“I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game, it is the game. In the end, an organization is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value.”
– Louis Gerstner, IBM
Your business has been growing; however, you’ve begun to notice some things in the day-to-day operations that are causing concern. After meeting with your senior leaders, you learn that morale isn’t as high as you’d like it to be. And, with more digging, you realize a slow, but steady trend of declining customer satisfaction. It appears that the company has outgrown the culture, especially with the younger new hires being recruited.
You realize you need to get the business better in alignment with your customers, the market and where you are now. It’s time to make some adjustments to reflect the direction your business is headed and regain the confidence of employees and customers. It’s time to tweak the culture.
Making a change in company culture requires a fair amount of finesse and collaboration. When a candidate is hired, you mutually agree that they are a fit for the culture as it is. Changing the environment they agreed to be a part of can feel like a bait and switch to them, and, they may not fit in well with new standards. As a result, you face the challenge of gaining the support of your employees, but also jeopardizing their confidence in the leadership and the business itself.
It’s important to be mindful that culture is an entrenched aspect of any group or organization. Failure to demonstrate how the change will benefit the growth and sustainability of the company can create a sense of vulnerability and cost a business some of its most valuable producers who embrace stability.
Get Senior Leadership Involved
Engaging your senior leaders and gathering their input about the challenges you’ve observed will help you to understand the perspectives of each department. Through collaboration, you can determine if the issues are throughout your organization as a whole or isolated to certain areas of the business.
If you and your senior leaders see a business case for adjusting the company culture, it’s important to remember that your company is the livelihood of your employees. They will be protective of it their work environment; therefore, a gentle approach with change taking place over time affords them the opportunity to adjust, softening concerns for the stability of the business and their jobs.
Take Your Time
To begin, be careful to not change too much overnight. Ease into the changes by allowing them to take place over time. This will provide comfort for your employees and give them time to adjust, reducing concerns that their employment may be in jeopardy.
In addition, setting achievable, short-term goals helps to maintain momentum through the process. As each milestone is reached, they serve as opportunities to measure and review progress to determine if any adjustments should be made.
Leading By Example
Once you begin implementing the changes, a top-down approach in which senior leaders and managers demonstrate enthusiasm and lead by example provides a model for employees. Managers with direct reports can extend this enthusiasm by sharing information about progress with their teams so they remain encouraged.
Employees who feel valued are more likely to weather growing pains and become advocates of the project. Therefore, it’s important to ask for feedback throughout the business. The most junior of personnel may offer input that delivers the most positive impact to progress.
Have Fun with It
Making the process fun is another means to gain support. Rather than simply setting a date to begin transforming the business, consider a kick-off party complete with prizes and customer contests to celebrate a new era for your business. For example, if you’re moving from a casual dress code to a business dress, having a sports-themed day or costume event might be worth considering. Or, if you’re implementing new company-wide technology, have a drawing for a new gadget. Managers may also reward or acknowledge their direct reports who go the extra mile to support the changes.
Finally, be realistic. Making changes to company culture can be a daunting task. However, implementing a strategy that takes place over time, has a clear objective, is well planned, engages senior leadership, and considers employees has a greater chance for success. If the move is good for your business, the end result will justify the effort.