Ward to the Wise

Use Communication To Drive Your Culture

using-communication-to-drive-your-cultureHave you encountered a company that claims to have a culture built on safety but posts recordable injury after recordable injury? What about a company that says integrity is its foundation for doing business but has problems with accountability, honesty and fairness among its employees?

Companies with these types of issues suffer a disconnect between the culture they desire and the actual culture manifesting on a day-to-day basis. Ultimately, the two should align, but all too often, gaps exist.

Culture is something many business leaders say they value but then do little to actively shape one, leaving open the opportunity for a fractured culture to emerge. Unfortunately, it’s only when trouble occurs that company culture typically gets the attention it deserves.

Communication is one of the most effective ways to promote and direct change; however, when it comes to culture change, communication’s role must go well beyond spouting slogans, announcing metrics and hanging posters to promote company values. Communication must educate employees about the culture desired and reinforce the behaviors that will sustain it.

Communicate To Inform

Before you can begin to change a company’s culture, everyone must understand the aspects of the existing culture that are not working, why they aren’t and what must change to achieve the desired state.

The first step in changing a culture is to educate employees about its current shortcomings and the effect those shortcomings have on the business and on employees, thus arming them with knowledge and self-awareness.

Communicate To Drive Change

You cannot expect employees to “walk the talk” when there has been no “talk.” Do your employees know how to be safe or accountable? Do they know what working with integrity looks like?

Time and again, employee survey responses reveal that almost universally workers give themselves undue credit for being a person of their word, yet report consistent lack of honoring commitments by others. Such results indicate a clear lack of personal accountability, which management must confront with straight talk. Managers also must model integrity themselves and follow through when punctuality, deadlines and timely responses to email are treated casually lest this systemic weak integrity seep into safety, customer service and product quality control.

Educating employees about the behaviors that support the desired culture is an essential part of creating that culture. This means leaders must clearly and consistently articulate the behaviors they want employees to adopt. They also must transparently communicate about failures, and explain, without accusation or blame, when behavior must be corrected. If an employee fails to heed the requests, then management must decide if that employee really fits with the espoused values and performance criteria, and act accordingly. If employees are allowed to ignore the requested behaviors, the rest of the team will quickly learn that they do not need to stretch themselves to meet the standard either since there will be no consequence.

Communicate To Reinforce The Culture

A company’s culture will always move to the path of least resistance, unless the benefits of staying on the more difficult road make it worth the effort. This makes recognition an indispensable communication tool.

By regularly lauding employees who display behaviors that build your culture in your communication, you will reinforce that behavior and demonstrate the benefits of making the extra effort to others.

Corporate culture, when nurtured, can provide companies with the foundation to transcend economic shifts and support sustainable growth. As the best talent chooses jobs at the best companies, savvy employers compete well when they articulate, invest in and nurture their workplace cultures, and when the desired culture is realized, as opposed to being claimed but not lived, employee retention improves and recruiting is easier.

Building your culture begins with committing to a specific culture you envision, and communicating with employees. When you do, you will see your desired culture and your actual culture meld to truly drive business results.

Do you need help bridging the gap between your desired culture and your actual culture? Contact Ward. We’ve helped many clients build a sustainable corporate culture through effective communication across the organization.

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