Treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen: Why this won’t work with your staff and what you need to do instead to engage them

Treating your staff ‘mean’ to get results is clearly counter-productive. Providing sandwiches for them at lunchtime is not the quick fix solution either. Here are five tips for creating a corporate culture that will engage your staff and add value to your bottom line. 

1. Decide your objectives and how the change will be measured in the culture

How will things be different? By when will that have been achieved? How will you know if you have been successful?

2. Choose three or four key values to define the new culture

Be specific about the behaviours and attitudes you’d like to see. Choosing ‘Trust’ as a company value is meaningless, because nobody knows what is expected of them.

3. Direct the change yourself

Changing attitudes and behaviours across a business isn’t easy.

The surest way to kill off a change programme is to position it as an HR issue. It sends a very different signal when the CEO takes personal accountability, and makes it clear that every functional Director or Divisional Head will report personally on progress in their area.

4. Measure everything you do against the values

Review, and redesign where necessary every process and policy to reflect the new culture. In staff appraisals, performance should be evaluated against each of the company values, as well as conventional targets and objectives. Reward systems may need to be changed. Don’t expect real teamwork if bonuses are linked to individual performance!

People don’t always realise that in committing to a strong, distinctive culture, they are by definition, excluding other ways of doing things. If you want to create a company focused on customer service, anyone who is regularly the subject of customer complaints has to change or leave.

5. Live and breathe your values

As soon as people hear about new company values they will want to know whether to take them seriously. If your habit of yelling at people and throwing furniture is inconsistent with your new commitment to Show Respect for People, stop shouting and throwing furniture! And when you get it wrong – and you will! – apologise.

  • What are your company values?
  • Does everybody behave in accordance with them – always?

If not, why not?

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