Wellness Coordinators – Seeking Organizational Change? You Must Address All 3 Levels of Culture

Worksite wellness programs are as much about organizational change as they are individual change. Read on to learn about the three levels of organizational culture you must address in order to successfully change your organization’s culture.

Within the worksite wellness community, there is considerable discussion taking place today about the role of culture and in particular, creating a culture of health or wellness within an organization. But I see very little about how to successfully change an organization’s culture.

Most of what I see being written and discussed about culture change only addresses one level of organizational culture – the most visible level, namely the workplace environment. If you really want to successfully change your organization’s culture, you must address culture change at all three levels of a culture. What are these three levels?

Level 1: The Workplace Environment

The workplace environment is the most visible element of culture and consists of both the material and nonmaterial objects and patterns of behavior within the organization. These are sometimes referred to as the artifacts of the organization. They would include such examples as:

• The physical workplaces, environment and furnishings

• Employee dress

• Leadership style and employee behavior and interactions

• Language, stories and myths

• Ceremonies and celebrations

Level 2: How the Culture Gets Expressed

This level, while still visible, primarily reflects the organization’s written and visual communications. Examples at this level would include:

• Branding (logo, tag line, colors used, etc.)

• Mission and vision statements

• Values statements

• Codes of conduct

• Ethics statements

• Annual reports to stakeholders

• Other types of visual and written communications

Level 3: Underlying Values, Beliefs and Assumptions

This level is the assumptions made about how life in the organization should be. Since this level is invisible, its elements are often assumed or taken for granted. The cultural elements at this level are reflected in what is visible in levels 1 and 2. Despite this, these elements are very powerful elements of an organization’s culture.

Values are emotional desires and wants. They are the things that are important to people and from this perspective, can’t be overlooked.

Beliefs are cognitively held views about truth and reality. The basics of the beliefs come from our life’s experiences and the way we perceive them. At their core, the beliefs may or may not be based on fact. That does not mean we believe them any less.

Other assumptions at this level include spirit, truths and organizational scripts. The values, beliefs and other assumptions all combine to form the organization’s underlying assumptions upon which the Levels 1 and 2 of culture are based. These cultural elements are also the most difficult to change.

As a worksite wellness coordinator, if you are interested in or engaged in cultural change initiatives, plan your initiatives to include all three levels of culture.

Culture Change

As a nationally certified Wellness Culture Coach, I invite you to allow me to help you with your culture change journey. I can help you access numerous culture change tools, resources and materials. I can also help you create an effective, successful and sustainable wellness program. I specialize in mentoring worksite wellness program coordinators and creating Done With You worksite wellness and well-being programs. You can contact me at [email protected]

Brought to you by Bill McPeck, Your Worksite Wellness Mentor. Dedicated to helping organizations create positive, healthy organizational cultures and worksite wellness coordinators create successful, sustainable worksite wellness and well-being programs, especially in small employer settings.