How to Transform Corporate Culture Effectively

Are you a leader who is prepared to transform corporate culture effectively? Don’t let your company’s culture shape itself — it most definitely won’t be how you envisioned it.

How to Transform Corporate Culture Effectively

Transforming corporate culture is becoming the catch-phrase in brand development. It is something people often say but fail to do. The greater tragedies are those who try to transform corporate culture but do it the wrong way, often worsening the situation. Many business leaders simply want to speak the transformation of corporate culture into existence, unfortunately in order to transform corporate culture effectively you have to get many people with their own vision of how something should work on board with your vision of how things are going to actually be.

What is ‘Corporate Culture’

Corporate culture refers to the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company’s employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions. Often, corporate culture is implied, not expressly defined, and develops organically over time from the cumulative traits of the people the company hires. A company’s culture will be reflected in its dress code, business hours, office setup, employee benefits, turnover, hiring decisions, treatment of clients, client satisfaction and every other aspect of operations.

A Great Example of Effective Corporate Culture to Build a Brand

Corporate culture

Have you heard of the Dutch Mafia? The franchisees at Dutch Bros. (pronounced “brose”), a 24-year-old chain with 264 drive-throughs in seven western states, say they care most about being part of what they call the “Dutch Mafia.” It sells franchises only to people who have worked for the company and sucked up the culture for a minimum of three years, buying out the few franchisees who fail to live up to its standards. “We simply don’t tolerate toxic or cancerous behavior to the culture,” says Boersma.


So what is the Dutch Bros culture? — It’s Love.
If you just thought to yourself…. that sounds a little corny, you should know that the Dutch Mafia is now a 349 Million dollar empire on the West Coast.


Owner, Boersma, had a vision of what it meant to love his product and his customer. “What is love, right?” he says. “To me it’s really just demonstrating your heart for the cause. That’s what our people achieve in so many different ways.”


“Our philosophy, at its core, is just love our customers. And you are empowered to do whatever you have to do to do that,” he says.


Sounds simple right? This philosophy only works because Dutch Bro’s hires only people who support that belief. Every employee goes out of their way to know you, your family, your drink preferences — it’s not just about better services, it’s about making their customers part of the family.


Why is changing corporate culture such a difficult task?

Changing corporate culture requires a leader who can drive significant change. Corporate culture is entirely people based; which means hiring the right people is going to be super critical in your overall strategy and so is creating an atmosphere of respect and appreciation. The difficult thing about corporate culture is that it’s going to ‘happen’ whether you shape it or not. The unfortunate side affect of a company culture that shapes itself is that it often looks nothing like how you wold like it to. Sometimes it looks nothing like anyone wants it to and that’s real bad. If you are a leader prepared to implement significant change, here are a few tips on how to transform corporate culture effectively.

1. Remove Impediments

One tip for managers is to lecture less and listen more. However, to truly transform company culture, you must act, as well.

One sure way to improve workplace morale is to let people question the rules that hinder their job followed by managers looking for rules they can remove without impacting quality, cost or legal obligations. Your employees will see that you not only listened to them but acted on their request to make their lives better.

Encourage feedback for process improvements in operations, quality and customer service and give people a say in their work procedures so that they are invested in the resulting process and you know that it is something they’re willing and able to follow.

It’s important to note that while you want your employees to feel heard — you are the leader, the decision maker and you are the one shaping this culture. If people are unclear or in disagreement about the results they are seeking, they often will adopt different approaches and processes–leading to conflicts that erode trust and respect.

Use your role as the leader to model the characteristics of the culture you want them to be a part of.


2. Make Reinforcement Smooth and Painless

A little positive reinforcement goes a long way.

One company gave managers little “coins” they can give as on the spot rewards to employees. Managers could provide these as they thought appropriate, whether for outstanding customer service or completing a report revision report at the last minute. Employees received positive reinforcement and had a choice of getting something extra from the cafeteria, and it avoided paperwork that a financial incentive required. Programs like Norwich University’s online Master of Science in Leadership program can teach you about incentive programs that actually lead to improved performance at low overhead costs.

You also need to make sure your HR policies reflect the value shift. If you value customer service, don’t tie someone’s raise to how quickly they process the average customer call or the rate at which they elevate issues to second level tech support. If you value employees gaining certain skill sets, don’t make the training both mandatory and unpaid. Walmart has a classic example of how to do this right; you get pay increases almost immediately as you complete training modules available online via a terminal in the break room.


3. Empowerment – The Right Way

Employees at all levels should have significant leeway to solve problems as they occur as long as it is within their scope of work. For example, a nurse can offer free medical samples as long as it doesn’t require a prescription, and the QC tech should be able to stop the line if they see several defective items in a row, suggesting the machine is now out of spec.

This results in better performance and less need for close supervision by management. Leadership programs like the one from Norwich University explain the difference between leadership and management and methods of empowering people within their competencies.


Remove the impediments that prevent people from giving their best; eliminating rules that get in the way of performance are a good way to start, while seeking suggestions to make things better helps shift the company culture to one of continual improvement. Make reinforcement for good decisions smooth and painless; immediate rewards are even better. Empower people to make decisions and solve problems that are within their capability to make.