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  • Writer's pictureChris Ward

How to get employee support for a changing corporate culture

Your corporate culture is all about your people – management and staff. And specifically, about how they behave and interact with one another and with your external stakeholders.

Investopedia defines corporate culture as the beliefs and behaviours that determine how a company's employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions. It goes on to suggest: Often, corporate culture is implied, not expressly defined, and develops organically over time from the cumulative traits of the people the company hires. A company's culture will be reflected in its dress code, business hours, office setup, employee benefits, turnover, hiring decisions, treatment of clients, client satisfaction and every other aspect of operations.

Changing a corporate culture is not for the feint-hearted or impatient. It takes perseverance, and a commitment of time and energy to change beliefs and behaviours.

It means changing the way people relate to one another, they approach the various tasks that make up their jobs, …the way they support one another and the lengths to which they will go to ensure their “customers” (buyers, members, donors or volunteers) are satisfied (better still, delighted!) with what they receive from the organization.

Shaking up the status quo.

Because most cultures have developed organically, it is reasonable to assume that employees are fairly comfortable with the status quo. That doesn’t mean they necessarily like everything just the way it is or will be adamantly opposed to a different way of doing certain things. But it does suggest many are quite happy to continue operating – or behaving – the way they always have. So asking them to do things in a different way can be very challenging.

As most parents will attest, getting a son or daughter to change a behaviour can be about as easy as getting a rattlesnake to make nice at a tea party. None of these critters responds well to edicts laid down by those in authority. That doesn’t mean that changing a corporate culture is impossible or a task mere mortals should steer clear of. But human nature being what it is, it does suggest the need for a thoughtful approach tailored to the situation. Just as you can’t reason with a rattlesnake, the proverbial stick is absolutely not the way to get employees to embrace a new way of doing things.

Two essentials: Clarity and openness.

So what’s the best way to affect a change in the way things are done in your organization? Remembering that corporate culture is all about beliefs and behaviours, there are several must dos. These include:

  • identifying and defining a set of core values that establish the ways in which you would like your employees to interact with each other and external stakeholders.

  • being clear about the beliefs and behaviours that align with these values and those you would like to see changed.

  • being equally clear about what these changing beliefs and behaviours will mean for employees, and how they approach their day-to-day jobs.

  • explaining the desired changes in a way that makes sense to employees – there has to be a reason that employees understand and buy into.

  • providing training to ensure that each employee understands what it means to change course, why the core values are important to the organization, and what behaviours will ensure the change is properly introduced and takes hold.

  • being open to feedback and suggestions for making the change process go more smoothly.

Cultural change won't just happen the way you'd like it to. If employees are unclear about the what, why, or how, the whole initiative is pretty much over before it's begun. So, in addition to being clear and open, support your change initiative with meaningful, ongoing communication and flexibility in the way you respond to changing circumstances and outcomes. And remember, proactively is far more likely to

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