How to create culture change that sticks: Team-Based Embedding  

Why you need Team-Based Embedding 


It takes time to figure out and craft the perfect culture for your business. From gaining insight to understanding your current culture to designing the future company culture you require. It’s estimated that only 37% of change initiatives succeed. So, after doing all of that hard work, how do you actually embed culture change so it sticks for success?  

Sorry but, top-down doesn’t really work…  

People assume that you change the culture at the top, with your leaders, and it’ll just cascade down beautifully into different departments and teams across your business. Great, job done.   

Actually…no. Most culture change programmes are too short, too sharp, and too shallow. Many businesses end up having more of a culture re-brand with new iconography, mission, vision, and values with a one-off kick-off event and some cool new merch.   

And then everyone gets back on with their work and surprise surprise – not much has changed.  

There was a time when ‘top-down’ systems to embedding culture change were considered best practices. Senior leaders or external consultants would set the agenda and tell teams how to behave to achieve desired outcomes. But this doesn’t change behaviours or habits – (which, is why it doesn’t work according to research) – so a different approach is required.  

What is Team-Based Embedding?

Nowadays we know that culture isn’t something that can be done to people, it must be a journey they actively choose to take themselves on. This requires a very different mindset, and it requires ambassadors from within your company to lead the charge and help your employees take ownership of the change and what it means for them as individuals and teams. 

What’s needed is consideration of building a culture with the people working within it, using deep insights, and building in the practical mechanisms so people work in ways that bring the culture to life and be something they identify with.  

The real change happens when you make culture change stick, really embedding it within the business. Essentially, team-based embedding is culture change at scale-except its culture change that is embedded through ownership and facilitation at a team/department level.  

Of course, you need the same insight and design phases with your senior leaders and cross-sections of employees to give you the foundation, but after this and your launch, this Is where the magic happens.  

Team-based embedding allows the teams to go at their own pace, and to embed in a culture in a way that is purposeful and meaningful to them. They translate the mission, vision, and values in practical ways according to the types of work they do, their processes and their interactions – this is what makes it more relevant and ‘sticky’ than any other method.  

Why it works 

Creating a culture change that sticks is about winning hearts and changing mindsets, something that is easier to do at an individual departmental / team level.  

Because the teams are embedding the culture change in their own way, it takes these big ideas and turns them into a tangible reality.   

For example, if you want to create a culture of innovation, yet your product team has an approval process with 7 different stakeholders before they can push anything through – that’s a barrier to innovation that the product team may be able to find a solution to. 

Reflection is a key part of a successful culture change – being brave enough to hold up the mirror and see what your enablers and inhibitors are.  

How to make Team-Based Embedding work for you  

Team-based embedding takes a holistic approach to instilling a new culture. Instead of instructing your people, empower them. This is best achieved by identifying unique groups within your business and tailoring your communications about the change programme to each team, department, or cross-functional team based on seniority or projects. Allowing teams to make progress at their own pace within your framework will mean they can get started immediately to improve the business and results quicker.  

Understand that everyone is different and has unique skills to aid the culture change process. Your new graduates will need a very different experience from a managing partner, as will the finance team to your client-facing staff yet while the approach to engage them will be different, there is no less value in either. This approach will be more likely to see swifter uptake, deeper understanding, and commitment from your team.  

76% of execs say their company has a well-defined values system that’s understood and well communicated – but only 31% of employees believe this to be true. By tailoring your communications, upskilling programmes, and feedback process for each team you will make the change relevant and tangible which will in turn: 

  • Ensure team ownership, making culture change part of everyone’s job 
  • Empower your teams to take control 
  • Align your team’s output 
  • Upskill your teams naturally as they learn and improve  
  • Help you evolve quicker 
  • Gain greater levels of trust 
  • Ensure continuous improvement as culture change is not a single project with a finite deadline. 


When to utilise your internal experts 

While externals like Culture Consultancy facilitate the methods, tools, upskilling and facilitate workshops and ongoing conversations, it is leaders and managers (with the support of HR and internal communications teams) that must steer the team-based embedding process for several reasons: 

  1. They understand established team dynamics 
  2. You can provide increased flexibility 
  3. Can identify skills gaps  
  4. Need to take ownership of the new culture once it is set up to onboard new team members and recruit against it.  

Leaders and managers steering the team-based embedding process can have a huge business impact. At Culture Consultancy, we recently worked with Mortgage Advice Bureau on their culture change – bringing it to life every day, thanks to team-based embedding. Mortgage Advice Bureau saw its staff turnover drop, employee engagement increase, and customers more delighted than ever before.  In fact, their culture is now award-winning.

Want to make your culture award-winning? 

We understand the complexities of organisational structure, the challenges of running a business and how to engage your workforce in sustained culture change – whatever the desired outcome is. We can support your internal teams to embed new behaviours and values, so they become part of the fabric of your organisation. Find out more about team-based embedding and culture change.