What is Culture Hacking?

Culture hacking is all about finding the little things you can do everyday, to make iterative change. Like a software developer on an engineering sprint, it’s about focusing on small things more frequently rather than only trying to tackle and change the big things. Fundamentally, a culture hack is simply an intentional action taken to affect positive cultural change within your organization.

Culture hacking is quite new in terms of HR methodologies and techniques. From an early adopter standpoint, it is probably leveraged more by fast growing startups and brand focused organizations that believe that their culture is living and breathing, not something that you work on once a year, after your annual employee engagement survey.

Zappos is a good example of an organization that partakes in the culture hacking. It’s amplified throughout the organization because they believe in a co-creation approach–culture is not something that can be dictated down, it’s something that needs to be co-created by everyone, everyday. So the organization as a whole creates an environment where everyone can be on the same page. There are constant feedback loops that enable ongoing change and culture building.

Since the “culture hack” is a small act, here are a three examples that you can try, without needing approval, or a meeting to strategize about how you’re going to affect cultural change:

  1. Change the words you use to talk about culture. Like Zappos, instead of talking about “creating culture” talk about how you will involve everyone to “co-create” culture
  2. Rather than surveying your staff on a yearly basis, try surveying them quarterly. Using focused pulse surveys is another tool to gather feedback more regularly. 
  3. Create more visual environments–at your next meeting, rather than just talking through things, maybe print out some charts and diagrams that can be tapped on the wall and referenced during the meeting

Small changes are going to be unique to every organization because what matters to the culture will be different. Having the understanding and knowing where you are currently is half the battle. Having data on a regular basis will better support a culture that’s living and breathing and increasing engagement regularly, not just “revived” once every three years.

More resources on culture hacking:

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