In our work with clients in sectors of all sizes there a few common misconceptions about what it takes to build kind, resilient, honest and courageous workplace cultures. It has to be noted that the majority of organisations have now moved towards a desire for a culture grounded in these values. They are a wonderful blend that appeal to all generations that make up the modern workforce. Acknowledging that nothing hard comes easy, that being comfortable doesn’t bring growth, but at the same time finding ways to get things done in an open and kind way.
1. The work does not begin and end with a new Mission and Values statement.
Your existing values statement may already suffice, but would likely benefit with a review and refresh. Are they really representative? Are they designed for performance, purpose and an environment to please your people? Are they bought into from diverse stakeholders?
2. Translate words into action
The next step has to be to translate the Values into specific behaviours that represent your values. These are example behaviours that you wish to embed and encourage, coupled with identifying those that you wish to discourage! This is a critical step because your values statement in isolation can be opaque, open to interpretation, and rarely are they illustrated, brought to life, and lived!
3. Values exercises and fleshing out a program of behaviours does not maketh the culture!
You must have buy-in and leadership as role models of these values/behaviours. Employees will not transition to a new culture, they mirror behaviours which are performed. So the key here is making sure the leadership team is bought in, and critically, follow through.
4. Create trust and psychological safety
New behaviours take time to bed in, it is not possible to onboard new behaviours / culture expectations and expect them to be adopted immediately. People need to feel safe and build up their ‘muscle’ to activate the new behaviours. For example, shifting from a hierarchical, closed, bullish environment into a flatter, candid and kinder one with no baby steps in-between will just not happen. Culture change will fail, and worse you will create a muddled culture, which is the most fertile ground for disconnection and attrition to skyrocket. You might not be hiring right now, but what you don’t want is to lose your best talent!
5. You better recognise!
Once things begin to click in to gear you need to make sure there is a thought through Recognition program in place, this is best handed to management to run for their teams so they are aware of those team members struggling, those bought in and those that are eerily quiet, each one needs a different type of support.
6. And to top things off...
...you need a sprinkling of patience, realism, and baby steps: The adoption of a new standard in culture takes time, reinforcement, and as with all education, some baby steps.