Having been involved in the turnaround of four loss-making businesses there is a common theme among them and that is culture change. It is a fundamental aspect, with power that should not be underestimated, and something I feature heavily in my turnaround strategy. Changing the mind-set of employees and getting them on board with new processes can help save an ailing business, driving it forward into growth and profit.
It is often the case with a business in decline that employees will become demotivated. Gossip or hearsay about the fate of the business can start to spread causing further disruption, so it is important in the first stages of a turnaround to tackle this head on and quickly.
There will of course also be those employees that are resistant to change and are beyond convincing (see my blog on cracking middle management concrete). However, getting staff of all levels to have faith in the changes can be done with an honest and open approach, removing the barriers to creativity and banishing hierarchy.
Here are my top tips for tackling the culture change challenge:
Give employees at all levels a voice – Making staff feel that their opinion is valued and they are empowered to make decisions will allow you to nurture and nourish hidden talent.
Walk the walk – As the head of the company it’s absolutely imperative to make yourself approachable and available to staff if you are to win over hearts and minds. I visited each and every employee at Briggs Equipment when I first took on the CEO role.
Look for quick wins – This isn’t about manipulating opinion but looking out for what small changes can be made quickly to make the staff feel good about their job. For instance, after joining Briggs I immediately looked at getting the van fleet upgraded to make the lives of the mobile engineers easier. This actually cost us less than the previous vehicle fleet contract and gave us a quick win with the engineers. Also, the staff talked about the addition of more litter bins to make their lives easier in the office and this was actioned immediately. It sounds so trivial yet made them happy and in turn gave them the feeling that someone was listening to their needs.
Be open and honest – I have always communicated any important company news directly to employees and have been honest about a company situation no matter how bad it is. People will respect you for it and come to learn that what you say is what you mean. Trust is a crucial element in getting staff on side.
Communication is key – Regular newsletters, company roadshows, department meetings and an open door policy are all tactics I have found invaluable in keeping staff informed on developments, while helping to build trust.
Establish a social committee – Allowing employees to be actively involved in company events, such as charity fundraising initiatives, will really help motivate them.
Taking on the challenge of culture change is by no means plain sailing. However, it is a vital action in getting a business back on track.