We’ve cracked the code on mindset and behavior change at scale

Culture is your organization’s DNA. It’s made up of people’s values, assumptions, behaviors and attitudes. It’s the glue that binds your people together and makes your company unique.

When your organizational culture aligns with your business strategy, it accelerates your growth, improves employee engagement, reduces risk and builds your brand. But when it doesn’t, it can stand in the way of success. Imagine two companies integrating post-acquisition without a culture of collaboration, a pharmaceutical company trying to be first to market on a new drug without an innovation mindset, or a software company without a culture of agility. Without cultural alignment, achieving your business goals becomes difficult, if not impossible.


How do we align organizational culture in service of strategy?

Too many companies just let culture happen; it’s what we call culture by default. We believe in culture by design. Only with intentional planning and investment can organizational culture become an accelerator of business strategy.

At Korn Ferry, we work with you to clarify your organization’s business strategy, to understand the competitive landscape, and to get a read on your employees’ changing expectations. We then translate those inputs into “culture keeps” and “culture shifts”. What is it about your culture that is core to your DNA and must live on and what about your culture needs to evolve to be fit for the future?

Through a Culture Blueprinting process, we help you architect the culture you will ultimately build. Using Korn Ferry Institute research and our years of experience “on the drawing board”, we define the mindsets (M), abilities (A), structures (S) and systems (S) that need to be in place to motivate the behavior that will drive your strategy. When these elements are brought together, they create behavior shift at scale or MASS behavior change.


of executives agree that improving corporate culture would increase their organization’s value


of executives ranked culture among the five most important factors driving valuation


of World’s Most Admired Company executives attribute 30% or more of their companies’ market value to culture


Organizational Culture Assessment (OCA)

The Organizational Culture Assessment (OCA) is a culture-specific diagnostic tool assessing key dimensions of culture based on more than a decade of Korn Ferry primary research.

The assessment solicits feedback from participants on multiple dimensions of organizational culture and invites them to identify the dimensions that are most distinctive in the current culture and most important for the future culture.

How we ignite culture change

We don't leave your cultural transformation to chance. We help you define it, design it and nurture it — so it supports your strategy and sets you up to get ahead.

We’re the only consulting firm that takes a holistic approach to culture change. We help you pull a full range of structural and behavioral levers in the right combinations and at the right times to produce the desired shifts for individual and organizational behaviors—driving real change.

We’ve pulled everything we know about organizational psychology and human behavior into our proven Culture 360 approach. Culture 360 evolves organizations’ ways of working in times of rapid business, social and cultural shifts. It touches each aspect of transformation: every lever of change and every layer of your organization to help you:

  • Align leadership and set up structures to manage your culture
  • Develop a blueprint for the culture that gets results from your strategy sooner
  • Assess the gap between the culture you have and the culture you want
  • Define or evolve your purpose, values and behaviors so they support your organizational transformation
  • Prepare your leaders and managers to be Chief Culture Officers
  • Cultivate new mindsets, skills and behaviors in employees
  • Fix any policies, processes and practices that block new ways of working
  • Track progress towards your objectives

Our consultants use Culture 360 with businesses around the world to change behavior at scale and teach every leader how to be a Chief Culture Officer. In short, we design the business you need to hit your goals: with the right mindsets, abilities, structures and systems to make change last.

Then, using The Art of Movement Making, we partner with you to design a Culture Movement that brings together the right change levers in the right combination at the right times to make new ways of working go viral.

Culture 360: A Korn Ferry Buyers' Guide

This guide will help you anticipate common stakeholder questions about cultural change so that you can and create the desired behavior change at scale, faster.

FAQs about cultural transformation

What is organizational culture?

Culture is your organization’s DNA. One way to define organizational culture is “how work gets done around here.” We like to think of it as the human glue that makes your organization unique. Your culture is deeply embedded in your people’s values, assumptions, behaviors and attitudes. Organizational culture shapes how people within an organization work together and how they perceive their work environment.

Your company culture also correlates directly to your organization’s performance. A positive workplace culture most often leads to increased business value. Korn Ferry research shows that 91% of executives said that improving corporate culture is likely to increase their organization’s value. Nearly 80% ranked culture among the five most important factors driving their valuation.

Why is organizational culture important?

A strong organizational culture that is deeply aligned with your organization’s strategy, vision and goals offers a variety of benefits.

  • It helps attract and retain top talent: Employees want to work for organizations with a vision that connects to their purpose. The clearer an organization’s vision and values, the more likely it is that an employee will stay with the organization.
  • It increases employee engagement: Employees who feel connected to their organization are more likely to be motivated to perform at their best. A robust company culture creates a sense of belonging and pride in employees, boosting their morale.
  • It drives decision-making: Organizational culture shapes how employees behave and make decisions. When employees share a common set of values and beliefs, they’re more likely to make decisions that align with the organization’s strategic goals. A strong culture ensures that everyone is working together toward the same goals and that their actions support the organization’s mission.
  • It improves teamwork: Culture can build trust and accountability in teams. Employees who share common values and beliefs are more likely to communicate openly and work together more effectively.
  • It enhances customer satisfaction: A strong culture can build a customer-centric mindset in employees. Engaged employees who buy in to the organizational culture are more likely to deliver superior customer service.
  • It drives innovation: A healthy workplace culture can foster creativity, which can lead to employees brainstorming new product and service ideas. Employees who feel safe in an organization are more likely to think outside the box and devise innovative solutions to problems.
  • It strengthens the organization’s reputation: When the people in an organization reflect its values, it builds a positive image in the community and market. This image can differentiate the company from the competition and attract new customers and employees alike.

