Time to Change Your Culture? 9 Key Steps

Many corporations are facing the need to change their culture to meet future demands. There are three main trends that are motivating companies to examine and evolve their cultures, explained by Industry Week:

Technology. “The spread of personal computers in the 1980s led to an evolutionary shift in workload from clerical staff to management, altering the traditional office relationship between bosses and admins. Today’s rapid pace of technological change is creating even more dramatic cultural adaptations. For instance, interconnectivity has liberated workers from their desks, allowing them the freedom to work from multiple locations. The impact on culture: a more flexible system of office relationships between supervisors and direct reports.”

Demographics. Most Millennials are now in the workforce, and the oldest member of the next generation will soon enter the labor force. While most corporate leadership is still from earlier generations, change is being driven by the younger groups. “For the newest generations of workers, corporate culture is viewed as the most important job benefit. And while they want good jobs with regular paychecks like their older colleagues, they’re also looking for more emotional engagement at work, better work-life balance and a “purposeful” life. Corporate cultures that emphasize personal growth as much as career growth will be more attractive to these newest generations.”

Loss of skilled workers. Companies struggle to fill openings in engineering and technology, but also other types of skilled labor, including machinists, carpenters, and others. In casting a wider net for labor, companies must change their culture to make these positions appealing to women and minorities. “In a sector that has long been predominately white and male, both on the shop floor and in the C-suite, a transition towards more diversity requires a greater emphasis on team- and community-building to break down habitual social barriers. In effect, companies are attempting to create a workplace environment where respect and non-violent communications is the standard, and where different genders, ethnic groups, and religious persuasions can work harmoniously to further the company’s goals.”

The need for culture change is clear. How to achieve culture change is not clear. Changing an established corporate culture, especially in large organizations, is one of the most difficult challenges most executives will face in their career. Here are nine tips to help pave the way (source Forbes):

  1. Make culture change a corporate priority.
  2. Codify your cultural decision. An explicit – and very short – statement of how you are going to change, including how you are going to treat employees, customers, and vendors will clear the way forward and give you something to refer back to as needed.
  3. Change your hiring practices. Every single employee hired must reflect the new organizational values.
  4. Improve your onboarding. In addition to the details of how to do a job, new hires need to understand – and view leadership’s commitment to – the purpose of your organization.
  5. Adjust your personnel policies. What you do must align with what you say. Do a complete audit of your HR policies, and then adjust to reflect the culture you want to achieve.
  6. Write down your standards. Over time (but fairly quickly), document your customer service standards – especially best practices. Include the reason for the standard, so employees can make the best decisions.
  7. Sustain your plan with reinforcement. While hiring and onboarding are important, culture change depends on being continually reinforced.
  8. What gets measured, gets done. Make sure you are measuring the right things, and reporting the results to the right people.
  9. Commit yourself to employee direction. Let your employees know what has to be done, and then let them decide how to get it done.

Culture change is difficult, but the most important thing is to commit to that change. Executives, managers, and even line employees, may be very uncomfortable with the “new way of doing things.” However, like the dinosaurs, culture change may make the difference between extinction and survival. The best advice? See #1 above: Begin.

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