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What Can Managers Do To Change A Company’s Culture

Posted by Peter Post  April 11, 2013 07:00 AM

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One concern managers have about a training seminar is what happens the next day, or the next, or the next. How do they keep the learning experienced in the seminar alive? In my field, how do they make the etiquette training a part of their workplace’s culture?

It’s not easy to change a culture, but it can be done. I had one client who had about 250 individuals scheduled to attend my business etiquette seminar in groups of about 30 people. The first group comprised all the senior staff including the CEO. At the appointed hour, no one was in the room. It took about twenty more minutes before all of the participants were present. There was much apologizing and hemming and hawing about the culture of the business and how it was routine for people to arrive late to meetings. Interestingly, management was interested in changing the company’s culture but weren’t sure how to go about doing it. I suggested that from here on, everyone from the CEO on down would be expected to arrive on time and meetings would begin on time. No one would be held accountable for past transgressions, but from here on in “on time” was the rule. And I pointed out that for the etiquette seminars I was teaching it was really important that people arrive on time. We only had two hours to teach and losing twenty minutes to lateness was a real problem—not to mention a dollar loss to the company.

A couple of days later, I held the second session. I was pleased that about 80% of the people were in their seats at the appointed time. They were quick to point out that the message had gotten out that they should be on time. I started the seminar as scheduled and the rest of the group trickled in after the seminar had begun. For them, entering a session that had already started was uncomfortable, but it was a good object lesson about being on time. By the third session, everyone was on time. And it continued like that for the remainder of the seminars.

The key here is to set standards and expectations. Certainly, those standards and expectations ought to be reasonable, and, they need to be explained clearly and in a positive manner.

Once the standards and expectations are established, it’s important that the rules are followed by everyone from the CEO on down and enforced consistently. It does no good to set expectations for employees that management are not held to as well. That only fosters discord and creates a negative workplace atmosphere.

By clearly stating the expectation, following through on the expectation, and holding everyone accountable, the company was able to change it's culture. Being on time became a company trademark.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.

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Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.

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