Situation: Organizational identity crisis.
Without a solid understanding of who you are and what you stand for as a company, it’s impossible to set expectations for workplace behavior. When no one knows where the line sits, nobody knows when they’ve crossed it. This can lead to disrespect among peers; competition, politics, and backstabbing among teams; and unscrupulous sales tactics.
What to do about it: Establish your values, and then prove them through actions.
If you don’t already have them, sit down and really think about what you want your employees to strive for each day, and then document, communicate, and live by those values. If you do have core values written down somewhere but feel they’re largely ignored, meet with your executive leadership and create a plan to communicate your values in a more effective way.
I’ve found storytelling to be a good communication tool. Just repeating a value like “the customer comes before all else” only goes so far. Instead, tell a story about an employee going the extra mile for a customer, or jumping in to help a co-worker push a project over the finish line, or giving back in the community. This also has the benefit of recognizing standout employees, and proves to the whole company that great values lead to great results.
Situation: You have a retention problem.
When employees imagine their future, your company isn’t in it. Motivation and performance are stunted when managers are passive-aggressive towards employees, leave them out of important projects without explanation, or fail to include them on correspondence. Or, more benignly, when good employees receive praise but no change to their job title and no clear path to future growth inside the company, they may “vote with their feet” and take advantage of a great job market.
What to do about it: Focus on building meaningful relationships.
Personal relationships are absolutely necessary to strengthen trust between managers and employees and build employees’ confidence to perform well. It’s also important to talk about career goals, and make employee development a priority, not an afterthought.
Consider encouraging managers to spend a certain amount of time with their employees in one-on-ones. When managers and employees share their thoughts and feelings, a lot of problems get ironed out. Work goals become clearer and any performance issues get addressed.
As with many facets of corporate culture, it’s imperative that C-level executives set the tone, and make it clear by their words and actions that employee development is a business imperative. This sets the bar for managers throughout the company, and lets them know they need to prioritize time for relationship building with the people they manage.
Now, be confident in your ability to influence change.
Rethinking your culture strategy isn’t easy, but it’s necessary in order to retain talent and develop or even regain the positive workplace you want. Better communications, strong core values, and leaders who are committed to employee growth and empowerment will help steer the ship back on course.