people are more likely to complain about something than they are to praise. Putting positivity and gratitude first is not a natural thing for most people to do, but it can radically transform company culture. A compliment goes a long way in building relationships, motivation, confidence and buy-in. This improves workplace dynamics and staff retention.

Tip 8: Celebrate small wins

No doubt you already have a structured schedule of employee 1:1s, annual reviews and formalised feedback loops. These are effective processes to provide a big-picture view of an individual employee’s progress. However, they can also be too infrequent, top down and not transparent enough to impact on company culture. You can make more significant change on a daily bases by creating opportunities to share praise that is not called upon. This makes it more authentic, organic, and appreciation-driven.

Providing an open line of communication and celebration across functions, generations and level of seniority is a vital part of managing cultural change. By establishing a culture of celebrating small wins, we become more tuned in to seeking out these winning moments and seeing the best in our colleagues. Companies will reap the rewards of appreciation leading to effort, and effort leading to success.


Takashi Sato is the Managing Director at Unipos Europe – the fastest growing HR real-time feedback and recognition software born in Tokyo, Japan. It facilitates business success and personal growth by making it easy for employees to recognise and reward their colleagues. Prior to Unipos, Takashi was in charge of country expansions and business development at HelloFresh, and company-wide restructuring projects at Adidas within the Global Strategy team.