Corporate culture refers to an organization’s values, beliefs, and normative behaviors. It evolves based mainly on internal forces. Leadership is a major driving force, but the cumulative traits of employees also influence office life. Internal factors, including conflict, corporate success or failure, and technology, and external factors, such as regulation, political pressure, societal norms, legal issues, and economic ups and downs, also help form corporate culture.
Culture manifests in employee work ethic and engagement, communication, and management/employee interactions. It comes to bear in office dress, work hours, the prevalence of technology, and customer interactions. After a few minutes of observation, you can easily identify many aspects of office culture.
What can you do if your company’s culture is not well-suited for today’s competitive environment? Consider these tips when attempting to change your corporate culture.
1. Remember that people comprise corporations. And people don’t change their behaviors without good reason. So, provide motivation by letting them know what’s in it for them. It may be a reward for complying with the change or a consequence for not changing their behavior. Either way, they’ll know where they stand.
2. Changing a culture takes time and commitment at all levels of the organization.
- Top management must spell out the changes and explain why.
- Employees must understand their roles in the change.
3. Change must manifest itself in all aspects of the workplace. If management gives lip service to change but doesn’t walk the talk, employees will sense the hypocrisy and resist.
4. Honor those who embrace change. Help them lead by example and become influencers of their fellow employees.
5. Think of change as a process. Just as water changes form as it melts and refreezes, office culture can disintegrate and reform in a modified manner. First, melt the old culture, eliminating vestiges by providing consequences and replacing resisters. Then refreeze the new culture by recognizing those who thrive in the new environment. Finally, ensure all formal structures (policies, practices, and processes) reflect the new business ways.
6. Over-communicate. People need to hear messages multiple times to absorb them – and to know that you’re serious.
7. Treat employees with dignity and respect, listening to and addressing their concerns. Make them your partners in the new venture. Even if you must deliver negative news, do so professionally.
Management’s role resembles a coxswain’s position in a rowing competition. The coxswain steers the craft, provides motivation and encouragement, and informs the crew where they are in regard to other boats and the finish line. He directs any changes in race tactics and ensures everybody pulls together in the same direction. Likewise, your management team should serve as coxswains for corporate change. They should build trust and ensure everyone pulls together to support necessary transitions in office culture.