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11 Jan 2016

How to Improve Company Culture in 4 Steps

When learning how to improve company culture, it begins with knowing how it differs from changing company culture. People tend to ignore this though. They see improvement as change.

That is true. It is also true that vegetables and meats are food. How we cook each differs though. Some steps are the same. Many differ.

Organizational culture causes the difference between changing and improving. It is about influencing the minds and hearts of the people in it. How we influence matters.

How Improvement and Change Differ

Change is a new direction. Improvement is building upon the familiar. Changing homes is quite different from home improvements. The analogy holds for cultures.

We might like the culture. We just want to build on it. This is about improving it. This could mean:

  • Getting more of it
  • Having some attributes more dominant
  • Downplaying others
  • Refreshing it

Change is more radical. We want to take it in another direction. For instance, the culture might need to become more digitally oriented, moving away from a basic manufacturing one.

Why the Difference Matters

The difference matters because it changes the messaging. Internal communications might promote change as:

  • Moving in a new direction
  • Adapting to a changing client
  • Positioning for growth and acquisitions

They might promote improvement as:

  • Returning to our roots
  • Emphasizing what made us great
  • Refreshing and living our story
Knowing how to improve company culture differs from knowing how to change one.

Learning how to improve company culture is understanding the difference between changing a culture and refreshing one that has faded over the years.

Advertising change as improvement or vice versa confuses. It will frustrate efforts. It will color how employees see any innovation linked to the change or improvement. Is it a new direction or building upon an existing product or service?

Four Steps on How to Improve Company Culture

The steps on how to improve company culture are a stripped down version of the ones I outlined for changing company culture:

  1. Look at current culture
  2. Choose 3-4 major attributes to emphasize
  3. Develop internal communication plan
  4. Manage and coach to those attributes

My post on building company culture shows how to:

  • Arrive at these attributes
  • Develop the internal communication plan
  • Manage and coach to them

The key is keeping the attributes focused and few and remembering these phrasing differences are not too small to matter. They matter in marketing, advertising and selling. They will matter to employees when it comes to deciding how to improve company culture.

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