What is cultural transformation?

Cultural transformation is shifting an organization’s assumptions, values, behaviors, structures and more. When an organization identifies cultural beliefs, norms or practices that no longer have relevance or are no longer serving the company’s goals, it may decide to create a new culture. As part of this process, the organization may create a new vision or purpose to better mesh with its strategic goals and values.

A cultural transformation often occurs when an organization needs to align with new conditions, either external or internal. For example, a fundamental shift in company culture may be required to respond to internal concerns, such as low employee morale or high turnover. A cultural transformation could be a response to an external event, such as the social justice movements that spurred greater interest in diversity, equity and inclusion. Or a culture change could be spurred on by changes in the market or evolving customer expectations.

How do you start a cultural transformation?

Given how embedded culture can be in an organization and its people, it can be incredibly challenging to change a workplace culture. And it can be hard to know where to start. The key is understanding that cultural transformation begins at the individual level.

To shift company culture, leaders should address four key elements that influence how people act.

  1. Mindsets: Individuals must have the right mindset before they can drive the right behavior. To change people’s mindset, leaders must take a set of steps. First, they must articulate the organization’s aspirations and goals. Then they must reinforce those goals through strategic business decisions. The organization’s processes and systems must enable the new goals, and leaders must influence others about their new mindset. That requires more than words and marketing materials like posters and mousepads: leaders must also show their commitment to the new mindset through their actions.
  2. Abilities: Your people must have the ability to behave in the way you desire. To understand what abilities you need to support your workplace culture, you must first assess the gaps in your organization. Next, define the abilities that must become core practices for each group and build a development journey to embed these abilities in your people. Strategies to use include experiential learning, role play and feedback loops. As you implement the learning plan, conduct ongoing pulse checks to measure how well these abilities are being developed.
  3. Structures: Your new company culture may require you to rethink your organizational, departmental or team structures. Different structures may enable the decision-making, communication, knowledge transfer and other critical elements that hardwire the behaviors, habits and mindsets essential to a culture transformation.
  4. Systems: Even the best-trained people can’t adjust to new ways of working if they don’t have the processes and systems needed to support culture change. For example, to encourage change, you should ensure your performance management reflects your new cultural vision. Use incentives to motivate the desired behaviors and actions and evaluations to assess how well people are responding.

Why is cultural change so difficult?

Having the right workplace culture is critical to improving organizational performance. But only a third of executives say that their organizational culture fully aligns with their business strategy.

The problem is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to developing or changing a company culture. And many approaches to sustaining culture change aren’t effective. Here are some of the problems that organizations commonly face when trying to embed a new culture.

  • Change resistance: Many people don’t like change, especially when they perceive that change could be a threat to their work. Some employees may not see any problems with the status quo. Others may be afraid of the unknown and what it may mean for their role and responsibilities.
  • Ingrained behaviors and attitudes: Organizational culture is often deeply entrenched in people’s attitudes and behaviors. The longer the values and norms have existed, the more difficult it is to change. People must want to make the effort to consider a new culture before they’ll be willing to let go of the existing company culture.
  • Lack of clarity: Sometimes organizations pursue culture change for the sake of change. Some organizations begin change journeys without a clear strategy or plan. Rudderless change can lead to confusion for employees and a lack of focused effort toward facilitating change. If leaders and employees alike don’t understand and align on the need for change or the desired outcomes, they can become frustrated and more resistant.
  • Lack of resources: Culture change requires a significant investment of time, effort and resources. The resources necessary to drive change may be in short supply, particularly if the culture change requires significant funding, new technology or expertise.
  • Lack of leadership: Before embarking on a change initiative, the CEO and top team must be aligned on the need for the change. They must consistently communicate about the vision and goals of the cultural transformation plus model the behaviors they want to see. Failing to commit to consistent behaviors can undermine culture change efforts.
  • Short-term focus: Organizations may focus too much on short-term goals and outcomes rather than committing to a long-term vision for culture change. This short-term focus can make it challenging to sustain change efforts and can result in limited progress. After seeing little progress, people may be less motivated to support the change and may abandon it altogether.

What is the importance of employee engagement in culture transformation?

Without employee engagement, cultural transformation doesn’t happen. If employees don’t embrace the new workplace culture from the top to the bottom of the organization, the new organizational culture will fail.

Here are some additional reasons why employee engagement matters for cultural transformation:

  • Increased likelihood of success: The more engaged employees are, the more likely they’ll be to embrace change. To embed a new organizational culture in an organization, employees have to actively participate and support the change. Engaged employees are more likely to adopt new behaviors and embrace new ways of working.
  • Improved morale: During a cultural transformation, employees may feel uncertain or anxious about what change will mean for them. When organizations prioritize employee engagement and communicate about the change, they reduce employee anxiety and build a more supportive environment.
  • Greater innovation: Organizations that lead successful efforts offer opportunities to receive employee feedback. The more employees are engaged, the more willing they’ll be to share their ideas about the organizational culture. Their feedback can be invaluable as organizations can respond to employee sentiment and suggestions that can strengthen their change efforts. Moreover, if employees feel that their voices are heard and that they have a role in shaping the culture, they’re more likely to invest in the change.
  • Stronger collaboration: Communication is a two-way street. When organizations engage employees in dialogue about change, employees feel more invested in the change process. They’ll be more motivated to support the change, and their enthusiasm can be contagious.
  • Increased employee retention: Cultural transformations can lead to uncertainty and fear. However, engaged employees have a more positive outlook on their work as well as their organization. A more positive, accepting organizational culture can lead to happier employees and lower turnover.

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