Author Profile Picture

Vlatka Hlupic

Hult Ashridge Executive Edication & The Management Shift Consulting Ltd

Professor of Leadership and Organizational Transformation

Read more from Vlatka Hlupic

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Learning and development’s role in culture change that sticks

Building the right behaviours in an organisation that builds and supports a regularly evolving culture of change is the bedrock of success.
Stone person in water with swirling clouds and light emanating from them

As an L&D leader, you may have been asked to partake in a positive organisational culture change that requires your direction. Do you know what your role is? Where do you fit, and what should you do as part of the change management team? Taking a step back to determine what organisational culture is and how to carry it through is essential if you are to play an effective role. 

Ringing in the cultural changes

A significant shift occurs when an organisation sees that a positive change results in behaviours and attitudes that are consistent with the organisation's aims and values.

The mindset of leaders and employees is important for the success of an organisation

As a result of global external circumstances such as Covid-19, The Great Resignation, economic inflation, and talent acquisition, it is now more vital than ever for organisations to be proactive in their cultural shift to stay ahead of the competition.

In my book Humane Capital, I show how organisations can ensure that culture shifts are permanent. Based on in-depth interviews with 58 global leaders, the book offers eight key areas, or pillars, on which organisations can build a more humane workplace. Not is this only the right thing to do, but it also makes good business sense. Studies have shown that happy employees are more productive employees.

The 5-Level ‘Management Shift’ Model (also known as the Emergent Leadership Model), shows five levels that an individual mindset goes through and a corresponding organisational culture at each level and was used as a framework for interviews captured in the book. 

L&D professionals can utilise this 5-level model to make the move from a 20th-century command-and-control mentality (Level 3), where all employees are ordered what to do and the organisation survives (the 20th-century leadership style), to a 21st-century leadership style (Level 4/5) which emphasises collaboration, integrity, purpose, transparency, accountability, and a caring mindset.

The Emergent Leadership model is a vital key to achieving this. This model focuses on both the collective culture and an individual mindset and behaviours, which are equally essential for creating a thriving (Level 4/5) organisation. A permanent shift to Level 4 culture (supported by Level 4 behaviours) will create a high-performing learning organisation.

Emergent Leadership Model


Based on Humane Capital research, it is apparent that such high performing organisation will need to focus on the Eight Key Pillars: 

1. Mindset of leaders and employees

The mindset of leaders and employees is important for the success of an organisation. The ‘Big Shift’ occurs when individuals and an organisation move from a mindset of Level 3 to Level 4, which is characterised by a more enthusiastic mindset and collaborative culture. Leaders need to be able to associate the positive aspects of an energetic, high-performance culture in order to create an environment that is more conducive to success.

2. Motivation

Motivation and mindset are closely related. Employees who are anchored at Level 4 are highly engaged and motivated to succeed in all that they do. Employees at lower levels are not motivated, engaged, or passionate about their work, and they do not have a sense of purpose. Level 4 culture is an important motivating factor to drive high performance.

3. Higher Purpose

Providing employees who are also a part of an organisation with a sense of contribution is also proving to have a positive effect. Because there is a major difference between individuals who serve for the sake of their own self-interests and for those who serve for the sake of a greater good, businesses must create opportunities that allow their employees to feel that they are making a difference within an organisation and wider society. 

When people, their work, and the systems within the organisation are synchronised, this can have a humanising influence

4. Values and their alignment

One of the key aspects of creating a high-performance, enthusiastic work culture is aligning employee values with the organisation’s values. When employees feel encouraged and invested in their job when their values are in keeping with the company's, their performance and enthusiasm increase. Likewise, when employees' values are aligned with the company's values, this provides a signal that the company supports their goals.

5. Aligning of people and systems

When people, their work, and the systems within the organisation are synchronised, this can have a humanising influence. This alignment can be understood to indicate that individuals are the most valuable component of a company and must be treated as such. The next stage is to ensure that the systems use their work as efficiently and effectively as possible. 

6. Self-organisation of employees in communities

When workers are allowed to self-organise and operate in communities (of passion), they can come together and support each other to establish norms. This can be done by setting parameters for the group and providing a forum to enable members to exchange ideas. In doing so, companies can produce a positive working environment encouraging the productivity of their employees.

7. Caring ethos

Collaborative organisations actively value their employees, they have embraced an ethos of caring. They have implemented strategies and actions that aim to show that they value their employees as people and not just as a means to an end. Doing so breeds a high-performance culture, in which employees willingly go above and beyond for the benefit of their organisation and its customers.

8. Organisational learning processes

Employees who consider their job to be important and view themselves as an integral part of a business enterprise are far more engaged than those that do not. They take more pride in their work and are less likely to be inclined to leave the company over time.

One way to keep employees engaged is to have learning and development agendas that allow for continued employee development. This sends the message that the business values its employees and wants to help them grow.

Eight Key Pillars need nurturing

Establishing, developing, and deploying the eight pillars is a mandatory aspect of operating a successful company. An organisational culture based on inclusivity, positivity, and values, along with a focus on individuals, is crucial. Only then will an organisation be able to reach its goals and achieve success.

L&D leaders who aspire to create thriving organisations will almost always require a permanent culture shift

In conclusion, L&D leaders who aspire to create thriving organisations will almost always require a permanent culture shift, a shift to Level 4/5 culture. A fundamental change in the way the business operates that leads to improved behaviours and new expectations is required for a successful culture shift.

How can businesses lead a successful culture shift? By recognising the need for change, engaging employees in the process, communicating the vision and objectives of the culture shift, and providing support and resources throughout the transition.

Interested in this topic? Read The new rules to leading people through change.

Author Profile Picture
Vlatka Hlupic

Professor of Leadership and Organizational Transformation

Read more from Vlatka Hlupic

Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!

Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.
Subscribe to TrainingZone's newsletter