By: Liz Sheffield
Workplace culture represents the personality of your organization. It’s what makes your organization unique. Organizational culture is comprised of the company values, behaviors, and attitudes within the company. Your established cultural norms impact everything from operations, to customer experience to employee traditions and interactions. Positive workplace cultures are also known to attract talent, foster employee engagement, increase job satisfaction, and inspire outstanding performance for employees and the organization.
As an article in Harvard Business Review indicates, a positive workplace culture isn’t a given.
“Culture is like the wind. It is invisible, yet its effect can be seen and felt. When it is blowing in your direction, it makes for smooth sailing. When it is blowing against you, everything is more difficult.”
Creating a healthy workplace culture requires effort, and at times, a cultural transformation is necessary to redirect the organization to a new, more robust culture that supports your goals and vision. If you’re at a place where your corporate culture requires a tune-up, we have suggestions for how to guide a workplace cultural transformation.
Gain Leadership Support
Leaders set the tone in an organization. It’s only natural that when examining what’s expected at work, employees look to leaders and emulate their behaviors, methods, and attitudes. To guide a workplace culture transformation, you need leadership support to make the shift, which starts by ensuring that they exhibit the desired behaviors that represent your ideal organizational culture.
“World-class leaders exude a spirit of positivity and fairness and provide an example worth emulating. In other words, they turn their own values into company-wide ones. In turn, a company’s values inform its goals and its brand personality,” according to Forbes.
Leaders have a significant impact on an organization’s early workplace culture. The leadership team is instrumental in defining behavioral norms that align with the organization’s overarching values. If you find leaders are demonstrating behaviors that don’t align with the cultural transformation, consider offering leadership development programs that can address gaps. Culture emerges naturally, but also requires an honest conversation with your leadership team about the importance of their role in defining, or transforming, the culture.
Define Your Cultural Goals
To guide a workplace culture transformation, you also need a map of where you’re going. That map begins by defining your organizational culture goals. The thought of culture may seem too subjective to capture.
Begin the discussion of culture by asking questions of people in the organization. Ideally, you can do this through an employee survey so that you capture input from all areas of the business and allow employees to contribute to this vital part of your business trajectory.
To start, ask five seemingly simple questions:
- What makes you proud to work at this company?
- What’s one thing you would change about the organization if you could?
- How are decisions made?
- How do people give and receive feedback?
- Why would you recommend this workplace to a friend?
Once you have defined the cultural goals, reinforce them with leadership messages throughout the organization. Cultural goals need to be consistently communicated and reinforced for them to have the positive impact your organization desires.
Provide Opportunities for Two-Way Communication
Cultural transformations don’t happen overnight. Culture change occurs over time—for better and for worse. As you work towards a culture change, keep in mind that culture doesn’t have to be static. The key is to recognize the current culture, determine what’s changed, and look for ways to help the culture evolve to a new dimension that more effectively supports your organizational and workforce needs.
“A bumper-sticker slogan is not a corporate culture. If employees hear the articulation of the changed culture as just another example of unobjectionable but vapid words and phrases, they will never be inspired. Take a phrase like ‘mutual respect’ — hard to argue with that. But if, for example, this is a company where senior people regularly talk over others, everyone gets the true message,” according to Richy Lyons, the dean of Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.
Systems and processes that allow for two-way communication, such as employee communication software, are required for a strong organizational culture to develop. Employees need a way to not only contribute their ideas about the cultural change, but also bring up concerns if they observe behaviors and norms aren’t representative of the culture. Some organizations have created culture review committees or capture employee feedback about cultural issues via online forms or hotlines. The most important thing is to convey to employees that their voices are important and that they are heard.
Allow Employees to Engage with the Culture
Employee interactions with corporate cultures don’t end when they walk out the door. They may complete tasks outside of work, or refer to company messaging and documents outside of the work-site. That’s why it’s essential that your organizational communications consistently reflect your culture and are available in ways that resonate personally with each employee group.
“Conflicting messages regarding corporate culture may create distrust and cynicism, which can prompt, or help employees justify, actions as deleterious as embezzlement. Experts say that cultural inconsistencies may also cause workers to grow discouraged, to believe management is disingenuous, to doubt statements from higher-ups and to be less inclined to give their best effort,” according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
Having a messaging strategy and platform is essential in providing a consistent message across various communication channels. For example, workers at a construction site may get access to your cultural messages via posters with a QR code, while office staff may engage more with messages delivered via email. Likewise, you want employees from all generations to engage with the culture, which might require messaging that uses different tones or types of content.
To determine how to engage all employees with your cultural transformation, break down your employee base into smaller groups based on common roles, interests, or priorities. Then build consistent messaging for each of these groups.
Recognize when Employees Demonstrate the Culture in Behaviors
After you put all the effort into a workplace culture transformation, it’s essential to reinforce when employees demonstrate behaviors that reflect and represent that culture. Each time you reward someone at work, it creates meaningful moments for everyone involved. If you tie recognition and celebrations to the culture, it’s a powerful way to reinforce the ideal culture and establish behavioral norms.
For example, if you’re rewarding employees for getting the job done “regardless of what it takes,” you’re reinforcing behaviors that could lead to compliance issues such as bribes, or abuse of power. By contrast, if you’re rewarding employees for taking the necessary time and effort to help resolve a customer issue, you’re establishing a culture that values customer service.
Ensure that you establish ways for everyone in the organization to participate in rewarding and recognizing one another. There are opportunities to develop annual awards that recognize employees, teams, or leaders who consistently create the ideal workplace culture you’re striving to achieve. However, also ensure there are daily opportunities for managers, colleagues, and team members to celebrate each others’ successes. Even if there’s not a formal program or reward to give, provide messaging that communicates how important it is to recognize others’ efforts.
With the right tools and information, recognition can become an everyday occurrence as well as a special event. Not only will the big and small recognition moments serve to improve employee experience, but they will also reinforce the cultural transformation you hope to achieve.
Corporate cultures are complex; however, a successful cultural transformation can deliver a significant return on investment for the organization. A cultural change for the better will create trust and drive more efficient decisions. A transformation can also inspire a strong sense of connection with the organization and mutual understanding among employees. When an organization focuses on culture, it will achieve a competitive advantage thanks to the shared values that all members of the workforce demonstrate and uphold.
- https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/toolsandsamples/toolkits/pages/ understandinganddevelopingorganizationalculture.aspx