HR Best Practices
HR Best Practices

Driving Cultural Change through Leadership Commitment

Through our daily work with over 1300 organisations, we see many examples of innovative thinking in HR. In this series of 14 best practices we define true "best practices" in HR nowadays. In this sixth case study of this series we will focus on Driving Change through Leadership Commitment with two examples of Top Employers within the Construction-, and Consumer Goods Industry.

Manager resistance to change can be a common occurrence. To help management focus attention on the critical levers of change, Top Employers can encourage managers to get involved from the early stages of the change cycle.

Driving Cultural Change Through Leadership Commitment in the Construction Industry

Leaders at this Top Employer (Global, 170,000 employees) had two strategic questions they needed to answer: what challenges will they face in the years ahead and what key attitudes are needed to succeed?

Through a purpose-built digital platform, this Top Employer collected data and responses to these key questions from 68 work groups covering 37 nationalities, diverse age groups and employees in different position types and levels of seniority. From this considerable volume of qualitative “bottom up” data, the company classified the results into 45 topics (business challenges) and then into five further categories, which has helped it define the five attitudes needed to succeed. Having involved employees from the beginning of the process, the company considers that this practice has been a huge success. Deployment of the exercise was spontaneously cascaded by employees and even communicated outside to suppliers and clients. In some countries, the key “attitudes” identified were immediately incorporated into the annual performance appraisal form, demonstrating the enthusiasm generated across the entire organisation. The limitation of this practice is the time and the cost involved (IT costs as well as people costs). In the example above, the scale of implementation was global, but it could be launched at a smaller scale for an equally strong result.

Driving Cultural Change Through Leadership Commitment in the Consumer Goods Industry 

A leading sports brand (Africa, 300 employees) A leading sports brand in South Africa evaluates its managers not only on their results, but also on their behaviours to drive the desired culture change within the company. As input for this evaluation, the employer makes use of an online survey tool. Managers invite feedback from their team once per year on how well they practice the company’s leadership competencies and lead people through change. Based on this, managers then receive individual reports, comparing their team’s feedback with that of the previous year and showing where improvement is needed. Following that, there is a debrief discussion between managers and their team to clarify questions and give managers an opportunity to share their commitments towards their teams. Finally, managers incorporate this feedback into their individual development plan and encourage their teams to do the same.

Our Conclusion 

The conclusion of those two examples is that the approach to change – bottom up, top down or a mix of both – needs to be chosen depending on the circumstances. This top-down approach can be a great way to kick-start the change process and start implementing a programme, as the decisions will be made centrally by the executive team. This can then allow the company to start solving problems immediately.

It must be noted that this change also requires detailed and dense communication to make it successful. A two-way dialogue is needed to successfully drive change. Where the change requires innovation, for example, a participative (bottom-up) approach is often appropriate. Innovation relies on the ideas of employees at all levels of an organisation. By allowing everyone to participate in the change process, people experience the responsibility of contributing to the change they want to see in their company.


Curious about the previous topic we've discussed in this series of case studies? Gain more insights on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) / Volunteering Activities