Do you think you need to change your corporate culture? If nothing is wrong, you may not think you need to change. But just because nothing seems wrong, it doesn’t mean a change is not necessary.
Some time ago I worked with a company of about 300 employees who were spread across a number of different sites.
The Company had grown from a family owned and run small business and had built up a reputation for quality and innovation. Sadly, to a certain extent, they were still relying on their good name and the culture had slipped in to one where people were just jogging along. There was no innovation and productivity was getting lower. Nothing was particularly wrong, but there was a general air of boredom and a lack of enthusiasm.
Additionally, there were petty squabbles among staff and people were quick to raise a grievance. The rate of sickness absence increased for minor ailments.
The Board of Directors decided to combine the work done at the various sites. Consequently they would move everybody to one site. This was intended to decrease the overheads. Additionally, productivity might be increased by bringing everyone under one roof. Such was the thinking.
I was brought in to facilitate the site moves. I soon realised that these moves, in themselves, would not solve the productivity problem. In fact, initially, things were likely to get worse. Rebuilding teams from people who had worked in separate physical sites was a challenge. Particularly as each site had its own, slightly different, culture.
Deciding to change your corporate culture
If you think you might need to change your corporate culture, then where do you start?
For us, the first step was for the Board to recognise that a change was needed. They could see that the different site managers had each had a different approach. This had led to a stricter, slightly stifled regime at one site, whilst a couple of others had become lax and mistakes were creeping in. The first need was to establish what the desired culture should look like. Then we had to build a roadmap of how to achieve that, with milestones along the way.
Collaborating with employees
If you want to change your corporate culture, it is really important to talk to the employees.
We wanted to know what worked and what did not (and why). The organisation was unionised and we worked with the Trade Unions. But additionally, at each site, we set up a working group of volunteers to plan the site moves. We sent out a survey, to be completed anonymously. This was to gauge what worked and what did not. We also used the Trade Unions to speak to their members and line managers to speak to their teams.
One critical factor was to communicate the plans and proposals. We also provided some training on managing change. Where individuals had specific concerns and issues, we held individual consultation meetings. Along with practical issues about the move, we also communicated our desire to build a new, collaborative, culture. We asked employees to work with us to outline our future direction. Their suggestions contributed largely to our plans.
We found that not every employee shared our vision of collaboration and engagement. Some decided that they did not want to move sites; some decided that they did not like the new “feel” to the Company. We provided training and support, where applicable, to help people to adjust, but we also accepted that some would never settle and agreed to an amicable parting.
There were also a number of people who were content to continue jogging along at their steady pace. They were doing a good job, but not an excellent one. They were not disengaged from the Company, but were not actively engaged either. We approached this by giving every opportunity for them to voice their opinions, give their ideas, get involved.
For many, we accepted that “a good job” was good enough and that these were the backbone of the company. We trained our line managers in spotting signs of disengagement. We gave them the tools to engage with their teams.
For the minority of high-achievers, who were full of innovation and enthusiasm, we had given a chance to shine. We subsequently found that the number of these high-achievers increased.
Walking the walk
The first step in this change had been to engage with the top team. This continued to be an important step and is an ongoing need. The team at the very top of a company needs to be the example they want to set. The adage “be the change you want to see” is critical in business.
Whether or not it is a conscious decision, employees will always take their lead from managers. If your employees see you working long hours, they will do so too. They will assume that is what you want from them.
If you fail to take a break, or if you send emails late at night, then that is also what your employees will do. If you go into work even when you are obviously sick, then your employees will drag themselves in as well – and pass their germs to all and sundry.
Getting it right leads to other benefits
When we are shopping, we want to buy from responsible producers and suppliers. We want to feel comfortable with their ethos and approach. In the same way, employees want to work for companies which have a culture which they can fit into. If you have a good reputation as an employer, then you will find that recruitment is easier for you. You will be able to retain good employees. You will have a lower rate of sickness absence. It is likely that you will have fewer performance issues. This will also have a positive effect on your marketing and will appeal to customers.
So you might want to change your corporate culture, even if you don’t think it is bad.