With all the talk about employee disengagement and 2014 being the year of the employee, this reader question really hits home.
I’m an HR Specialist (only three years in the industry, and I love it). Since I’m so low on the totem pole, I am usually not taken seriously when I discuss our company’s low morale and toxic work environment. More than one-third of our staff have expressed their concerns to me. My immediate boss (the Director of Human Resources) is completely gung ho about the ideas I have discussed with him, but when we take them to Company President, we are completely shot down.
I feel completely powerless, and as there is absolutely NO regard for the employees and their well-being. The executive team cares only for the well-being of the organization whereas, I am concerned about the employees AND the organization. I am needing some guidance in regard to this, and possibly some advice as to how to shift the culture. I look forward to hearing from you.
First, welcome to the world of human resources. I’m happy to hear that you’re loving the profession. I don’t want to sugar coat an answer. Changing corporate culture is possible but it’s also a long and sometimes frustrating process. But in reading this note, there were a few things that come to mind:
Think of morale and culture as two different things. Yes, corporate culture and employee morale are interrelated. But low morale isn’t always a culture issue. For example, let’s say a company has a bad quarter financially and needs to cut back on expenses. This might hurt morale but it doesn’t necessarily mean the culture needs to change. It could help to think of morale and culture as different (but associated).
Categorize concerns as either morale or culture related. I would think of all those concerns that employees have brought to human resources and put them into two columns: morale or culture. Then really examine the lists. Are there any trends that can be identified? It’s one thing to tell senior leadership that the corporate culture needs to change. It’s another to say that morale is low because the employee of the month program is stale.
Identify metrics to substantiate concerns. Try to put some numbers around the concerns. How many complaints have been heard each month? See if the organization has exit interview data to support the concerns. Anecdotal information isn’t bad but use is as the back-up for trend data.
Quantify the solution. First off, have a solution. Then put some numbers behind it. How much does the solution cost? How long will it take to implement? And what kind of results should the company expect? Years ago, I would go into executive committee meetings and hear my colleagues get the funds for their projects. Me? Sometimes yes and most of the time, no. It was very frustrating. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out the reason then it came to me – I wasn’t talking numbers. I explained things in terms of the employees feeling good. And while that’s important, when I turned “feel good” into a number…I got the funding and resources I was looking for.
Get buy-in from the executive team before pitching your idea to the President. If you’ve gotten to this point, you’ve probably got a solid solution to propose and the numbers to back it up. But it never hurts to have some people on your side. Ask for the support of the leadership team. They might have some good suggestions you hadn’t considered.
Lastly, and this is the toughest one. Realize the possibility exists that the answer will still be no and the company doesn’t want to change. It doesn’t mean your idea is bad or wrong. Sometimes the timing just isn’t right. There could be other things as well. And don’t take it personally. It’s possible you will have another chance at a later date.
Changing corporate culture and improving employee morale are not easy. The effort takes time, resources, and support from the people around you.
Image courtesy of HR Bartender1