When you think of positive company cultures, what are the top three companies that come to mind? My guess is Google, Disney, Inc., and Zappos. Why these companies? The answer: they are synonymous with being the best companies to work for because of their company cultures. You hear about it everywhere – the news, Fortune Magazine, Inc. 500, and the list goes on.

These companies are so proud of the cultures they’ve created they wanted to share it with everyone in the hopes of helping other business owners in creating positive company cultures of their own. Just look at what some of these “big dogs” have done:

Zappos founder, Tony Hsieh, wrote a book called Delivering Happiness. This book is the all-encompassing instruction manual based upon how he evolved Zappos into what it is today.

Disney, Inc. believed in their brand and culture they have created so much, they started The Disney Institute. The Disney Institute gives companies and individuals the ability to attend classes in order to achieve the same culture as Disney.

Google has their culture smattered everywhere from their website to blogs and top business magazines. Google started from nothing, and they want other companies to see what can be accomplished starting from the same.
So you have heard all the gab about positive cultures, and you have done your homework, and you have decided that maybe a culture change is what your company is needing to be more successful. Give yourself a high-five and pat on the back! It is something most managers and business owners cannot accept. You have just taken a very important step towards being a true leader. However, your job may be a little tougher to accomplish than what these three companies had to go through. They started and built their companies based on the cultures they have today. There was no need to teach any of the employees anything different because that is all they knew – a happy and rewarding working environment. However my friend, you are going to have to teach old dogs new tricks, and changing a person’s ingrained habits is extremely hard to do, and you may even lose a few employees along the way.

Now you’re thinking, “Gee, thanks for busting my bubble! I think I have changed my mind.” Well don’t lose heart! If your gut is telling you it’s time to make a culture change, trust your gut! The truth of the matter is, if all companies had positive cultures, they would be less likely to lose employees to what may be better on the other side. You should want your employees to learn and grow with your company, not someone else’s.

So, to make the culture transition a little easier for you, I have included some tried and true steps that I have used in helping companies make the culture change a lot less painful.

Explain why the change is needed. Humans are creatures of habit, and we do not like change, and they don’t like what they don’t understand. Therefore, it is important that you help your staff understand why the change is happening.

Educate, educate, educate. Even if it involves getting a third party firm thrown in the mix to educate your staff, do whatever it takes! Host training seminars. Have company paid training lunches. Give them materials and homework to help them learn the new culture even better.

Also, educate them on knowing the importance of them transitioning with the company…it could cost them their job otherwise. That’s a harsh reality, but it’s true, and you must stand firm in that, even if it is an employee of 15 years. You are trying to transform your company and you can’t have any stragglers that will work against you instead of with you.

Ensure buy-in from upper and mid-level management. Teach them. Train them. Encourage them. They are about to take on the biggest part of this transition, and they are the key to its success. This helps with the trickle-down effect from the top all the way down to the customers.

Not only do Google, Disney, Inc, and Zappos create happy work environments for their employees. They in-turn create a more pleasant experience for customers – all because employees are happier.

Get a complete makeover. Get away from the old culture entirely from the mentality of workers to the company logo to your office environment and personnel structure.

Step away from the staunch, formal, plain-walled office, and change it to reflect the culture you are trying to create. For example, if you want excitement and pizzazz as part of your culture, incorporate some bright colors on the wall, local artists’ art work, and happy music playing over the P.A. Heck, you might even want to throw an espresso machine in your break room with some nice espresso beans and fancy flavors of syrup.

This same rule can be applied to your personnel as well. Start hiring individuals based on what fits your new company culture. There are even several personality assessments…yes GOOD personality assessments, out there that are good pre-qualifiers applicants must take before they make it to the first round of the interview process. This way you aren’t wasting your time or HR’s time interviewing people you love, but they are not a good culture fit. Again, it only takes one bad egg to ruin the lot.

Provide incentives for change. Other than the ability to keep their jobs, provide your employees with additional incentives for adopting the new culture.

Here are some ideas for you to mull over. Consider an incentive gift program. At the end of each quarter (or month) the employees that have gotten the most points for reflecting the company culture get to pull a gift out of the gift box. It could be free swag, coffee gift cards, a free stay at a casino hotel, etc. How about an all-expenses-paid company picnic to show your appreciation for them embracing the change or a company night out at a local baseball or football game? I’m also a big believer in contests! It drives performance and sales through the roof, and the culture is being integrated.