Get the Traction You Need to Get New Cultural Initiatives Rolling

by: Kathleen Martin

Have you noticed things around the office have become a bit stagnant lately? How about your employees, do they seem a little less satisfied than usual? Maybe you’ve just gotten your latest report about employee productivity and it’s clear the business could be a little more... productive?

If any of these sound familiar, you may also find yourself thinking about launching a new cultural initiative that can help transform your culture and get your employees engaged again.

Unfortunately, your big cultural initiative idea can go exactly nowhere if you don’t have the buy-in you need. And you will need a lot, from the employees you’re looking to inspire, the managers you’ll look to reinforce and guide the initiative day-to-day, and the executives who will need to release the budget to make it happen in the first place.

It’s not all that surprising, then, to hear many initiatives fall flat before they even begin. A 2008 survey of over 3,000 executives from McKinsey found that only one in three organizational change efforts succeed. But what is it that makes that one initiative successful? Careful planning and understanding the needs of each stakeholder group, for starters, but these are almost guaranteed to be quite different. That’s why we emphasize communication, communication, and more communication if you want to achieve full support from all. 

A 2008 survey of over 3,000 executives from McKinsey found that only one in three organizational change efforts succeed. But what is it that makes that one initiative successful?

First, A Word About the Executive Team

The first group that will need convincing is the executive team that will need to approve your initial request for the initiative. These executives will most likely wish to know about the initiative’s value in terms of the bottom line and meeting business goals. In other words, you’ll need to find a way to clearly and concisely (these are busy people, after all!) make the connection between any budgetary dollars that the initiative requires, and the return they can expect to see from that expenditure. 

Pro tip: to make your argument even stronger, provide them with a realistic timeframe that they can expect to see changes starting to happen!

For executives, communication needs to focus on the bottom line and the real business goals your initiative will achieve. 

Your executives are largely concerned with the long-term health of the business. Your job, as a cultural initiative leader, is to make sure they understand how your initiative will affect the company’s culture, and how culture affects the company’s longevity - that means not only profits but also explaining how the initiative fits into the culture, values, and strategic vision of the organization. 

Next Up: Management 

Once you’ve convinced your executives, you’ll need to get your management team onboard. Managers are your strongest link to your employees and any new initiative will need to have their dogged, determined, some might even say relentless support in order to succeed. Your managers are going to be the daily face of the initiative in many ways, encouraging participation, sharing information, and gathering feedback from employees. 

As such, the needs of your management team will be different and so will the information they require to support the initiative. Communication about how the initiative will increase engagement and how that engagement will help them meet company goals is crucial. 

Be prepared to answer these three big questions about your initiative.

  • How will the initiative improve employee engagement?
  • How will that improve service?
  • How will it improve productivity?

The Heart of Your Organization: Employees

You’ve made it this far - congratulations! - but now you’ve come to the final challenge, and that’s getting your employees engaged and receptive to the new initiative. 

Change can be tough to embrace. To ask your employees to change, you need to clearly show them how these changes will benefit them.

But the things your employees care about can vary wildly from the cares of the executive and management teams. 

Rather than the financial health of the company, employees may be more concerned with finding purpose in their work, or having convenient access to things that make their working lives more comfortable. Any new initiative will need to be framed within these considerations as well as the benefits to the organization.

Building Trust with Employees

The second and some could argue most important consideration for getting employees to adopt your new initiative is trust. Trust is built slowly but breaks down quickly if employees feel there is a lack of transparency around initiatives and why they are happening. So be certain you are clearly communicating the ‘why’ behind the initiative, how they will be affected, and how it will ultimately benefit them and their role within the organization.

And don’t forget to ask for feedback! Feeling heard is a big component of maintaining trust and mutual respect.Once you’ve asked for the feedback, make sure you are ready to take action on it.

For the communications between you and your employees, it’s important to make sure you choose the channels that are the most relevant and meaningful to employees. Once you discover these, it’s even more important to maintain these communications in a timely, frequent pattern that they can count on. Maybe that’s a weekly team meeting, or monthly video communications from the leadership team to outline ongoing priorities and strategies. Whatever you choose, make sure your employees know where, when, and how often to expect the communications as well as when they are able to provide input and feedback about the initiative.

Ready to Get Started?

Let’s get those employees engaged! If you have an idea for a cultural initiative and need assistance navigating your organization’s communications challenges, contact Outlier today. Our team can help you identify, plan, and execute communications strategies and find success for your initiatives. 

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