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  • Alex Wood

A Practical Guide to Improving Culture



So, you’ve probably heard about this thing called organisational culture and you’ve also probably heard that it’s really important to have a good one. But what the heck is it and how can you actually change it?


Put simply, organisational culture is all about the way staff usually behave and the way things are usually done.


Influencing and improving your organisational culture can seem like an overwhelming task. It can be hard to know exactly how a culture developed in the first place. Certain behaviours and ways of doing things can seem so ingrained so how on earth can you start to change it?


There are certain key factors that influence culture. By considering these factors more deliberately, you can gain some insight into your own company’s culture.


Once you have some insight, you can start changing or improving key behaviours and ways of doing things.


This doesn’t have to involve a big, expensive review. You can take some simple steps to start making a difference right away.


Factors that influence culture


Leadership


In my humble opinion, leadership has the greatest influence on your organisation’s culture. Whether your company is hierarchical or not, if you are in a position of leadership or influence staff are looking at you. People will pick up on your attitude, how you treat others, what you say and whether you follow through. This gives staff a cue on the kinds of behaviours that are acceptable.


Leaders are also responsible for the behaviour and performance of their staff. The behaviours and standards of performance that you do and don’t allow are also noticed. Staff quickly pick up on what is and isn’t tolerated.


Company values


Whether you have published values or not, what your organisation and leadership considers important has a big influence on culture. Does your company prioritise sales above all else? Is an awesome customer experience the most important thing? Or perhaps, collaboration and respect is where your focus lies.


Whatever these things are, consider whether you want it to be this way. These priorities are obvious to your staff so consider how they view them and how they might be affecting staff engagement and work ethic.


Business processes


Do your business processes empower staff or assume they can’t handle responsibility? Are they easy to navigate or are they full of annoying approvals and complicated steps because that’s how things have always been done? These processes have the power to create a culture of staff empowerment, frustration or disengagement.


Have a think about your processes and whether changing them could be beneficial. What’s the worst that could happen if you change that annoying process that everyone grumbles about? Or let staff make on-the-spot decisions using their judgement rather than having to delay decisions until someone further up the chain reviews the situation?


Making cultural change


More powerful than talking about new values or telling people to be more collaborative is actually taking action on things that aren’t working. Mindsets will soon follow when staff are actually given autonomy or unacceptable behaviours are dealt with.


One at a time


You don’t need to undertake an enormous program of work to change everything all at once. Make changes one by one. See how successful they are and how staff react to the changes. It might help inform you on how the next steps can be done even more effectively.


Concentrate on meaningful change


Pizza every Friday and a playstation in the break room are pretty cool, but they are unlikely to actually change how staff approach their work or treat each other. So what will really make a difference? Concentrate on these if you really want to change your culture.


(I’m not saying don’t do the pizza and playstation - acts of recognition are great, but these gestures aren’t the big ticket items when it comes to culture).


Check in with staff


The view from the top isn’t always the clearest. Check-in with staff on things that will make a difference to their work life. Or get details from them on where issues stem from. And they may have some awesome ideas for solutions. A big consultation isn’t necessary, but openly discussing with and truly listening to your staff will ensure that any changes you make have a much better chance of success.


Taking action is key. Telling your staff that you want the work environment to be more positive won't make it so. But by using these guidelines to implement real, positive change you will be well on your way to improving your company's culture.


If you need a hand with improving the culture at your workplace whether that be how to best check in with your staff or implementing potential changes, get in touch.

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