News From Terre Haute, Indiana

November 5, 2012

Business Cents: Change in the workplace uncomfortable but usually necessary

Heather Strohm
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Change, change, change. So often companies want to change a culture, but fail to implement the changes appropriately. Why do companies feel the need to change and modify their culture? First, it is important that cultures reflect a positive force or attitude. By a company embracing a positive culture, employees feel much more appreciated and will be more productive. In addition, a positive culture influences behaviors of all employees from CEOs to customer service representatives to custodian staff. Is your culture positive or negative? Answer the following questions below:

1. Are the majority of office doors closed during operating hours?

2. Are employees reprimanded for mistakes and never complimented for achievements?

3. Do your managers have a “who cares” or “love it or leave it” attitude?

4. Is information communicated and shared throughout the company, especially critical information?

5. Does everyone work together in shared space? Are bathrooms shared? Kitchens?

If you answered yes to questions 1-3 and no to 4-5, then you probably have a negative culture within your company. Employees could be less productive, feel less appreciated and maybe even resentful at management.

Now the question you should ask yourself if how to change that culture to be more positive. Listed below are a few steps to get you going in the right direction.

1. Be sure to clearly define the culture, discuss attributes and acceptable behavior. The cultural change will need to begin with the upper management and trickle down by example.

2. Communicate! It is vital to communicate with all employees. Don’t overload them with emails, but do be sure to share vital and important information with them.

3. Recognition is another important aspect of fostering positive cultural change. By recognizing employees for their hard work, accomplishments and successes you will begin to see them value their work more because they will feel much more appreciated and as though they are making a true difference and contribution to the company.

4. Involve the individual. In another word: empowerment. Today’s workforce is comprised of four different generations ranging from the traditionalists to the millennial generations. Each segment of the workforce wants to feel as if they are involved in making decisions and can provide valuable input.

5. Be patient. Change is not instantaneous, so as the culture begins to evolve remember that nothing happens overnight. For a cultural shift to take place, it usually ranges from 1-3 years.

In summary, the more positive the culture is the more your company will grow both in regard to employee retention and market share.

Heather (Penney) Strohm is the regional director for Indiana State University’s Indiana Small Business Development Center.