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Organisational culture is the way things are done in an organisation. Organisational Psychologists are taught how to assess and shape organisational cultures. There is extensive scientific research outlining ways to define, measure or manage culture. Today, it is generally agreed that organisational culture is the deep rooted set of values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviours that define the ‘was we do things’ at this organisation.

Within an organisation there are explicit, and implicit, codes on how employees should interact with each other, clients and stakeholders. How an organisation makes decisions is driven by its culture. Any interventions implemented need to be embedded within the organisation to create sustainable change. Researchers, often separate organisational climate from organisational culture. Climate being the current, or short-term, mood of the organisation. Climate can fluctuate widely – often due to external influences and can be positive or negative.

The Rise of Cultural Consultants

Twenty years ago people used to laugh at our Co-Founder, Sarah Clarke, when she said she could measure and change organisational culture. Sarah started as an Assistant Manager in a well known outdoor retail store which has been poor-performing with high staff turnover. It was here that Sarah successfully changed her first organisational culture. She learnt how to apply the practical elements of her Psychology degree to assess the current explicit and implicit assumptions which were driving the current culture.

By working with the team, and the managers, it was a matter of months before the store was high-performing. Under her stewardship staff were engaged, the customers spent more money, and employee sickness decreased significantly. The first employee survey highlighted how everyone felt much better off, with higher general well-being due to the changes made based on the science of human behaviour.

A few years earlier, Steph Durbin was delivering transformations in food retail stores which she led as a manager. The ability to set high standards, whilst ‘walking the walk’, and getting involved in role modelling expectations ensured that Steph successfully transformed cultures across her whole suite of stores. At the time Steph followed her instinct, and didn’t call herself a Culture Consultant. She was a manager, and the culture she created highlighted the importance of an aligned way of working. In fact, culture wasn’t something you needed to always be there to manage – it existed on its own.

Fast forward twenty years, over 30 industries, plus a collection of internationally recognised qualifications in Occupational Psychology and Executive Coaching. Steph and Sarah find themselves networking with a whole new breed of ‘Culture Consultants’. Whether it is the HR expert who has renamed their title to culture expert, or the health and well-being expert who calls themselves ‘Culture Consultants’ to help market their wellbeing offer.

This got the team at Think Organisation thinking . . .

What is an Organisational Culture Consultant?

A consultant is someone who provides expert advice professionally. They provide expert advice, guidance, and solutions to individuals or organisations in a particular field or industry. Consultants typically have specialised knowledge, skills, and experience in areas such as management, finance, technology, marketing, human resources, or other specific domains. Usually, consultants are hired temporarily, to help solve problems, improve processes, implement changes, or provide strategic direction. Consultants often work independently or as part of consulting firms, and they frequently serve a variety of clients across different sectors.

An Organisational Culture Consultant is a specialist who helps organisations assess, understand, develop, and manage their workplace culture. They work closely with leaders, managers, and employees to identify the current culture, define the desired culture, and implement strategies to align the organisation’s values, beliefs, behaviours, and practices.

These consultants typically conduct assessments, surveys, interviews, and observations to gain insights into the existing culture. Based on their findings, Organisational Culture Consultants collaborate with stakeholders. They develop interventions, initiatives, and programmes aimed at shaping and improving the culture to support the organisation’s goals, mission, and vision ensuring it is sustained even when they finish their work.

Organisational Culture Consultants often provide training, coaching, and support to leaders and teams. They work with individuals, teams and organisations to foster cultures of inclusivity, collaboration, innovation, and high performance. They play a crucial role in helping organisations adapt to change, enhance employee engagement, and create a positive work environment.

What should organisations look for in a Culture Consultant?

Organisations need to look for experience in changing cultures, backed up by measurements and numbers including impact on productivity, performance and profit.

Below is a checklist of questions to help organisations ensure they recruit a qualified and experienced Organisational Culture Consultant, who has a proven track record of delivering measurable ROI.

  1. Can you please describe your experience of assessing and shaping organisational culture?
  2. How do you typically approach understanding an organisation’s current culture?
  3. What strategies and cultural models do you prefer to use for your assessments?
  4. Can you provide examples of successful culture transformation projects you’ve led?
  5. How do you ensure cultural interventions are sustainable and embedded within an organisation?
  6. What methods do you employ to engage leaders, managers, and employees in the culture change process?
  7. How do you measure the effectiveness of cultural initiatives and interventions?
  8. Can you share your approach to addressing cultural challenges within diverse or multinational organisations?
  9. How do you stay updated on industry trends and best practices related to organisational culture?
  10. What do you believe sets you apart as a Culture Consultant and makes you well-suited to work with our organisation?

What are high quality answers?

Prospective consultants should be able to articulate their experience in assessing and shaping organisational culture. This involves being able to explain their methodology, the types of organisations they’ve worked with, and the outcomes they’ve achieved. They should be able to provide insights into their approach, such as conducting assessments, surveys, interviews, and observations to gain a comprehensive understanding of the current culture. They should be able to outline some of the theory behind implementing strategies to effect positive change.

Organisations need assurance that any cultural interventions implemented by the consultant will be sustainable and deeply embedded within the organisation. Consultants should demonstrate their ability to create lasting change by fostering buy-in at all levels of the organisation, developing internal change champions, and integrating cultural initiatives into existing processes and systems. They should be able to share examples of how they’ve ensured sustainability in previous projects and how they plan to do so in the future.

Organisations must see tangible evidence of a consultant’s ability to lead successful culture transformation projects. Consultants should be prepared to provide specific examples of past projects where they’ve effectively assessed, reshaped, and improved organisational culture. A Culture Consultant should highlight their key achievements, such as increased employee engagement, improved performance metrics, and positive impacts on overall organisational health. These examples serve as concrete proof of the consultant’s expertise and effectiveness in driving cultural change.

In addition, consultants should be able to provide references for organisations who they have worked with before.

If you would like to hear our responses to the questions above please contact us.

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