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How to Achieve Employee Buy-in of Your Company’s Culture

The business world often credits a change in corporate culture for hikes in employee retention rates, improvements in corporate financial performance, upturns in operational efficiencies and significant advances in employee engagement and worker satisfaction. In light of these professed results, it’s not surprising that C-level executives place “improve company culture” at the top of their to-do lists. The problem is that even if you define the attributes of a “great corporate culture,” you must implement it.

But swapping one corporate culture for another is difficult because it entails a gigantic shift in values. That swing in beliefs might involve a move from a well-entrenched culture that glorifies independent contributors to one that venerates collaborative teams. Or the change in beliefs might require that employees pay less homage to what certain workplace structures, such as a corner office, represent and, instead, value the person capable of using open work spaces to the advantage of his work and his company.

As dinosaurs would attest (if they could), evolution, cultural or otherwise, is never easy. Identifying the tactics that will take your company culture from the “just so-so” here-and-now to the future state of “great” is no simple task. Here are some strategies to help you instill a new company culture in the hearts, minds and actions of your employees.

1. Demonstrate the culture you expect others to adopt.

As an organization’s leader, your interaction with employees, investors and vendors alike must reflect the norms of behavior and values – the culture — you believe will help your company succeed and make a difference in the world. Because employees will mirror your behavior, you must act on the values you espouse in each business transaction and reflect them in every employee communication. Equally important, you should publish those values and talk about them frequently, and ask that all stakeholders – those that your culture, policies and actions affect — live by them.

2. Set reasonable standards for behavior and encourage compliance.

A culture is effective only if the actions of a company’s leadership team and employees reflect that culture. But employee adoption of a new culture can be a straightforward process. For instance, when one employee witnesses a coworker acting in ways that reflect his employer’s culture, the observer may alter his future actions to mirror company values as well. To ensure that employees adopt actions that align with a company’s culture, leaders can set standards of behavior to guide their efforts.

In the event an employee acts in ways that are contradictory to your culture, it’s in your company’s best interest that he receive guidance or that you replace him. A failure to set standard expectations for everyone can cause dissent and lower morale. Companies demonstrate the importance of cultural compliance in different ways. For instance, Zappos pays a cash reward to any new hire who considers his cultural fit carefully and chooses to find employment elsewhere, rather than stay due a lack of cultural fit.

3. Recognize and reward those whose actions align with the company culture in ways that benefit the company in significant ways.

By acknowledging an employee’s success that is due in part to demonstrating company values in his work, the employees feels good about his choices and may commit to similar actions in the future. By rewarding employee strengths, employment engagement levels rise, which contributes to higher profitability. What matters most to people is not the size of their paycheck but regularly receiving positive reinforcement for good work.

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