While most of your employees likely understand that their primary responsibility at work is — well — to work, I’m going out on a limb here and guessing that they don’t want to be treated like mindless drones in the process.
In today’s hyper-connected world, employees are making their voices heard: They want to join organizations that stand for something. They want to align themselves with a corporate culture that fits their own beliefs and values. A place where they can bring their best selves and contribute in ways that make a difference.
So, before you dive headfirst into the process of valiantly changing your culture single-handedly, take a step back and realize that your employees may want to be a part of the process.
What type of culture must exist in order to drive the behaviors you need to succeed? And how can you help navigate the change necessary to create that environment—one in which your employees are actually invested in the outcomes?
5 Things to Consider For A Successful Culture Change Effort
Unfortunately, there’s no single recipe for developing a company culture that drives the performance you’re looking for. Your organization’s unique history, goals, values, and ways of working determine what culture exists and your strategy determines what culture you need to succeed.
Rather than focusing on what you believe will achieve your desired performance, your efforts are better served focusing on what workplace changes will help your employees behave in the ways that align with the execution of your strategy. If your current culture is preventing your employees from doing their best work, that culture needs to change.
Here are 5 things to consider, before you get started:
1. Don’t wait. If you know that your culture is ineffective at driving the behaviors you need from your team, you can’t hide behind the delusion that it will magically improve once business picks up or your company’s structure evolves.
Your toughest competition is improving its company culture all the time, reacting to changes in the market before they happen and intentionally designing its culture to encourage productive employees. Don’t wait to start creating the culture your company needs for a leg up on its competitors.
2. Be rigorous. Organizational change is tough, complex and a lot of it is not very sexy. It’s imperative that culture change efforts be conducted in a methodical way, the details are managed and actions are coordinated and integrated across the organization.
It’s also critical that a comprehensive measurement and evaluation plan be developed so that outcomes can be understood. If we’re not measuring our progress in terms of business outcomes, how do we know if we’ve been successful? Worse yet, how do we know when what we’re doing isn’t right and we need to change course?
3. Call in an expert. Look, as a consultant in the culture space this may sound very self-serving. But how can you expect to successfully lead a culture change effort with little to no expertise on the topic? That’s akin to performing open-heart surgery on yourself: Even if you’re a cardiac surgeon it probably isn’t advisable.
Navigating your company’s culture change effort can be tricky when you’re right in the middle of it. When you’re at the helm, it’s especially tough to see problems objectively at different levels of your organization.
Calling on an experienced outsider can help you understand the changes you need to make and guide you toward a plan to implement them. It can be tough to embark on a new direction for your company alone, and it’s especially hard when you’re accustomed to a certain way of doing things.
4. Take responsibility. Outside experts can help you navigate your journey, but you’re ultimately responsibility for guiding your organization through the change effort.
Leaders who assume they can just outsource their culture will forever be disappointed with the result. If your organization needs people to behave in different ways to drive success, then be prepared to step up and lead.
This means role modeling and talking with stakeholders about why change is necessary. It means removing obstacles so that others can help drive change throughout the organization. And It requires you to be conscious about how you react in every situation because what you say and do sends very clear messages about what you value.
5. Understand that culture is a team effort. Culture is a collective concept and it must be discussed, evolved and celebrated by the collective. This doesn’t end at the front doors of your office either. The most successful culture shifts I’ve experienced are those where efforts engage all stakeholders in the process.
Make your team members feel valued by requesting their input. From the lowliest cashier to the highest executive, make sure everyone has a say. All employees should feel like they have ownership in your company’s culture, not just the top executives.
The most effective culture shifts I’ve experienced are those that take the five tips above to heart. They’re not out for some quick wins so they can claim victory. They are the organizations and leaders who play the long game. They are the organizations that don’t view culture as a “project” but, rather, as a fundamental, collaborative dynamic in their organization that has a massive impact on peoples’ behavior.
Taking the time to be intentional about clarifying and aligning your organizational strategy, leadership and culture is an ongoing effort. As the business environment evolves, so must the way you operate.
Those organizations that are proactive about evolving to meet the challenges of tomorrow are those that will outperform the competition. Those that take a reactionary approach are destined to live in firefighting mode and are apt to make poor decisions that exacerbate decline. On what side of the equation does your company sit?
This article originally appeared on Forbes
Culture Change is a Complex Process
Make sense of it with actionable advice from experts on the front lines.