5 Ways to Turn Around a Lackluster Company Culture
BY Will Yakowicz
Transforming a less-than-ideal culture can take a painstakingly long time. Here's how to jumpstart the process.
Great company culture doesn't mean beanbag chairs, a popcorn machine, and a Ping-Pong table. In fact, if you do it right, your culture should be defined by things like increased revenue, increased customer satisfaction, and employee retention.
Although creating a new culture is a big endeavor, it doesn't have to take long, says Brad Power, business management consultant specializing in process innovation.
Power writes in the Harvard Business Review that one executive from Trane, a subsidiary of building management company Ingersoll Rand, completely turned around the culture at its North America branch, which suffered from low employee engagement and poor customer service. The $8 billion company lowered its attrition rate from 12 percent to 6 percent and increased operating income by 20 percent year-over-year without any new products, services, and little market growth.
Below, read tips on how to transform your company's culture from Jason Bingham, vice president at Trane North America and author of "Cultureship: The ACBs of Business Leadership":
Start the conversation.
Bingham explains that Trane's leadership started by discussing culture during every meeting. "At first, that discussion had a lot of listeners. As the leaders began to feel more comfortable and confident talking about culture, they engaged. By the third meeting, the leaders started creating plans to drive a winning culture and using the culture development process," Power writes.
Do a survey.
After the discussions, Trane assessed the company through a combination of a culture survey and an employee engagement survey. Using the results, they formed a basis of the new culture they wanted to achieve. They identified their company's strengths and highlighted areas that needed development by each department. Going forward, they structured their new culture through three essential elements:
Vision: where the organization wants to go together.
Mission: what they do together.
Guiding behavioral principles: how they expect all associates to behave.
"There must be a clear connection between the target culture and the overarching strategy of the company," Power writes. Once you've defined desired behaviors, it's up to you to model them and reward them when you see employees following.
Cut down the grapevine.
Trane's sales office had the worst engagement levels in the company, so he worked to increase communication. Bingham created an initiative called "direct with respect," which meant leaders and employees had to speak about issues with each other and not behind anyone's back. Through training, managers were taught to address their employees face-to-face and reward directness with a simple, but public "thank you." "The leaders made sure that the team heard from them directly before ever hearing news through the grapevine," Power writes. "As teams improved their behavior, internal politics were reduced, and interactions with customers were less confused."
Create quick fixes.
As the culture improved, the employees wanted to start doing better quality work and eliminate any snags in workflow. Bingham started "fix-it" events, where employees could identify troubled areas and the leaders could approve the fixes. The "quick wins," which they called the fixes, included things like reducing the number of passwords employees needed and providing laptops for on-call employees to complete work from home.
Take the pulse.
It's important to track the culture's evolution and continue to improve it. Six months is a good time to do a "cultural pulse survey," Power writes. After Trane's six-month mark, Bingham found morale was up, attrition rates had been cut in half, and customer satisfaction also improved. A year after the changes, the first business performance report showed "the office had one of the highest increases in bottom-line profit relative to revenue growth," Power writes.
WILL YAKOWICZ is a reporter at Inc. magazine. He has covered business, crime, and politics at Patch.com, and his work has been published in Tablet Magazine and The Brooklyn Paper. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. @WillYakowicz