7 Cultural Changes That Matter for Your Company

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So you’ve decided that upgrading your company’s culture is the best way to satisfy many objectives with one campaign. Maybe you want to improve employee morale and make the office a better place to work. Or you might want to explode sales numbers or stop hemorrhaging your best people. You can do all these things by working on culture—if you focus on the changes that matter most first.

It’s not the act of doling out monthly awards or installing a suggestion box that will cause a seismic shift. Those things are great. But drilling down to the issues that lie beneath those gestures will get you farther, faster. In the case of awards, we mean looking at your organization’s overall procedure for acknowledging hard work, from personally delivered praise to more formal recognition. An acknowledgement system boosts performance and helps you retain those top employees. It also encourages innovation, as people want to emulate or compete with their peers.

I’ve identified seven such aspects of corporate structure that directly affect how much employees like their jobs, and how well they do them. Be honest and start in the area in which your enterprise is weakest. If you rethink your approach to each of these “pillars” of company culture, you’ll reveal the solutions to your most pressing concerns.

1. Transparency. Open up the communication lines at your business across the board. Does every employee feel they can consult anyone in the company who might help with a transaction or question? When you increase transparency by providing relevant company contacts to everybody or opening up some meetings to all, you increase trust and teamwork. The more people know, the better equipped they are to do their jobs. Being informed of how departmental performance affects the company’s financial standing and stability, for instance, makes sales goals meaningful and worth striving for. 

2. Positivity. How do your team members brainstorm and solve problems? If your people are trained to put out fires, there’s not much incentive to look ahead. Adopting a positive approach to difficulties or uncertainty, though, turns problems into possibilities. To head off trouble or find hidden solutions, put more emphasis on what you do well or what is going right than the obstacles you are facing. Infuse daily operations with positive techniques such as appreciative inquiry, a coaching tool promoted by Corporation for Positive Change.

3. Measurement. Maintain an objective response to business and employee performance through data-driven policies. Quantifiable measurement gives you the good and bad news in the numbers gained through surveying customers, adding up key performance indicators, and rating achievements in annual reviews. Measure, analyze, then act. The right data helps you confidently decide which employees to keep or promote, and whether your business plan is on the right track or should change course.

4. Acknowledgment. Your recognition for dedicated work adds purpose to employees’ efforts, a need that all humans share. It shows that you appreciate their commitment to your company’s values and mission in a way that salary alone doesn’t convey. Acknowledge in public often! Knowing what constitutes success brings your team closer as a group, so they can all pull together.

5. Uniqueness. Group identity can also lend a larger purpose to employees’ work. Make the unique elements of your company’s image known and accessible to all. For instance, employees at Apple are likely to be happy to identify with the brand’s reputation for innovation. If your company manufactures fire hoses, let your people know they have a hand in saving lives. Your employees contribute to your company’s distinction, so find ways to highlight their unique talents and share them with coworkers.

6. Listening. If you want less office drama and better relationships with clients and colleagues, look at how you listen. Active listening, in which each party clarifies their ideas and intentions, can prevent or neutralize disputes based on misunderstandings. Read up on good listening techniques, such as focusing on understanding what you are hearing instead of forcing an opening for your reply. Intentional listening may give you valuable insight into client relationships or the key to solving a rift between coworkers—which is better than trial and error.

7. Mistakes. Deal with shortcomings or miscalculations rationally, rather than emotionally. Making mistakes is embarrassing, and it’s true that a company is ultimately responsible for errors. But punishing workers for making mistakes won’t undo any damage. And ignoring mistakes can do more damage. Instead, treat these events as chances to gain something—a customer’s respect that you admit fault and promise to do better; an idea for a more accurate procedure; or trust in your tolerance, which will motivate employees to improve and free them to innovate.

Chris Dyer is the founder and CEO of PeopleG2, a background check and intelligence firm. He is the host of TalentTalk on OC Talk Radio and iHeartRadio, and speaks at events around the world on company culture, remote workforces, and employee engagement. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes, Inc., HR.com, the Society for Human Resources Management, and many more business publications. Dyer is the author of The Power of Company Culture: How any business can build a culture that improves productivity, performance and profits (Kogan Page), out now.

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