Natalie Wood once observed, “The only time you can change a man is when he is a baby.” If there’s even a morsel of truth in her comment, then imagine how difficult it must be to change the culture in a workplace. Many people feel that changing a workplace culture is akin to corralling a herd of feral cats while trying to nail jelly to the wall of the Titanic (yup, it’s a cliche super storm).
Yes, it’s challenging. And no, you can’t do it overnight – especially since the job of nurturing an inspiring culture is never finished. But yes, you can do it, and, as many organizations have shown, you can make a dramatic change to your culture faster than you might think. Here are five ways to jump start a cultural shift in your organization:
A friend of mine, a small business owner who does a fabulous job at constantly recognizing his contractors and often surprising them with bonus gifts, complained to me recently that an employee never thanked him after receiving a surprise bonus from him. Not even a quick “Cool, thanks!” e-mail from him. Nothing. Zippo! Nada!
If you want a key, overarching value to become immersed into your workplace, such as safety, innovation or customer service, focus in on these three broad goals:
1. VISIBILITY: You need to remind people on an on-going, day-to-day basis of how important this value is so that it’s top of mind and it becomes second nature. Create a short, fun, catchy slogan and then use it everywhere: on posters, in your meeting rooms, on badges, on paycheck stubs, on e-mail signatures, on t-shirts, on stickers, on bumper stickers and on the back doors of washroom cubicles. Create a mascot that reminds people of the value. Make it the first thing people see when they fire up their computers.
Arlo Guthrie once famously said, “Just because you’re trying to save the world it doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun.”
In fact, if you are trying to save your small part of the world I’d go a step further by suggesting that adding a little fun will not only ease your stress associated with saving the world, it might just help you accomplish your mission as well.
Which is why I’m always happy to stumble upon examples of traditionally serious organizations taking themselves a tad less seriously. For example, as part of an annual tradition, Calgary aldermen broke out into a five-minute elastic band fight at a city council meeting, as a fun way to end their last meeting before adjourning for a month-long summer hiatus.