Strong executive leadership teams go through the careful effort to establish corporate values that can guide their organization’s growth and culture. It takes time, rigor, honest debate and consideration of the tradeoffs. What emerges is deep clarity about the organization’s current and desired culture — and what it will take to get there.
What happens next? Posters get made! Sometimes those values get inserted haphazardly, without any context or explanation into already cumbersome performance management processes. Occasionally I’ll see organizations create employee groups to help make progress on the cultural renewal – and at that point, it’s often too little, too late
Where do most organizations fall short? Simply stated, most cultural initiatives end up being “owned” solely by HR, and fail to involve managers who embrace, promote and facilitate the changes that need to happen.
When managers aren’t completely aligned or involved with the organizational culture change, employees hear mixed messages and feel ambivalent toward the initiative. These managers already have multiple challenges competing for their time, yet their involvement is essential for your ideal state to be realized.
What can be done to give ownership to managers and make cultural changes stick?
Include them (and also employees– but that’s another blog!) in the culture change effort. While leadership drives desired culture changes, it’s imperative to solicit feedback and input from the front line to make sure that what you’re building is both worthwhile and achievable. When you incorporate their feedback, it will accelerate buy-in and tackle skepticism.
Provide clear communications expectations. Don’t assume that all managers know your expectations for sharing information with their team– and this is especially true for your new managers. Create clarity for every manager.
- How frequently should they meet with their team?
- For the team meetings, what do you suggest as a typical agenda? What’s the goal?
- How frequently should they meet with each team member, and what should the cadence of that conversation be?
- How should they surface resistance to cultural change, and how should they address it?
Cascade messages. Equip your managers to share messages on expectations, why it matters and how each team is essential to the organizational change success. Tailor specific communications for your managers to leverage during team meetings and one-on-ones, so they understand both the “what” and the “why,” they are prepared to address questions and they can better reduce ambiguity.
Establishing cultural values is a difficult exercise, but ensuring they stick and remain relevant is the true challenge. Leveraging your management team to evangelize your messages increases the likelihood of your success.
Catherine Malloy Cummings is a breakthrough human resources strategist known for her ability to transform HR teams into champions of revenue and agents of business growth. She is also a speaker and author, serving as a passionate advocate for HR’s potential to drive corporate strategic advantage. Follow her on Twitter at @ChiefHRChampion.