Guiding a company through a culture change can be a very intense and emotionally driven time for employees and managers. This is a time when rules are changing, expectations are vague, and nobody knows what the new normal will look like. However, by planning ahead, following the tips below and anticipating what the employee experience will be like, you can develop an effective strategy for implementing culture change.
What do employees experience during a culture change?
Employees have varying degrees of openness to change. Some will jump on board with the new changes while others will be more reluctant. Feelings of insecurity and worry are common. The unknown can be a scary and uncomfortable place and changing habits is hard. If changes are not communicated well, employees can feel frustrated or perceive management to be out of touch with employees’ reality.
Similarly, the leadership team can feel a range of emotions while going through a culture change. They may feel hesitant about the change, unsure of how employees will receive the change. They may not agree with the overall approach that the team is taking. Regardless of their personal opinions about the change, the success of the change will be contingent on them championing the changes.
Consider the employees in your current workplace, what emotions are they likely to feel? What strategies should you put in place to get their buy-in with the changes?
5 Things that will get you through any culture change
1. Understand the current culture.
- Before you even attempt to change anything, you need to understand the current state. Is the current culture loose or very strict? How do people relate to each other and to management? To get this information you need to speak with employees one-on-one. Ask for their honest opinion. Approach them as a learner and listener, not a manager or fixer. You want them to be honest with you so you can get a clear picture of how they feel about the current culture.
- Once you understand the culture from the perspective of employees, you need to find out why it is that way. What rules, policies and behaviours existed and currently exist that encourage and enforce the current culture? You need a plan to manage potential roadblocks of implementation so that current culture doesn’t stand in the way of the new culture.
2. Have a clear understanding of what you want the new culture to be.
- Envision your desired result. Write down the behaviours and attitudes that your employees and leadership team will display.
- Will there be environmental/physical changes? What will those look like?
- What are the benefits of your new culture?
- Be as specific as possible so that you can help others understand where you expect them to be and what the benefits of that will be.
3. Communicate your expectations and your vision
- If people do not understand why things are changing, they will resist the change with all their energy.
- Help your employees accept the changes by explaining to them why the change is needed and what the result will look like.
- Explain to everyone that the transition to a new culture will be a difficult one and explain how it will be worth it. Prepare them for the expected struggle ahead in a realistic way.
4. Understand the phases of change.
- When you start to hold people accountable to new standards and expectations there will always be a group of employees that will push back. This is a critical moment where you should overcommunicate the course your organization is on and the result you are moving towards. Be compassionate and understanding in your approach knowing their reaction is human and expected.
- After the initial stage of push back, emotions things will seem to settle. This can be a confusing time because it will feel as if everyone is finally on board, but they may just be silently building their frustrations without outright defiance.
- After their frustrations have been building, it may only take one small thing to set them off. This stage is called: The Storm. This is where those few employees that have been quietly grumbling may have their frustration and anger explode. They may say things such as, “That’s it! I’ve had enough! I am not putting up with this anymore!”
- It’s during this Storm that leadership needs to stand united and act quickly. Make it clear to that employee and everyone else that this type of behaviour and disruption to the workplace is not acceptable. This needs to be done in a firm but understanding way. You need this employee and everyone else to understand that the change process has been difficult, but at the end of the day rules and standards of behaviour will be upheld.
5. Celebrate the small milestones.
- Celebrate every small win. It doesn’t matter how little.
- Meet with your teams. Praise them for the small win. Tell them this is just the beginning.
- Your leadership team will need help to reignite some much-needed energy and motivation.
- Your employees will need the management team’s energy and enthusiasm to know they are appreciated through this difficult process.
Culture change can be a confusing and emotionally draining time for a company to go through. It’s important to take time to think through the entire process before taking any actions. If you want a professional on your side that can make this transition period seamless for you, then Contact us today for more information!