In HR, we talk about workplace transformation pretty regularly. But what does it actually mean? In this mini-series, we’ll give you some tips and tricks to help you understand each type of transformation—and how you can foster it across your organization.
Social media has given employees a voice to take their companies to task over flawed corporate culture. The #MeToo Movement, for example, began on Twitter in 2017 and empowereed women to share their experiences with sexual harassment and violence in an open forum. It quickly went viral, starting a conversation that would spark positive (and necessary) changes within several organizations, from The Weinstein Company to DC Comics—and many more.
But you don’t need to wait for a crisis—or a big social media movement—to transform your company culture. Cultural transformation, the act of reframing what your organization values and the type of behavior it tolerates, can make or break an employee’s experience. Done right, cultural transformation can create an office environment where employees feel excited to go to work every day instead of dreading it. And when you foster a culture that respects workers and gives them a sense of belonging, they will feel more invested in the company. The data agrees: Employees who feel valued at their jobs are 50% more productive than those who don’t.
Why You Need Cultural Transformation
The case for cultural transformation may seem obvious—improving your company’s culture will help you attract and retain employees who are enthusiastic and engaged. And while it’s important for workers to be happy, a positive company culture can also improve your business. In 1992, Harvard Business School professors James Heskett and John Kotter published a study called Corporate Culture and Performance, which made those benefits clear.
Heskett and Kotter found that successful companies have two characteristics in common: They highly value their people and customers, and they encourage leadership from everyone at their organizations. What’s more, these firms experienced a 975% increase in equity compared to other organizations. They also grew more, retained more employees and showed significant increases in their revenue, stock prices and average incomes.
But for most organizations, a successful cultural transformation costs money—and HR often must get buy-in from internal stakeholders, like the CFO and other members of the C-suite who allocate budget toward transformation initiatives. And it can be difficult to convince these executives to put money toward a program that doesn’t directly impact revenue. Sure, a cultural transformation drives employee engagement and improves retention, but it won’t directly make the company more money—at least not right away.
That’s why you need to position your ask strategically. Think about how a cultural transformation can help you achieve corporate objectives. From a business perspective, positioning a cultural transformation as a program that will align with the organization’s larger initiatives is probably a more enticing selling point than just telling leadership that it will improve employee morale. For example, you might communicate how positive changes in company culture will boost productivity, lead to more revenue or tie into existing organizational initiatives, like improving customer service.
How Do You Change a Culture?
It’s tempting to put up signs around your office that preach positivity and accountability, and call it a day. But to effectively change your company culture, you’ll need more than just a mission statement or writing on a wall. Instead, successful cultural transformation has to start at the top. Show your executives and managers how they can lead by example and you will start to see those behaviors trickle down.
To start fostering a successful cultural transformation, follow these steps:
1. Organize Your Top Team
A top team is a group of people who have been designated to help enact change within your organization. The best top teams are made up of employees from each part of the company. Together, they will help drive the vision of your cultural transformation by representing other employees and acting as their voice throughout the transformation process. Some of the most successful and high profile companies have benefited from a top team. Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE, credits he company’s success to his top teams and the culture of "collegiality, mutual trust and respect for performance" they brought to GE.
2. Measure Your Progress
Create a system that allows you to quantify how the cultural changes you’ve implemented are progressing. Short surveys and other forms of easily gathered feedback are effective for engaging employee reactions. Other concrete forms of measurement might include differences in output or revenue since the start of the program. Review all of the metrics at your disposal to find which cultural changes work best for your organization.
3. Create a Culture Plan
Map out the goals you want to achieve. Focus on a limited number of areas that need improvement, making sure each goal is clear, measurable and actionable. Seek feedback from your teams and polish your plan before you roll it out to the entire company.
4. Engage Employees
The most effective company cultures give even the most junior employees the sense that their feedback matters. Create channels that allow employees to voice their opinions through every step of the transformation process, and communicate their feedback to your team and company leadership. The more open the channels of communication are, the better. Give workers choices and opportunities to discuss ideas with change-makers, either as a large group, a round-table or during a one-on-one. Whatever method you choose, be transparent with employees. Make it clear that decisions are not being made behind closed doors and that leaders are available to listen to concerns from anyone in the company, whether they’re an intern or a senior manager.
Cultural transformation doesn’t come from just wishful thinking. Truly changing your company’s culture for the better will take time, organization and lots of planning. Be on the lookout for how you can better serve your employees. Once your company leadership takes these various needs into account, you’ll be on your way to transforming your workplace into an environment where workers can thrive.
Header image: Creative Commons
Want to keep learning? Explore our products, customer stories, and the latest industry insights.
