I see it all the time: Business leaders desiring a change in workplace culture, a change in workforce motivation and energy, a change in work style – and instead of trying to change their employees’ mindsets, they simply exchange their employees for new ones. Employees can be stubborn or seem mired in old routines, but more often the problem lies with leaders, who are too lazy, too busy, or too easily frustrated to guide their workforce through a change.
Instead of wasting time, money, and effort on a workforce overhaul, employers should gently and good-naturedly follow these steps to see the changes they desire in their workplaces.
How to Improve Your Employees Work Culture
Communication should never be undervalued, especially in the workplace where tensions can quickly grow between bosses and workers. Instead of mandating changes and expecting compliance, leaders should take time to carefully explain their visions to their workforce. In small groups or one-on-one meetings, leaders should state what changes they envision and why, highlighting benefits to individual workers and the organization as a whole.
What’s more, leaders should spend time listening to their workers’ concerns and fears. There may be fundamental issues with the plan that leaders didn’t consider, so employee feedback is incredibly valuable.
Train and Educate
Some changes require extra training and education, and leaders shouldn’t expect employees to know how to acquire the proper skills and knowledge on their own. Instead, businesses should organize formal trainings to help its workforce improve to fit new standards. If required skills are too complex to teach in a few in-office meetings or seminars, organizations should sponsor its employees returning to school to gain certificates or certifications.
In some cases, organizations will devote resources to formally training only some of its employees, leaving the rest to struggle with old skills or self-educate slowly and inefficiently. This isn’t fair; all workers with related responsibilities should increase their abilities together.
Personalize and Engage
Employees aren’t often keen on change, but employees can increase their enthusiasm by enacting changes that employees are eager for. Leaders should query their workers to learn about changes they desperately want – like a greener workplace. Then, leaders should integrate the most popular changes into their existing plans. For example, leaders might add more comprehensive recycling policies or set up a ridesharing program to help their employees save money commuting to work.
If some workers’ requests cannot be met, leaders should still spend time personalizing their responsibilities to give them a sense of accomplishment. Engagement will retain a majority of the workforce during times of upheaval and change.
Communication shouldn’t only occur before a change; leaders should continue to interface with their employees during and after the period of turbulence to ensure employees remain happy and the changes are effective. Leaders should keep their doors open, so if an employee becomes confused about new policies or duties, he or she can receive clarification immediately. Further, leaders can pivot the plan if workers encounter unsurmountable obstacles to desired changes.
Recognize and Reward Success
Of course, leaders are likely to encounter some unconstructive complaints, as well. Despite worker negativity, leaders should remain optimistic and strive to show empathy and sympathy as much as possible. Most workers will respond positively to this attitude and behavior from leadership.
If complaints persist, leaders should begin recognizing those employees who adapt well to the requested changes. Organizations can develop evaluation systems to determine how workers are transitioning, and those who adopt new skills or habits faster may receive bonuses or other rewards. Those who may once have been lackadaisical about the shift might begin committing more thoroughly after observing incentives.
Weed out Negativity
Complaints during a transition period should be expected, but outright resistance to desired changes must be stopped. Employees who cannot be persuaded to change must be let go quickly and efficiently, or else they might derail changes and collapse the company. Unhappy workers tend to undermine changes by incessantly pointing out flaws and potential negative outcomes to their peers. An entire workforce that is dissatisfied will rebel against the change, thwarting it and any progress it could bring.
If necessary, leaders can explain why bad apples were let go, but they should avoid scaring their employees with threats about non-compliance. To bring about change without replacing every worker for someone new, everyone must be happy, enthusiastic, and cooperative.