5 ways to forge a fresh, resilient culture

After defining the framework of your new strategic direction, articulate the vision to employees. Reward those who quickly adapt to help build and sustain momentum.

Let’s say your CEO decides the company needs a cultural shift.

Whether it’s due to lack of results, an acquisition of another company or because of leaders’ new vision for business goals, your existing culture might have to evolve to accommodate the company’s new strategic direction.

Here are five steps to reshape or revive a culture in need of repair:

1. Define the desired culture. Develop the framework for what, exactly, you want the culture to be. What is top leadership’s vision for where the company is going? What are the values that will support reaching that vision? Which behaviors will be encouraged, rewarded and recognized, and which actions will be forbidden?

2. Mind (and find) the gap. It’s crucial to understand and acknowledge the gap between the desired culture and where you are now. Our company does this during the discovery phase of strategic planning, through interviews, focus groups and surveys with employees representing a wide cross-section of functional areas, job level and geography.

It can be painful digging down into the roots of your current substandard culture, but it’s important to have an honest reckoning with how far you have to go.

3. Articulate the desired culture. It doesn’t do much good for executives to agree on the culture they want if this new vision is not clearly shared with employees.

As you launch a cultural shift, consider producing something tangible that clearly outlines the hallmarks of your desired culture. You might distribute a “vision book” that can serve as an arbiter of behaviors, attitudes and strategic direction. Distribution might be timed to coincide with an employee event at which you can reinforce the company’s vision and values.

4. Help employees see their role in the vision. If your desired culture is customer-centric, for instance, employees whose jobs aren’t customer-facing might assume it doesn’t apply to them.

Communicate how every single person in the organization supports the new vision in their day-to-day work. In the customer-centric example, employees in the call center will have an easy time understanding how they serve the customer, but those in accounting or IT might not see how their work supports the new culture.

Communicators can play a key role in shaping the new culture by using inclusive language that ensures every employee feels like an indispensable part of the team.

5. Reward those who demonstrate and exemplify the desired culture. The goal is for the entire staff to support this cultural shift. However, a strategic pivot often changes the way a company recruits employees, educates new hires, recognizes workers and rates performance. That’s a tall order for staffers who are used to doing things a certain way, so it’s wise to recognize and reward those who make a concerted effort to adapt.

Ultimately, a culture is defined by which qualities are rewarded. If employees see that raises and promotions are tied to exhibiting the values, behaviors and accomplishments that align with the desired culture, they’ll get on board. If they don’t see that happening, the new culture will be a much tougher sell.

No matter how much you communicate the desired culture, the reality of that shift depends on operational changes companywide. Lavishing rewards, recognition and praise upon those who exemplify the essence of your new direction will help build—and sustain—momentum.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin is CEO of Tribe, an internal communication agency based in Atlanta. A version of this post first appeared on the Tribe Good Company blog .


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