As professionals, everyone has different hopes for the workplace culture they want to experience. As leaders, many may find it difficult to actualize culture changes that every employee will embody.
The main struggle of enacting new change is that humans are creatures of habit. Routine work habits and communication patterns become repetitive and can get anyone stuck in a rut of redundancy. After years or decades of the same unwavering schedule and workplace practices, it is hard to motivate divergent values throughout your company. As leaders, it is hard to get everybody on board with enacting a cultural shift, even when it is for the better.
Changing company culture can be a daunting task. It can take time to unwind cultural norms that have developed over years and people can be very resistant to change in all facets of their lives. Initiating culture changes takes consistent time, effort and resources, and patience in the results.
How do company leaders motivate change and get each employee to practice a new wave of cultural values?
From a bird’s eye view, it is easy to imagine the differences culture can cause in the overall makeup of a business, including increases in efficiency, improvements in workplace comradery and overall happiness at work. However, employees can sometimes be affected by tunnel vision and find it challenging to see the bigger picture and importance of workplace culture. Here are four steps on how to get your employees to join in on a new wave of culture changes:
1- Include employees in forming new values
From an executive position, it can be difficult to know what those several levels below you can most benefit from. In forming your new company values, the most crucial step for getting every employee on board is making sure the new values are important to employees and inspire them to create change throughout the company. Find what values upper management wishes to prioritize and collaborate with other professionals at the company to find a set of values that will enhance everyone at the company. The best way to have employee buy-in is to prioritize values many already find important. Additionally, resistance to change can be minimized by transparency in new values. Many people have anxiety and growing pains when change is in effect due to uncertainty, but if the unknowns are minimized, the change resistance may be too.
2- Initiate Training Curriculum
To implement your company's culture and get everyone on board, start at ground zero. Implement portions and examples of your culture into training and development throughout your company or better yet, create training programs tailored to specific goals and values. To ensure this is impactful, consider using different training platforms and methods, and include real life applications and examples on how you expect this culture shift to affect your company as a whole. For example, if you want your company culture to reflect a value in innovation, explain to your employees how you are working on embracing mistakes and finding creative solutions in the workplace.
As a second portion of training and development, consider implementing a leadership program to teach leaders how these cultural changes should be exhibited in each of their teams. Teaching leaders to lead by example can be tricky when it is in unprecedented areas for individuals. As part of a leadership training, it is important to emphasize a united front to the rest of your company to ensure buy-in from all employees firm wide.
3- Practice what you teach
One of the most impactful methods of leadership is leading by example. If you want your company's culture to prioritize its people, show that in your everyday actions. After beginning training and development to adjust your company’s culture, be sure to exhibit these values in your everyday life. By demonstrating your ideal culture, you gain credibility and support from others, and inspire others towards new goals. Those in lower level positions look up to those within leadership and will follow your lead of implementing different priorities in your company's culture. Finally, practicing what you teach is crucial for holding yourself accountable and working towards self- growth. If you want to lead a company that prioritizes compassion but you yourself have trouble exhibiting this, your employees may have a hard time endowing such a shift. Self-growth allows us all to become more aware of ways we can better ourselves, and will exhibit to your employees that you are all working on growing and learning at the same time and that it is a team-effort that will result in improved culture for the entire company.
4- Monitor Feedback and Celebrate Success
Sometimes from a leadership position, it is challenging to see the effect of changes from a top-down view. It is impossible to grow without feedback so, once you have implemented your cultural shifts, be sure to collect feedback at specified intervals from all levels to better understand the execution of changes throughout your employees. In receiving feedback, it is also important to celebrate success and keep an optimistic view moving forward. Consider using different systems to celebrate success, maybe publicly recognizing those who exemplify your new cultural changes and values. Finding time for both of these items can sometimes take the back burner nevertheless, it is important to collect feedback and celebrate success for continuous execution of your revised culture.
Remember that these changes won’t happen overnight. It is important to be patient and understanding as everyone begins to enact new habits and values throughout their professional life, it can be a long process to unwind decades of repetitive habits and values. A good leader is able to understand and empathize, be patient in understanding that it is hard to change something as broad as culture and that in practice, your company’s culture will develop and with passion, people will follow.