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Turning around an Organizational Culture: 3 Practical Steps

Most employees have no trouble recognizing a company with a poor culture: high turnover, low morale, low productivity and lack of teamwork. But business owners are sometimes too overwhelmed to recognize the same signs; and when they do recognize the signs, they feel powerless to turn the situation around.

In over a decade of work as an HR consultant with companies throughout New England and Florida, I have found that turning around an organizational culture begins with three practical steps that are both vital to a healthy culture and easy for a business owner to implement:

Step 1. Update your employee handbook—and if you don’t have one, start one. Mark sure every employee has a copy of the handbook. In the handbook, you lay out the benefits each employee is entitled to (vacation time, for example), rules that every employee must follow and the consequences for not following the rules. It is your first resource when employees complain about or try to wheedle preferential treatment. The handbook frees business owners and managers from feeling like the “bad guy,” and that alone is bound to improve the organizational culture. Does an employee have a problem with a decision? Refer to the handbook.

Step 2. Create job descriptions for every employee and make sure that each employee reads and signs his or her job description. The job description should review the soft skills (professional behavior, team work) that are essential for a positive organizational culture, as well as specific duties. The job description creates a solid foundation for annual reviews and provides the backup you need to deal with someone who is not measuring up in either soft or hard skills.

Step 3. Create processes. Your employees will be more productive if they know the work flow and if they are not constantly fighting an unrealistic schedule or chaotic organization. Your own desk may be messy, but your business processes have to be logical if other people are going to follow them successfully. Removing the frustration of disorganization is an important step in turning around an organizational culture.

Once you have those three practical steps in place, you can begin to visualize the organizational culture you would like to have and to bring your supervisors and managers on board with your vision. If you need help at any stage of the process, please contact HR Compliance 101.

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