Article: Stick with the journey of cultural change


Stick with the journey of cultural change

David Sturt, EVP, O.C. Tanner Company and author of ‘Great Work’, talks about challenges faced while adopting a culture of recognition and the decisive ingredient to champion the change
Stick with the journey of cultural change

Recognize people in your team consistently and be an example for others to follow. That will pay dividends in ways that will surprise you


What are the obstacles that companies face while adopting a great work program and how can they overcome such obstacles?

A major obstacle faced by companies is resistant leaders. There are some leaders at every stage in the hierarchy who are averse to the recognition program. It is maybe because they have never been exposed to one or because they do not understand its influence on performance. Their recourse is to be a naysayer or a silent non-participator. In order to engage them, the focus should first be on the people who are willing to adopt a recognition program. Assess their performance and the results are available for the naysayers to see. The best way to overcome the objection of people who don’t believe in it is to show them the data. You can turn around the leaders who choose to withdraw from the program by showing them some comparisons and helping them understand its value.

While HR leaders try to stimulate everybody to do recognition, they often miss out on cultivating that culture in their CEO. That is another hurdle faced by companies. Smart HR leaders help the CEO. They create great recognition experiences for them to witness their impact first hand. Sometimes, a CHRO has to work behind the scenes with the CEO, providing some coaching and mentoring to deliver a wonderful recognition experience. It has a huge effect on the individual being recognized. Not only does (s)he feel greatly valued, but it also has a cascading effect across the hierarchy.  It starts a chain reaction of recognition and appreciation which trickles down along ranks.

Another roadblock for smooth cultural transition is disengaged managers. Build recognition into leadership meetings to engage them. Share the stories of people who have been recognized for doing great work. Sharing educates leaders about the great things happening in the enterprise, which will enable them to think about replicating these successes within their teams. A chance to share and reflect on their own team’s great work will give them the encouragement to inspire their team members.

Also, people, who wish to be recognized but aren’t, start to lose interest and faith in the program. To overcome that, give them the power to recognize others, so that it becomes a multi-directional experience and people become actively involved in noticing and recognizing people both within and outside their team.

What is the one message you would like to give to somebody who is aspiring to champion this culture change?

For someone starting on this journey, the biggest thing is to muster encouragement to stay with the journey. Results might not show early and the gains may be small, but be patient. Take each new gain as the next step along the journey and as you stick with it, you will start building momentum, and then you will start to witness success stories. The turnout might be 5 per cent, but that would mean some individuals are getting influenced by it, and if you stay on course, you will see a ripple effect. Akin to any big initiative, it takes its due course of time; and if you are seasoned as an HR leader, you are aware of that fact. Champion recognition yourself; don’t wait for others to do it. Recognize people in your team consistently and be an example for others to follow. That will pay dividends in ways that will surprise you. 

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Topics: Leadership, Culture

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