How to know if your business needs a change in culture

When accusations against disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein hit the news, it not only shone a spotlight on sexual harassment in Hollywood, it created a platform for others to come out and share their stories about harassment – sexual or otherwise – in the workplace.

Certainly, one of the consequences of the #Metoo movement has been an influx of corporate navel gazing, but incidents of workplace harassment aren’t the only reason businesses should take a good look at their own workplaces and see if their corporate culture needs shifting.

Culture, described as the overall lifestyle of a company, includes a company’s beliefs, values, ethics and method of working. A healthy culture is a comfortable environment in which employees are happy and can do their best work. An unhealthy culture breeds negativity, and can ultimately lead to complete failure for a business.

Should you be concerned about your company’s culture? Here are some red flags:

The office is more like a frat house. While young millennials have been starting up some creative new businesses, a lack of business and life experience has also led some workplaces to prioritize fun – lax attitudes, days that start at 11, etc. – rather than business success. An immature culture needs to grow up if it’s going to evolve.

The workplace is an old boys club. On the flip side, some businesses refuse to change or accept new ideas or new people. Dated thinking and an unwillingness to keep up with the times is going to leave a business behind.

Employees are working in silos. If coworkers are unwilling to share insights or information between them, your workplace may be breeding an environment of mistrust and poor to zero communication. The atmosphere can go from stifling to toxic pretty quickly, poisoning your business in the meantime.

The culture is based only on results. Organizations that see employee-employer relationships as only transactional – “you get a paycheque for doing your job and that should be enough” – lose talented employees who don’t feel appreciated or invested. Most people want employment that has meaning, not just money.

Anything sound familiar? While few company cultures are absolutely perfect, most aren’t completely horrendous either. Besides, a 360 degree culture turnaround is likely not necessary (or achievable – or even advisable!)

Here are some dos and don’ts that can help you improve the health of your workplace environment.

Do involve your employees. Your staff plays the largest part in shaping workplace culture. In addition to letting them know about a shift in culture, ask them to help build it. As a leader, you should have a vision of your corporate culture, but your staff will have ideas on the steps necessary to achieve it.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater . While you may see the need for change, there are likely already a fair number of positives in your workplace. Recognize good behaviours and explore how you can expand on them. (And don’t stay too focussed on the negatives. Nobody wants to feel that everything they’ve been doing till now has been wrong.)

Do demonstrate quick wins. To some people, culture is intangible, so they’re not very motivated to help reach a goal they can’t see. Instead of simply telling staff what you want the new culture to look like, highlight concrete examples of the actions you hope to see within that culture.

Don’t forget your vision . Maybe your company’s path has veered away from its destination, or maybe something’s changed and you’re now creating a new vision with new (or revised) mission and value statements. Nurture accountability and build buy-in by pulling out those statements regularly, sharing them with your employees and measuring whether your actions are aligning with your vision. Enlist their help to adjust your path, if it needs adjusting.

Do your best to show the way. Whether it’s a slight tweak or a major overhaul, your role is to lead the charge. Don’t mistake that for taking a strictly top-down approach – positive change doesn’t happen because the boss orders it. Tell your staff where you’re going, ask for their input, and make it a habit to exemplify the values that you’re striving for every single day.


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