The Modern Workforce Favors Flexibility and Digital Collaboration
This is the third in a series of articles we’re doing around our annual State of Workplace Productivity survey. Read a summary of the full survey here . And for our findings on extreme workloads, click here. The always-on, always-working mindset has caught on, largely due to the rise of technology and the demand for more flexible workplaces. While initially introduced to boost employee satisfaction, flexible policies and technology use actually have a greater impact on productivity, and ultimately business performance. The environment in which people work affects how productive they are. Nearly two in three employees think a flexible and remote work schedule increases productivity, according to a recent survey by Cornerstone OnDemand. The most productive work environment is an enclosed office, followed by partitioned cubicles, open desk layout and working remotely, accordingly. While working in an enclosed office is the most promising for productivity, a good chunk of employees — 19 percent — say working remotely is the most productive environment, likely due to the fact that they can control the distractions around them. Forty-three percent of employees say impromptu visits by colleagues are distracting, according to the survey. Digital Communication Enables Remote Workers Even though some employees prefer work from home policies, only one in five are allowed to work remotely. True, employees can’t communicate with colleagues in-person, but the majority of workplace communication happens digitally anyway. Nearly two in five employees believe emails and instant messages allow them to be more productive than having in-person or phone conversations. The percentage of employees that prefer in-person collaboration compared to digital collaboration is decreasing — 63 percent this year compared to 71 percent last year. But there’s a fine balance for using online communication to boost or destroy productivity. Some employees find emails, social media alerts and instant messages to be distracting, so be sure that employees know what kind of communication their colleagues prefer. The key to high productivity and flexible work schedules is arming employees with the right technology. Almost two out of three employees agree that given the right technology, in-person meeting can be replaced completely. Digital natives are demanding a more flexible workplace, and companies are listening and changing accordingly, but more need to put their employees first and do so faster. To read more findings from The State of Workplace Productivity Report, click here. And take a look at our infographic on how workspace matters:
Preparing Your Workforce for Digital Transformation
Make talent development a priority in the age of digital disruption Ready or not – digital transformation is here. With technology developing more rapidly than ever, the way we do business is changing and it affects everything from customer acquisition and our product offerings, to our tools and processes, to our workforce and work environments. To succeed in a rapidly changing market, organizations must adapt their talent management practices to reflect new digital innovations and processes. Constellation Research discovered that industry-leading companies' ability to adapt to digital disruption was a key factor in their long-term success. As many organizations begin to radically reimagine how they leverage technology and processes, a need for a new talent development strategy arises. No organization wants to be left behind because they failed to adapt well enough or fast enough to the changing digital landscape. So, how can organizations disrupt their talent development strategies to help succeed in the age of digital transformation? How to futureproof your organization in the age of digital transformation It's a sobering fact: Talent development strategies that worked in the past may no longer work in the near future. Human Resources (HR) and Learning and Development (L&D) teams must become true business partners and create a continuous, hyper-connected development experience for people that aligns to the ever-shifting goals of the business. This eBook offers research-backed strategies that will show you how to create a digitally centered, learning-focused talent development environment that will help your organization keep its competitive edge in the era of digital transformation. You'll gain insights into: Determining your organization’s level of digital transformation preparedness Coaching strategies to prep your workforce for digital transformation How to champion a culture of learning to enable ongoing employee skill development Download our eBook to discover the talent development best practices you – and your people – need in order to futureproof your organization while putting your people in the driver’s seat of their own experience.
5 Tips for Crisis Management in the Digital Age
Crisis management is a tool many leaders keep in their toolkit, but secretly hope they never need to use on a grand scale. While minor situations arise regularly in the course of business, larger scale issues can end careers and destroy entire corporate profiles if handled incorrectly. We need only look to Equifax and their epic data breach, which called for the release of their CEO and launched a Department of Justice investigation, to see the sweeping impact of poorly handled crises. Many of us might say what we "would" do if we were in such a situation, but until it happens, we really have no idea. This is where crisis communications becomes incredibly important, and HR plays a pivotal role. It's been said failure to plan is planning to fail, and never is this old adage more true than ensuring a strategy to handle a large-scale public relations disaster. As we now live in a time now where cloud-based technology is more prevalent, the digital realm is the new marketplace, and crises of this magnitude and type will happen more frequently, leadership must be prepared in advance to manage crisis in the digital age. Establish Personalities in Advance of the Crisis One of the benefits of social media and the 24/7 news cycle is that it provides opportunity to raise the public profile of anyone and everyone. While it's not necessary that all corporate leadership be incredibly active on social media from a personal perspective, it is extremely important that the company be proactive in building trust from the beginning. Get your leadership in front of your customers and communicate frequently across traditional and social media. It creates a personal connection with your company and shows there are people behind the issues. Gather Around the Message Immediately When the world of communication works on a 24/7 cycle, so must your leadership team. Have emergency communication protocols in place and ensure that they're followed. Your team must get on board with a strategic, unified message immediately and follow your crisis communication plan, which should be in place and reviewed every 3-6 months. Communicate with Employees Your best course of action is to communicate immediately and to arm all those involved with everything they need to communicate that not only are you on top of the matter, but that it won't happen again. This not only encompasses conversations with external media, but also includes conversations with your employees to ensure they can pivot with the leadership team and remain connected to your overall vision. Deploy Your Leadership Brand An established leadership brand is one of the greatest corporate assets during times of corporate strife. Your leadership brand usually emanates from your CEO, but it's more about what your leaders are known for in your organization, and it informs how your employees should act at all times. It also means that individuals at all levels instinctively know how to conduct themselves in a crisis because it's ingrained in the corporate culture and everything they do. They put the customer first, they protect the corporate identity and they remain focused on the cause. Practice Humility Finally, one of the greatest assets in our leadership arsenal is also the oldest in the book: be humble. In this fast-paced world, mistakes are bound to happen. Admitting fault and owning up to one's mistakes quickly is something that separates great leaders from those who inevitably fail. Photo: Creative Commons