A change in an organization’s culture doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, experts say it takes 3 to 5 years for a culture change to take effect. In my 30 years of experience working with clients who were trying to make changes to their culture to become more service oriented or quality oriented, I have found three things though that can speed up the process.
1. Clear expectations of the new behaviors. A culture is made up of behaviors. Organizations that don’t clearly define the accepted behaviors take longer to make the change. Employees spend more of their time trying to figure out what is accepted and what is not. State the behaviors, define the behaviors, communicate the behaviors, and train on how to do the behaviors. This training can consist of telling stories of the behaviors being enacted, anecdotes of success when behaviors are exhibited, or role playing of the behaviors. The key is for every employee to know exactly how to apply the behaviors to their specific job.
2. Peer-to-peer recognition. Those organizations that create a system to promote peers recognizing other peers when the behaviors are performed accelerate the culture change process. Peers see each other in daily interactions and know whether a behavior has been truly performed or faked. This recognition should not be monetarily incentivized, but it should be publicized in some way so employees can see and hear the behaviors being applauded by their fellow co-workers.
3. Management consistency. Managers must be trained to know how to comfortably call out and address those employees who are not performing the new defined behaviors. Unaccepted behaviors must not be allowed to continue without saying or doing something about them. Management must also walk the talk by their example. When a tough decision needs to be made in favor of the new desired culture, even if it loses money in the short term, it must be done. News will spread like wildfire on the decision and will leapfrog the culture forward more than anything else, because employees will then know that management is really serious about implementing the change.