How to Actively Involve Employees in Culture Change

How to Actively Involve Employees in Culture Change
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The Challenge of How to Actively Involve Employees in Culture Change

It would be so easy to achieve corporate culture change if all it took was a top-down mandate.  Executives could simply dictate the way they want things done.  Unfortunately for many leaders, mandates from above work in very few corporate environments these days.

But culture is about a lot more than HOW to get the job done.  Beyond HOW people work, company culture includes the way people think and behave and all the known and unspoken values and assumptions that drive key business practices and behaviors.

In other words, there is a big part of workplace culture that involves the hearts and minds of employees that cannot be controlled simply by exerting executive authority.

Actively Involve Employees in Culture Change
To achieve true corporate culture change, employees need to be actively involved in the process.  They need to understand why culture change is needed, buy into how change will improve their circumstances, and actively participate in the effort to transform the everyday behaviors, habits, and mindsets that support a shift in the corporate culture.

Recent research by Bain found that the active engagement of stakeholders during the strategy design phase has the highest correlation to strategies being successfully implemented.  We know that the same is true with culture change.

The question is: how can an organization galvanize their employees to effectively participate in and promote culture change?  We believe that it is all about actively involving them in as much as possible.

Employees as Culture Change Agents
The most effective and efficient way to accomplish culture change is to actively involve employees in culture change.  You need to influence them  to become culture change agents.

  1. Understand Your Current Culture
    Before trying to shift your workplace culture, you must first understand the current culture.  When you assess your organizational culture make sure that you measure the key aspects related to organizational health, your performance environment, and the level of cultural alignment with your strategic priorities.

    You will know you are on the right path when you can pinpoint where your organizational culture is either helping or hindering your ability to successfully implement your business AND people strategies.

  2. Articulate a Compelling Purpose
    Leaders need to define the company’s fundamental purpose in a concise, compelling, and inspirational way. Employees need to be able to easily identify with the grand reason their organization exists; they want to share a company vision that appeals not only to their rational, but also their emotional, side.

    Today’s employees want to be engaged in a meaningful enterprise.  Express your company’s reason for being in a way that employees will sign up for in both heart and mind.

  3. Translate Aspirations into Actions
    Corporate vision and company mission statements provide focus and purpose, but actions are what propel change. Ask each employee to think of ways they can directly support the change through concrete actions in their current job.

    Ensure that employees can carve out a critical role in the culture transformation and that their actions can help to drive the overall success of the initiative in way that works for them, their team, and the company as whole.

    Then, recognize these simple actions as the beginnings of a movement — small demonstrations of progress toward outcomes the organization cares about.

  4. Gather Converts
    Done right, slowly the early adopters of the change will inspire others to follow them. Success begets success.  By celebrating the small wins, the culture change gains recruits and steam.  Use all means at your disposal — company newsletters, social media, team and company-wide meetings — to trumpet steps in the right direction in order to encourage others to march along with you.
  5. Sustain the Vision for Change
    The challenge now becomes one of staying on track. Watch for systems and processes that impede success (or that are misaligned) and then adjust them.  Identify detractors and either persuade them to support the change or to move on.

    Keep the momentum going and celebrate progress.

The Bottom Line
Don’t be fooled into thinking that your executive power and authority are all that’s needed to effect corporate culture change.  You need the active, committed involvement of your work force to succeed.

To learn more, download Do You Have a High Performance Organizational Culture to Drive Your Strategy?

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