Culture Development

"Culture does not change because we desire it to change. Culture changes when the organization is transformed."

Lianne Swenne
Lianne Swenne

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Marijke ten Have
Marijke ten Have

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What is a corporate culture?

A corporate culture is the sum of all common norms, values, (un)written rules and behavior within an organization. These elements shape how activities are carried out and what is stimulated or hindered. When the corporate culture is in line with the business strategy and the personal culture of employees, this acts as a catalyst to achieve shared goals.

In order to start a sustainable cultural change, it is necessary to know where you are now and where you want to go. We believe in making the underlying factors measurable, and in combining the "hard" aspects (systems, structure and strategy) and the "soft" aspects (leadership, behaviour, core values and mindset) . We do this in close collaboration with the formal leadership and the informal leaders within the organization, as leadership and culture are closely linked. In addition, during culture processes, we focus on promoting open communication and involving all employees in the change process, so that the cultural change is supported at all levels of the organization. In this manner, we create a sustainable cultural change that aligns with the organizational objectives.

We identify two phases in cultural change: initially we conduct a culture scan, followed by a culture change process. Read on for more information.

The company culture scan: making your culture measurable

The company culture scan consists of two parts: a combined quantitative and qualitative investigation. The quantitative component serves as a starting point to obtain a general understanding of the organization and its culture through a culture survey questionnaire, which is developed in collaboration with the client. During a kickoff session between Highberg and the client, the components of the culture survey questionnaire are determined. The questionnaire components are based on constructs from scientific research or those validated by ourselves. To gain deeper insights into respondents' answers, open-ended follow-up questions are added. If clients want insights into subgroups, this is already incorporated into the quantitative research using background data from the HR system or background questions included in the questionnaire. In short, we tailor our questionnaire based on the client's needs, making sure to provide a high degree of flexibility.

The results of the quantitative culture survey are analyzed and then discussed with the client during a feedback session. This determines which themes require qualitative exploration. Once it is known which themes will be included in the qualitative research, a research plan is formulated. Typically, qualitative research is conducted through in-depth interviews by experts, but other methods such as focus groups can also be used. The results of the qualitative research are then analyzed and summarized.

The key insights from both the quantitative and qualitative research are presented to the client in a management report. In this report, all relevant results are also displayed for subgroups, if requested. Many of our questions are also included in benchmark surveys, allowing the results to be directly compared with the market.

In addition to the management report, Highberg provides custom-made company culture dashboards. These dashboards are interactive and visualize the results of the company culture scan. Clients can extract additional insights from them and easily compare the results of multiple surveys.

Cultural change: how do you proceed next?

Based on the insights from the culture scan and the customer's needs we can start building a change plan. The current situation (A) and future situation (B) have both been thoroughly mapped out. Now the biggest challenge begins: moving from A to B. We believe in co-creation, both in the design and implementation of the cultural change. From day one, we will mirror the client on 'B,' as setting the right example is crucial for the new situation. This begins with exhibiting the desired behavior. This is already a major challenge in itself and we will stand next to the customer in this process to realize the cultural change together. Then, it is time to implement the plan. This plan can include living through and implementing core values and having sessions with employees about the company's history and culture. but also using an informal network (based on a network scan which shows where the informal leaders are within the organization). By building an informal network, we can realize culture change bottom-up. The informal leaders start working on tiny habits; small behaviors that fit “B”, the desired behavior and strategy. In this way they spread the new behavior like wildfire (Herrero, 2008). Finally, leadership is a crucial part of culture change. Because ultimately, a company can only change as far as leaders are able to lead. Openness and vulnerability in their own process, the challenges they encounter and leading in the desired behavior is key. See more information about our vision on leadership here.

In short, we do not have a 'standard' culture change process. Based on the results from the culture scan, we create a suitable plan together with the customer, reflect where necessary and develop appropriate interventions.

FAQ corporate culture, culture research and culture change


*Hemerling, J., Kilmann, J., Danoesastro, M., Stutts, L., & Ahern, C. (2021, 1 november). It’s not a digital transformation without a digital culture. BCG Global.

*Herrero, L. (2008). Viral change: The Alternative to Slow, Painful and Unsuccessful Management of Change in Organisations. Meetingminds Publishing.

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