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ATD Blog

4 Reasons Your Company Culture Is Not Evolving

Thursday, April 28, 2022

“Culture is king.”

“Culture eats strategy for lunch.”

These phrases and others like them are said repeatedly, and, generally, believed to be true. Yet even though business leaders and their HR, L&D, and DEI support teams agree that establishing a strong culture is important, many fail to make that happen. Several key reasons support this idea, and understanding them and taking steps to overcome them can help you achieve your culture goals in 2022.

Reason #1: Company Culture Plans Never Make It Out of the Boardroom

Many companies put significant time and energy into identifying their desired culture and establishing goals and core values to support it. Too often, though, this work never makes it out of the boardroom in a meaningful way. Sure, these statements may be framed and hung on conference room walls or displayed on corporate websites, but nothing happens beyond that.

The desired culture, supporting goals, and core values need to make their way out of the C-suite and become embedded in the organization. Like any plan or goal, action items, clear communication across the entire organization, and a cross-section of people supporting the initiatives are required for success. Communication must be strategic, ongoing, and across multiple channels (such as newsletters, email, online posts, one-on-ones, and town hall meetings) to reach all employees. But that’s just the starting point. Another reason culture goals can be so hard to achieve is that there is a failure to establish accountability.


Reason #2: It’s Unclear Who’s Responsible for Achieving Company Culture Goals

Accountability is critical for achieving goals of any kind; cultural goals are no different. Senior leaders must clarify which team or individual is responsible for attaining culture goals. Whoever the task falls to—HR, L&D, or DEI—it needs to be clear to them and others where this accountability lies. They’re the go-to person or group for communicating the goals as well as tracking, monitoring, and reporting on progress toward meeting the goals.
Whoever is leading the effort, they’ll need support from senior leaders to shift the culture. It takes support from the top to help drive change.

Reason #3: Nobody Has the Soft Skills Needed to Achieve Company Culture Goals

Culture shifts don’t just happen. They take individual effort and action at all levels. It’s often the case that leaders, managers, and employees are committed to the goals but don’t have the knowledge, skills, or competencies to achieve them.

That’s critical for leaders and managers because they’re the ones having day-to-day interactions with team members and are responsible for building healthy cultures of inclusion and belonging on their teams. They also have the greatest influence on the day-to-day employee experience, so don’t overlook the need to ensure they have the training to optimize these interactions.


Generational diversity comes into play here as well. Younger generations in the workplace may come in wholeheartedly committed to achieving culture goals, but they may not have the experience, confidence, or change management skills to make this happen with their teams. While older generations may have the skills needed to drive and impact change, they often need to be upskilled around topics often related to culture goals such as employee mental health or diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.

Planning and support specific to all the types of leaders you have will help ensure their success.

Reason #4: Budget Hasn’t Been Allocated to Support Company Culture Goals

Culture-driven organizations often say, “No money, no mission,” which is true in not-for-profit organizations but still applies to any organization focused on achieving a desired culture. Without budget dollars—and the metrics and KPIs to measure success—added to these initiatives, it’s unlikely that anything will happen.

The bottom line is that people are the key to achieving the culture shifts needed for driving inclusion and diversity. Everybody in the organization needs to know the culture goals and the team or individual responsible for achieving them. They also need to train in the soft skills required to achieve these goals and have the financial or budget support to make things happen.

About the Author

Claire Herring is a well-known writer and international speaker on topics related to the art of leveraging science to optimize employee performance and build workplace cultures of inclusion and diversity. A former Deloitte executive in their national advisory practice, Claire has spent her career serving Fortune 500 companies and large organizations as a consultant, strategist, and business advisor.

As CEO of pioneering microlearning provider Blue Ocean Brain, Claire drives their solution strategy, bringing 21st century learning to companies of all sizes and industries in over 50 countries around the globe.

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