Company Culture Turns Sour: What To Do When Your Business Turns On You

Is your staff turnover rate high? Do you battle to hold on to promising new talent? Do you find that great candidates reject your offers of employment? It might be time to consider the common denominator. It might be time to consider whether your company’s culture is tainting the office atmosphere and making people look for opportunities elsewhere.

Company culture permeates your staff and seeps into office walls. If the culture in your company is unhealthy then it will settle on people’s shoulders like an over-large vulture with a napkin tied around its neck. If you have a healthy company culture, however, blue birds of happiness will tweet around people’s heads.

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Photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/76969036@N02/7161901541/

Culture can sour

You might start off with a great company culture. Your staff might be happy and productive, business processes run smoothly, communication is open and your managers are on the same page as you and the rest of your staff. But the dynamic changes over time, as staff members leave to have children or retire or move to new cities, as prevailing economic trends put the squeeze on profits, as mistakes or bad business decisions creep in, as new staff clash with existing values and ideals and as people start to resent change.

What you end up with are dissatisfied staff, plummeting productivity, negligence leading to mistakes, poor service, bad communication and general grumpiness.

But you can turn it around

The trick is you have to want to change. And you have to be willing to do whatever is necessary to achieve change.

  • First, you have to take a good hard look at how the culture has changed over time. What was it that made your company great in the beginning? What are the most obvious signs of distress now?
  • Start thinking about what you would like to change and how you might go about implementing it. Will you need to revamp your technology, will you need to cut some particularly difficult members of staff, will you have to refine admin processes?
  • Consult your staff. Send out anonymous questionnaires to find out how your employees feel about working for you, what they feel is good, what they feel is lacking, what they would like to change. You can even have one-on-one meetings with employees if you don’t think that questionnaires will give you the honesty you need. If you think people will remain shtum in your presence, bring in an objective third party.
  • When all the info has been collected and analysed, have a great big meeting to talk about proposed changes. If you have already used a third party, rope them in to help manage the meeting.
  • Use all the feedback and your own personal feeling to define a new culture and a new vision. The keyword here is use. After you’ve put in all the work to get input from your staff, the worst thing you can do is ignore it.
  • Share the vision and culture; lead by example and ensure that systems are in place to help facilitate the transition.
  • Keep open lines of communication and keep following up with staff to ensure that everything remains on track.
  • Don’t rest on your laurels; maintaining a healthy company culture requires ongoing, hard work.

This guest post was written by Sandy Cosser on behalf of Change Consulting Group, which helps you establish a healthy company culture through comprehensive risk assessment and facilitating change management strategies.

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