Bringing about a culture change in your company can be a challenging process. People, just like an organization, are complex and the difficulty of changing habits and set thought patterns can be difficult. You know this personally if you’ve ever tried to change up a daily habit. However, without properly engaging your employees in the change process you cannot expect to successfully drive and sustain a culture change.

Employee Engagement
Employee engagement is vital to business success. And as you navigate through changing your company culture having your employees engaged will make your transition that much easier. During a culture change, leaders should make it a priority to ensure that employees are engaged. This starts with you being genuine and open, allowing employees to feel that they are heard and empowered.

When employees are engaged, they understand and align with the company values and are dedicated to the company mission. This generates loyalty towards the company and a motivation to perform at their best. They feel empowered to pay an active role and make a difference. When you make employees feel included and part of the process they become your partners in driving the culture change that you desire.

Communication Strategy
When you start with a culture change in your organization it’s important to have a strategy for how you want to go about employee engagement. This is where you choose your narrative and decide how to reach employees. It’s even more important if your workforce spans over more than one location as in these times most employees are working remotely.

It’s also important to be thoroughly prepared and make sure the information you’re sharing is accurate and reliable. Update and communicate with the employees on a regular basis. Your communication does not need to be lengthy lectures. Instead, keep your message simple, easy to understand, and consistent. Be sure to focus on the “why” behind the culture change as well.

Here are some tips for employee engagement during a culture change:

1. Create a network
Changing a culture is more than just sending out memos and hoping employees will get your idea. It’s about how you present yourself and engage directly with the people that make up the company. Create a network of people that you communicate with regularly. This will be your place to share your thoughts and lessons and get advice on important issues that come up.

2. Encourage feedback
Engagement is a two-way street. The best way to encourage employee engagement is to get their feedback. Whatever changes you’re making in the company culture ask your employees to give their feedback on it. When you do implement changes based on the feedback, share it with them.

3. Visual display
A great way to bring your culture to life is through the use of symbols, artifacts, and pieces of art that represent your culture. This can include your company values on t-shirts and other merchandise or planning rituals and building traditions around your culture. This is a physical reminder of what the company values most.

4. Create meaning
People are more likely to understand and adapt to a culture change when they find meaning in it. Allow your employees to make sense of the change on their own which allows the change process is smoother. Let your employees absorb the information, ask questions, and express what the change means to them. Create opportunities for them to process the culture change.

5. Own the change
To get your employees engaged and excited about the change, company leaders should start by owning the change and adapting the new mindsets themselves. It’s hard to change employee mindsets if they believe that the change is only about the bottom line and they are not valued as people. When you embrace the mindset you want to bring to the company you’ll inspire your staff to follow.

During this process, it is important to find ways to build trust with your employees. When you go beyond words, live by the values you want to implement, and show your employees that they’re valued, it will lead to a healthy relationship with them. Then find ways to enjoy the culture you wish to bring. Live your values and have fun while you’re doing it. This will draw others in and encourage them to follow.

“Corporate culture matters. How management chooses to treat its people impacts everything – for better or for worse.” – Simon Sinek

The quote above from the leadership guru Simon Sinek is a testimony to the importance of a company’s culture. Company culture is one of the most important yet most often overlooked part of a company. In order to stay successful and relevant in the long run, company culture plays a major role.

What is company culture?
Company culture, also referred to as organizational culture or workplace culture, can be defined as the set of values, attitudes, and characteristics of an organization. It is reflected in what people value at a company, the way they interact and communicate with each other, and their decisions. Several elements make up and influence a company’s culture. These include company vision and mission, style of leadership, workplace environment, business ethics, values, and company goals as well as expectations.

How Do I Know It’s Time for a Change?
It’s not always easy to recognize when it’s time for organizational culture change. The signs are not always obvious and it’s easy to confuse general company problems with an issue with company culture. Most of the time, a culture shift happens organically but there are times when companies and leaders need to actively drive the culture change. So how will you know it’s time for a culture change?

Here are some sure signs it’s time for a change:

1. Low financial performance
If company profits are plummeting and there’s no clear reason behind it such as changes to the economy or customer base, then it’s likely that your culture needs some change. Studies have shown a link between a company’s culture and its financial performance. The organizational culture research firm Great Place to Work reported in one study that the 13 companies that are consistently on Fortune’s list of Best Companies to Work For also reported increased average annual returns.

2. Employees are reluctant to communicate
Effective and open communication is essential for the health of any organization. With a healthy company culture, employees feel comfortable to communicate up and down the organizational structure. They do not hesitate to give feedback that is important for team leaders and managers. If you feel that employees are not sharing feedback or are hesitant to communicate especially during difficult times, then it could be a sign that its’s time for a shift in company culture.

3. Employees find it hard to reach consensus
Successful organizations recognize the benefits of having a diverse group of employees with different backgrounds. The coming together of diverse ideas and approaches helps teams find innovative and creative solutions. However, if you notice that your team is consistently finding it difficult to reach a consensus, it may indicate an issue with the company culture.

4. Low employee engagement
Employee engagement is a mark of good organizational health. It leads to more productivity and better company performance. Your employees are what keep the company going. If you feel that engagement levels are falling and it’s impacting your business, it’s important to inspect where the company culture is at fault.

5. Resistance to change
Successful companies realize that change is the only constant and are flexible when it comes to embracing new ways of business. Remaining static is a recipe for disaster and yet many companies are resistant to change and this is where their company culture is to blame. A healthy culture is one that sees change in a positive light. If you feel that every time something new or different is introduced in your company it’s met by a strong resistance then you need to drive a culture shift to welcome change and progress.

Company culture may be cultivated through deliberate policies and actions or it may be shaped gradually over time through the collection of company decisions. A strong company culture helps employees understand what is expected of them and so they work in alignment with the culture. A positive culture keeps your employees happy and productive, impacts employee retention and helps you meet company goals.