How Improving Company Culture Can Change Employee Behavior


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If you are in man­age­ment, you are tasked with the never-ending job of coach­ing employ­ees, guid­ing their behav­ior, and help­ing employ­ees per­form their best. When employ­ees are in a work­place with a well-defined cul­ture, your lead­er­ship tasks become immea­sur­ably eas­ier; in an envi­ron­ment with a strong cul­ture, peo­ple have a more defined path of expected behavior.

So what do you do if you’ve had a cul­tural break­down? How do you guide employ­ees if there is no clear com­pany cul­ture for them to ref­er­ence? Often cul­tural break­downs hap­pen when there are big shifts in a com­pany – such as a merger or top lead­er­ship changes. If your com­pany is fac­ing a cri­sis of cul­ture, it is pos­si­ble to rebuild your com­pany cul­ture and rally your employ­ees behind it. We’ll break the process down into four steps.

Step 1: Define your com­pany culture

What is cul­ture, exactly? An infor­mal way to define com­pany cul­ture is sim­ply: “The way things are done around here.” In other words, cul­ture may not be spelled out in HR man­u­als, but it’s an under­stood ethos that defines people’s moti­va­tion, atti­tude, and work style.

To rebuild your com­pany cul­ture suc­cess­fully, you need to have a solid def­i­n­i­tion of what your com­pany cul­ture is. Artic­u­late it and give your employ­ees a frame of ref­er­ence. Employ­ees may have their own def­i­n­i­tion of how they see the cul­ture, but every­one needs to be on-board with the same def­i­n­i­tion. Is your com­pany cul­ture one where peo­ple are expected to have a relent­less work ethic, put in 12-hour days, and strive for per­fec­tion? Or per­haps your com­pany cul­ture is dri­ven by going and above-and-beyond in cus­tomer ser­vice? Define what your cul­ture is and what it’s not, and edu­cate your staff accord­ingly so that every­one has a com­mon def­i­n­i­tion of what your com­pany stands for.

Step 2: Estab­lish a way to “mea­sure” culture

Cul­ture may seem like neb­u­lous con­cept that escapes any type of quan­tifi­ca­tion, but in fact, cul­ture can be quan­ti­fied, and you should develop tools to track and mea­sure it.

A company’s cul­ture should be linked with per­for­mance. Is your com­pany pri­mar­ily about sales? How does your cul­ture reflect sales, and how do you mea­sure progress? Does your com­pany pride itself on retain­ing employ­ees and being a cov­eted place to work? If so, track your progress by turnover num­bers. Your cul­ture will have some aspect that can be quan­ti­fied, and it will have aspects that can be best told through dia­logue. Use sur­veys to get input and track progress from your employ­ees on the parts that can’t be dis­tilled down to cold, hard num­bers, and use num­bers where nec­es­sary to paint the full picture.

Step 3: Cre­ate processes to main­tain your company’s culture

You can have a ter­rific def­i­n­i­tion of your company’s cul­ture, and you can even have the best tools in place to mea­sure it, but if you don’t have processes in place to guide and main­tain your company’s cul­ture, it prob­a­bly won’t last.

Every­one in the orga­ni­za­tion needs to be aligned with the company’s cul­tural def­i­n­i­tion – par­tic­u­larly your lead­er­ship team. Edu­cate your team on how they can coach their staff to think about how cul­ture affects busi­ness. How does cul­ture pro­pel or hin­der per­for­mance? What can you be doing to con­stantly shape and improve behav­ior to fit into the cul­ture? Cre­ate a frame­work that your company’s lead­er­ship team can use to ensure that the com­pany cul­ture is reflected in all aspects of your business.

Step 4: Don’t give up

Finally, keep in mind that cre­at­ing a cul­ture is a process that takes time. This is par­tic­u­larly true in larger orga­ni­za­tions, or places where a neg­a­tive, toxic cul­ture has taken root. Don’t give up in work­ing at improv­ing the cul­ture, and be per­sis­tent until you start to see real, action­able changes. The good news is that peo­ple (the major­ity, that is), will pre­fer a pos­i­tive cul­ture over a neg­a­tive cul­ture; a pro­duc­tive cul­ture over a stag­nant cul­ture; and a dri­ven, focused cul­ture over one with­out clear goals. Once you start to turn the tide, your employ­ees will start to embrace the new.


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