Company culture: you hear this term a lot these days. But what does it mean exactly? Is it fluffy and abstract or quantifiable and measurable? Turns out, a little bit of both. Company culture forms the core of any business, large or small. It’s what everything else is built around, forming the foundation of success. But while integral to each company’s staying power, culture can’t result from a top-down mandate that demands compliance; rather it has to be cultivated organically and reside in the collective hearts and habits of the people who work for you, points out Harvard Business Review. This shared perception of “it’s just the way we do things here” has to be instilled from day one. You just can’t teach optimism, conviction, creativity and trust. However, you can foster, grow, cultivate and encourage change.
It’s up to the executive team to carry this through. It’s the team’s job to plant the company with culture, water it and watch it grow.
Turning the Ship Around
So, what happens when the company culture has gotten a bit off track and needs to be steered anew? Transformation is in order, and the executive team is the one to lead the charge. As someone who holds the valuable position of leadership, it’s your job to effectively facilitate a workplace culture that encourages each employee to flourish, says Business.com. Be prepared, any change you propose will likely be met with skepticism. After all, people as a whole tend to get into routines and become resistant and even hostile when challenged with sudden calls for change. That’s why you must facilitate sustainable change that gives each employee a reason and a chance to flourish and succeed.
Changing company culture doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not like you can trade in your old culture for a new one like you would a car. It takes time, dedication, patience and a lot of tenaciousness. Attempting to push through a big change isn’t as easy as it looks, especially when you know that cultural habits are well ingrained, for better or worse. Drawing on the positive aspects of the culture and turning the tide toward your advantage can offset many of the growing pains you’ll experience along the way.
Tips for Fostering Sustainable Change
So let’s get right down to the nitty gritty. Infusing change in company culture isn’t a one-and-done proposition. It needs to be sustainable to effectively meet the challenges of longevity. Here are some helpful tips you as the member of your company’s executive team can try to ease the burden of transition.
Narrow Your Focus
Rather than looking at the entire business as a big picture, company culture becomes necessary to focus on things at a much more granular level. Think of this as macro vs. micro. You’ll need to start with the individuals in your company and broaden your goals from there. After all, it’s the people in your organization that will drive change, one by one. Be prepared to be met with resistance, as said above. It’s never easy to break a bad habit. Just like smoking cessation or cutting out sweets, there will be initial push-back. But because change can only occur on an individual basis, it’s important to stay the course, reinforce values every day, and foster the type of change that is sustainable over the long term.
Back to the food analogy. You can’t just tell someone to stop eating cookies and ice cream. Instead, you have to teach them a whole new way of approaching food, giving them the tools necessary to make a bigger life change that incorporates healthy foods and exercise. The key to change is to re-focus priorities consistently so that the old behavior becomes obsolete relatively painlessly.
Make the Correct Hiring and Firing Decisions
No one likes to fire people. But that’s why they pay you the big bucks. It’s your job to mold your staff in line with the new company culture. Trimming the fat is part of the process. People who bring down the corporate culture will likely do so for as long as you allow them to. Learn to spot the red flags that show you a particular employee is all wrong for your culture, such as laziness, unwillingness to change, failure to admit mistakes, and inability to take constructive criticism. Hire positive, proactive replacements that better align with your corporate values.
Set Shorter Term Goals
Good things come to those who wait. Having a patient outlook while anticipating long-term change leaves you time to implement shorter term goals that will eventually lead to steady, consistent change. Come up with a list of focused tangible changes with the rest of your executive team that you want to see infused in the workplace culture. This can be anything from encouraging employees to be timely, to giving more responsibilities to lower-level employees.
Shifting your company culture can seem like an insurmountable task but it can be done. Transitioning to a healthy, profitable company starts with you as the leader and inspiration for change.