It is a myth that all organisational cultures change slowly. Cultures change slowly when initiatives are ineffective, introduced slowly, or when staff loose trust and confidence in their leadership.
Cultural change can happen quickly when the opposite is true. Effective initiatives and leaders that instill trust and confidence in their staff can bring about fast change.
The speed of cultural change is directly related to the speed at which company leaders demonstrably get on board and support the change in their own and their team’s daily behaviours.
One of the main reasons cultural change programs fail or are slow to take effect in some organisations is that leaders are not consistently demonstrating the new behaviours. This leads to some staff adopting the attitude, “why do I have to do it if she / he doesn’t do it?”
Aside from the attitude of leaders and the effectiveness of initiatives, how you reward change, and the size of the organisation, can affect the speed of cultural change.
In some cases organisational cultural change can be immediate. It depends on how you measure it, what you are looking for, and what you see. For example, small changes can occur immediately through increased discussion and demonstration of the new cultural behaviours. Some times those measuring the change do not notice the subtle yet significant changes, which need to be nurtured to grow.
For some people merely shining a light on values and behaviours can lead to immediate changes. The difficulty can be in sustaining these behaviours.
Great leadership is the key to sustained positive cultural change. Leaders who build trusting environments, communicate effectively, are consistent in their behaviours, and role-model desired behaviours, create sustained positive cultural change.
What Do Positive Workplace Cultures Involve?
Leaders who meet the identified the needs of their staff can bring about huge changes very quickly, building a trusted and reliable positive workplace culture.
One of the most effective ways of creating positive workplace culture is through fulfilling human needs. Like any relationship when our needs are met by those around us we feel comfortable, confident, and motivated to stay in the relationship, and do what we can for our relational counterparts.
7 Keys To Positive Workplace Culture
There are 7 keys to positive workplace culture.
1. People Matter
The most important part of any organisation is it’s people. Getting the right people is essential to positive workplace culture. That’s why successful companies spend so much time and money on attracting, retaining, and developing people with the right values, cultural fit, and attitude.
Organisations that focus on people create positive workplace cultures effortlessly. Think of organisations like Google, which pride themselves on the creative workplace environments, their free food, health and dental, even haircuts and dry cleaning, on-site gyms, swimming pools and gaming areas. Google even employs people who’s sole responsibility is to keep people happy and productive.
People with aligned values and behaviours create positive workplace cultures.
2. Positive Communication
Consistent positive messages can change organisational culture quickly, particularly if employees trust their leaders to bring about the promised changes.
Research by the author conducted in 2010 showed that participants changed the way they responded to workplace scenarious after hearing a little over a minute of a monologue about compassionate behaviour (compared with the control group who didn’t hear any monologue). This research indicates that in as little as a minute organisational leaders are able to positively influence workplace behaviour.
Communication is an essential human need. When we communicate effectively we build strong, supportive relationships that can thrive in challenging circumstances, creating positive workplace cultures.
3. Employee Feedback
One of the most effective ways of changing organisational culture is by implementing an employee feedback system, where all employees are able to provide feedback to the organisation’s leadership team. The feedback is heard, acknowledged, and responded to.
Vineet Nayar, former CEO of HCL Technologies believes that implementing an employee feedback system was a huge contributor to the change in company’s revenue increase from $0.7 billion in 2005 to $4.6 billion in 2013.
New Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer implemented a similar system, upon taking up her new role. Among other strategies designed to make Yahoo! “the absolute best place to work”, the culture has already begun to change in the year she has been with Yahoo!
Two of the most important human needs are to feel heard and understood. Employee feedback systems meet both of these needs quickly and effectively.
4. Showing You Care In All Actions
John C. Maxwell, internationally recognised leadership expert’s famous saying “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” is evident. Brendon Burchard of the High Performance Academy, similarly says genuinely caring is one of the most important ways of increasing performance and sales.
When people know you care, they are likely to go out of their way to also show care in what they do. Caring involves thought, foresight, and consistency. Companies all too often implement token changes that do not get to the heart of what employees really want and need. Caring involves lifestyle, an integrated approach to health (involving physical well-being, as well as relationships inside and outside of the workplace) and treating employees as individuals, meeting their individual (as much as possible) and collective human needs.
5. Purpose, Vision, and Each Knowing Their Part
Viktor E Frankl’s seminal book, Man’s Search For Meaning, explains how important a sense of purpose or meaning is for survival, even in the harshest, most challenging environments. Purpose or meaning is a fundamental human need.
Mike Steger, psychologist and meaning of life researcher also points out that people have still committed suicide when they have had social support networks or relationships with intimate partners. People do not often commit suicide when they have had a sense of purpose or meaning in their lives.
Contribution is a human need. When people feel they are serving others or contributing to a meaningful goal, they feel happier, more positive, and satisfied with their lives. Seligman, one of the founders of positive psychology, says that a meaningful life contributes to an overall increased sense of well-being.
Leaders who understand, engage in, and effectively communicate a shared vision build positive workplace cultures where employees know why they are turning up to work everyday, and what their role is in the shared vision.
6. Showing Appreciation
People want to feel appreciated when they come to work. People spend long hours at work, forgoing time with their families and friends, or doing activities they enjoy. When they feel recognised, and appreciated for what they do at work, workers are more inclined to feel satisfied at work, and more motivated and engaged to work harder.
Appreciation can be shown in many ways through awards, promotions, pay increases, and internal communications. These formal ways of showing appreciation are important. They cannot, however, replace daily acts of gratitude and appreciation from leaders. Regular and sincere “thank you’s” create positive relationships and cultures within the workplace.
A 2012 study by Waters of the University of Melbourne showed that those who work in a culture of gratitude where workers are regularly shown appreciation had significantly higher job satisfaction.
A recent 5 year UK study by Thomas and Maskati has shown that workplaces that involve fun and humour are more productive. Staff that spent time laughing and interacting were found to create quality work in a fraction of the time it took others who were not taking time to laugh and interact with co-workers.
This makes sense. Other emotions research by Isen and Forgas over the last few decades shows that positive emotions tend to increase creativity and innovation, and facilitate the development of relationships. When people laugh and joke, they build relationships. Positive workplace relationships promote positive workplace behaviours such as knowledge sharing, informal training, and empathy in times of need.
The Benefits of Creating A Positive Organisational Culture In Your Workplace
There are numerous benefits of positive workplace cultures. Here are a few:
- Workers can get on with their jobs, improving productivity, rather than focus on what is going wrong with the organisation, and the leadership team
- Workers are proud to work for positive organisations and share their experience with their social networks, enhancing your company brand
- Knowledge and experience is shared between workers which improves efficiency, productivity, and performance
- People enjoy coming to work and are more committed to your organisation, reducing the huge costs of turnover
- Workers go home happier and more satisfied, and this impacts their families and friends and spreads to others, and you have a positive impact on society.
Building a positive workplace culture is highly beneficial for organisations. When organisations employ initiatives that focus on people and meeting essential human needs, they build positive workplace cultures that thrive in challenging times.