What creates a true authentic culture in business?

a year ago   •   5 min read

By Leanne Hamley
Authenticity is vital in a business. Leanne Hamley writes about the value of authentic culture when a business is faced with significant pressure or change


The true authentic culture of a business is exposed when it is stress-tested or undergoes significant change. Like people, when businesses are faced with adversity it’s the response that matters. When organizations are put under stress and strain, it impacts their core. Their authentic self-shines through; decisions will be made based on what is important at that moment in time, decisions will be made quickly, and those decisions will have a lasting impact on not only every employee but equally on the customers you serve. Your business will be remembered not for what you do but for how you responded. 

Whether a change is something as significant as the Covid-19 pandemic or a simple office move, we all know how much animosity it can produce. Change should never be underestimated. The impact of change can be significant and never more so than when we are in a place of comfort and then our metaphorical blanket is removed.

Covid-19 shook the world, an example of change being invoked in a colossal sense on people and businesses. It had an immediate impact on how we worked, our economy, the health and well-being of the world, the resilience of the organisation and the employees. It changed how we worked forever. There were the organizations that were stress tested and folded. Egotistical, they kept an eye only on the commercial impact, the bottom line, the values on the wall now misaligned with the actions they undertook and, ultimately, they suffered because of it.

Some organisations thrived in the chaos, not just in a commercial sense but also in a cultural sense. They had already created a culture that could flex, that was people-oriented; the values, the bedrock of the business, remained the same and congruent with the actions and decisions they made. As these organizations were stress tested, they weathered the storm and kept true to their culture. They appreciated the impact and significance of this on their colleagues and their country and their actions remained true to their understanding.

As we reflect on this challenging period this is time for leaders to ask themselves and their employees, how did our organization and leadership fare? Were you one that made the early decisions to introduce home working, established new working practices and supported your people in the change curve? Or did you try to operate as long as possible before the public pressure became too great, remiss of the impact that change can have on its people?

The Covid-19 pandemic and the change incurred here was an external event. It could never have been prepared for but a change in any business happens continually. If you have a people-centric culture, then within that you may have already established how to deliver change effectively. Considerations already made about the impact this has on your people and you are prepared for it.

If you haven’t and the stress test has caused a review into how you treat your employees, then as you develop your aspirant culture, consider a change in your culture design. To shape an authentic culture it needs to withstand any change. Challenge your values and challenge the behaviours you desire with multiple scenarios to ensure that the aspirant culture will remain authentic when pressure is truly applied. A culture that can be trusted by your employees. A culture that knows that change is a mobiliser for organisations to think different that allows their people to flourish.

When defining change in the business, look at the commercial impact of getting it wrong and then strip it back to its fundamentals. Change, without acceptance means little effectiveness. Change with acceptance is a vehicle to higher engagement, productivity and results.

Firstly, consider the level of acceptance

Change without acceptance is change imposed upon us. Are we suddenly effective? Have we taken the change and run with it? Most likely not. Regardless of its degree or scale, change requires a level of acceptance, and acceptance determines the level of effectiveness. If there is a significant change and little acceptance, then your time will be consumed with internal politics, resistance, avoidance and disengagement.


Have a change plan which acknowledges that change impacts people, and the plan incorporates the behavioural process of taking their employees through the emotions and well and the steps required to complete the change effectively.


Gaining acceptance

Organisations with strong cultures have already adopted the means to initiate change and to gain buy-in. They are the organisations who:

Have decided who they want to be as an employer and they model the behaviours and values they have agreed. They reap the benefits that consistent leadership and role modelling of the organisation’s values have established trust with their employees and customers, the bedrock of all communication and effective change.

Developed their employees to understand that change embarked on, has been considered or it is changed that can’t be controlled. Already the employees are willing to listen, seeking to understand and empathetic to any challenge ahead.

Have created the tools necessary for their change toolkit. They have already considered the engagement tools they need and how they will ensure they make all communications impactful to each audience whilst remaining transparent.

Act in a timely way, and for their business, employees and customers alone. These are the leaders who aren’t rubbernecking, waiting to see what other organisations are doing but focusing solely on their businesses and what is right for them.

Have a change plan which acknowledges that change impacts people, and the plan incorporates the behavioural process of taking their employees through the emotions and well and the steps required to complete the change effectively.

Continuously communicate.  Even if they don’t have any more information, they share they that don’t. There is no second-guessing, the employees trust in the process and the leadership that the picture they are painting they are part of.

Include their people in the decisions. They seek to learn from their employees and they invite innovation and challenge.  


No organisation had this planned out and no organisation had the right answers.


Where organisations focus on increasing the level of acceptance, the results are significant, the employees move through the change curve faster overcoming initial resistance which means the performance increases, ultimately delivering the right results for the business.

Change with acceptance is a different ball game. We have accelerated towards the end goal, all because we’re there! The leader has explained the why; we saw the value, the

benefit and we adapted because of it. Instead of being done to, we became ‘part’ of the change. 

How the pandemic was handled will be a clear indicator of the organizational culture and the attitude towards the people who work there. If you seek to improve, take this opportunity to reflect, ask your employees how you did, show that you are willing to embrace the feedback, and learn from what happened.

No organisation had this planned out and no organisation had the right answers. Learn from what has been the largest stress test in recent years and then consciously decide what the aspirant culture of the organisation should be which will deliver the business goals, one which incorporates a change agenda that puts employees first.

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