I get the sense a lot of organizations don’t spend much time thinking about the state of their culture until a crisis comes up: employee turnover rates skyrocket, workplace accidents rise or an internal employee survey reveals that (surprise!) employee morale is lower than a worm’s belly. And then the search for the quick fix begins:
– let’s throw a barbecue!
– let’s do another survey!
– let’s form a committee!
– another survey!
– let’s bring in a consultant!
– no, no, we need another survey!
– let’s print our values in larger type!
You get the picture. After lots of hand wringing people toss out quick fix ideas and a patchwork quilt of half-measures and band-aid solutions is proposed which quickly…after a few months…or weeks…peters out.
The reality of course is that there are no quick fixes. You can’t go buy your culture from a big box store and install it in one day. No, not even from Ikea.
When you experience a sinking feeling about your workplace culture keep in mind that the leaks in your boat didn’t happen over night. They are an accumulation of years of workplace attitudes, behaviors and habits that have brought you to this point.
So what’s the solution?
Sadly, there is no step-by-step manual or do-it-yourself-kit that will fit for every situation.
It takes a concerted amount of time and effort to transform a workplace culture and it will likely involve dozens of strategies and ideas that deal with core issues, rather than merely treating the symptoms of your workplace problems.
And what I know for certain is that it starts by being intentional about your culture.
Cultures don’t happen by accident. Actually, let me rephrase that – great cultures don’t happen by accident!
They are formed when an organization spends time, money and energy dedicated to their culture. Great cultures form when habits that both reflect and build your culture become so ingrained in your workplace that they become second nature. Some organizations dedicate a committed team or a full time person to keep the cultural drum beating. Other workplaces make sure they have regular check-ups and tune-ups of their culture. Others embrace the power of conversations to keep the cultural conversation alive.
AFA JCdecaux, an outdoor advertising company based in Europe, transformed their workplace culture by intentional focusing on a different core value in an intense way one week at a time. They rotated through their four core values (which were created by the front line employees) for six months at which point new attitudes and habits took hold.
But the key to their success was being intentional. Great workplaces are no accident.
So, the question remains: what do you intend to do about your workplace culture?
Michael Kerr, July 2012, www.mikekerr.com
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Richard Dansereau, President, NAPA Autopro BDG
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Martine Rothblatt, CEO, United Therapeutics
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