Many people like the idea of honing and promoting company culture – until they realize that it involves change. Unlike installing new software needed to stay competitive or choosing new office furniture, implementing a cultural program is neither mandatory nor optional but somewhere in between.

Even though you know that great culture keeps the best companies afloat, your team might not be on board with a new protocol that might seem strange or uncomfortable. You can’t use culture like a spreadsheet or sit on it for eight hours a day. So, how do you convince your people to take the leap and embark on a cultural journey? Start by finding out who is already on the ship.

Compose Your Message

You’ll learn who’s with you by how your message is received, so craft it carefully. Clearly articulate how operational changes will achieve new benchmarks. Suppose your cultural plan includes steps to increase transparency and acknowledge productivity. These are meant to build trust and motivation – to bind teams together and optimize their performance.

Show your people how things might progress by putting together a SMART message that is:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time based

Let’s say you want to reduce the time spent handling customer complaints and believe that greater transparency will do the trick. You are pitching a new communications package to build personal accountability and increase the free flow of problem-solving information. What changes in your current system must take place? How will they affect people?

  • Everyone must learn who is responsible for what in the company. This way, they can contact the right person, in the right situation, for the proper outcome.
  • You’ll use analytics to measure how long it takes for a typical customer complaint to be solved.
  • Employees will feel empowered to give this change a try because they’ll get help from the chain of command, and solving complaints faster will make their work easier or more pleasant.
  • Customer complaints already exist and are a real source of headaches. Staff are being asked to solve a concrete problem in a novel way, not a novel problem that they aren’t sure they can handle.
  • Measuring success via elapsed time averages the level of difficulty involved and reduces complaints to a common denominator.

Consider how these steps will help shape a culture that reflects your company’s mission and values. Promise to offset team effort with rewards for success. Then, project the likely gains the company will make when these changes lead to better performance. Now you have a message that will hold water.

Commission Your Officers

In a series of conversations and meetings with company leaders, administrators and key teams, float your message. Explain why your organization needs to change to more fully define its culture. Use examples to show how strong culture drives brand recognition, worker satisfaction and greater profits. And lay out a SMART plan.

During these exchanges, pay close attention to audience response. Who is skeptical? Who is dead-set against it? More importantly, who loves your ideas? The people who are nodding, asking open-ended questions and volunteering to help are your champions.

Those who show passion for any facet of your proposal – outlining staff roles, tracking response times, finding ways to acknowledge employees who succeed – will help you overcome the resistance of others.

Address the Crew

Flanked by your officers, assemble your troops and present your message. Ask your champions for their two cents. Ask your troops for their thoughts on how to put new programs in place and what they think the results might be. Make it a conversation, not a proclamation.

Above all, show your employees how you plan to contribute. What will you do to help bring about change? Show them that you are willing to take the first step, whether it’s learning to use a new messaging system or being quizzed on departmental roles and goals.

Then, follow through. Dive in. Attend training sessions alongside your staff. Try routing a ticket to the right person in the correct department. If you get it wrong, admit it and review the company roster a few more times. When the boss is willing to risk making – and correcting – a mistake, others will be too. After all, a sea change is only new and strange until the familiar tide comes back in.