Changing culture takes more than just checking the box.

Changing culture takes more than just checking the box.

Kellie, our communication and marketing strategist, put this article together in 2015 to highlight the some simple methods to changing the culture of an organization. Whether it is the health of your employees or the strength of your brand, it takes more than just checking things off the to-do list to truly move the needle. Our most successful clients are always on guard assessing the culture of their teams, customers and stakeholders.


I just read an article highlighting the new book by Google SVP, Laszlo Bock about the how Google used the idea of “nudges” to dramatically affect the behaviors of their employees. I got goosebumps because it was directly in line with my goals for the organizations I work with – Change culture, don’t just check the box!

The idea of changing culture within an organization seems to be too vague sometimes to motivate decision-makers into action. Even the idea of what culture means isn’t always clear. The third definition on Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary is “a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization.” It’s important that thinking and behaving are both mentioned because it’s essential to work towards changing BOTH our ideas as well as our behaviors if we are going to affect the health of our workforce.

Too often, wellness programs get sidelined with only trying to check the boxes they feel are necessary for a standard wellness program. Annual health screening, check! Online health risk assessment, check! Yearly exercise challenge, check! These tactics are all valuable, integral parts to a successful employee wellness program and it’s no wonder that a time-strapped HR professional trying to manage efforts is happy just getting some of these activities and to-do’s off their desk and completed.

Unfortunately, these stand-alone activities do little to, as Bock says, nudge people on an ongoing basis to make a healthier decision. Individuals who have locked in a desired behavior change will often describe the behavior happening without giving it a second thought. The woman who saves an extra $5/week or the man who never misses his lunchtime walk, these people started off having to think through the steps to complete each of these behaviors before they became a habit. It might have been a well-timed nudge from a supportive spouse or friend that helped keep them going when the behavior wasn’t quite set into their subconscious routine. This is how sustainable change is built.

When an organization can adjust its culture to include healthy nudges, the effects trickle into all areas of the company, not just to those people that are engaged in the wellness activities. Everyone hits the break room. Most pay attention to how the leadership behaves in the office.

So, what are ways to change the culture towards better health within a work environment? Casual Friday could include accepting tennis shoes as approved work wear, better yet, the boss could take this step further by power-walking over her lunch break. Nothing says exercise is accepted and approved like leaders being willing to be seen in exercise apparel! Does your organization preach good health, yet provide less-than-ideal snacks and drinks at office meetings? A bowl of apples or a couple bunch of bananas sends a stronger message than one might think and the Google experiment shows these small changes to the environment affect people’s decisions in a positive way. Look at what the underlying social norms are within your organization, if that’s too daunting, start with your immediate work team. Begin small, but take charge of how thoughts and opinions can be tweaked to accept the healthy decisions we all try to make everyday. Be the nudge that your organization needs to change the culture to one of healthy living.

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