When Your Recognition Program Tells Your Culture, "It’s Not Me, It’s You"

March 12, 2015

In a previous post, I talked about a company one of my friends works for that is struggling to engage its employees in the face of a culture that isn’t necessarily interested in playing along. Our first thought was to find some recognition solutions that might be more palatable to their employees than their current efforts. You can read those ideas here.

Our second thought was: maybe it’s their culture that needs to change; not their approach. If that’s the case, how would they (or you) know the difference? A couple of obvious signs that culture is the culprit are absenteeism, negative attitudes, pot-stirring, high turnover, and an overarching theme of resistance.

If this sounds like your organization, then acknowledging it is the first step. After that, put on your patience pants (after all, change won’t happen overnight) and start taking these positive steps:

Reach a consensus. Do all members of your leadership agree there is an issue—AND that it needs to be addressed? You won’t get very far if you can’t get past this. So, think about how you can convince those whose buy-in you need why you need it. You can cite the financial repercussions of absenteeism and turnover or the morale and productivity effects your trouble-making tub-thumpers are having on the wider population.

Evaluate your reality. When you started out as a company, what did you aspire to be? Has that changed? What are the elements of your culture (and your business personality or brand) that you value most; the ones that shape and define who and what you are? If you’ve lost those, how can you regain that original spirit? What is different between then and now? Dig deep and be honest—you probably know the answer.

Know your change agents. Influence is a powerful element in any culture. Who are the people in your organization who are admired and respected? How can you employ them to set the example you want others to follow? Chances are, if they are already walking the righteous talk, it won’t be hard to get them on board—and to start promoting, through their own actions, the behaviors you desire and discouraging the ones you don’t.

So, have I got you pondering? I hope so! Spend some time with your mind over the next few days and I’ll be back next week to continue this two-part series. In the second half, I’ll give you some practical ideas for how to move from thinking about changing your culture to actually doing it!

Oh, and this is also your time to post your culture questions in the comments section of this blog. I’ll rally our team of experts and we’ll help find you the answers!

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Allison is currently living out the elaborate fantasy she described to her now-former staff and colleagues in early 2001. With a hearty dose of courage and absolutely no plan of action, she abruptly left her middle-management job to become a writer—and today she is doing just that in her role as Baudville's Senior Content Writer. She's here to tell you everything she's learned in her 20-years+ professional life, plus a lot more. She's wordy like that!

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