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Five HR misconceptions (and tools for overcoming them)

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We’ve been hearing about it for a while now – how those darn start-up tech companies that ultimately went big turned the workplace on its head. They did crazy things like paint the walls with bright colors, offer generous healthcare benefits and flexible work schedules, and rip down cubicle walls – and they have built cultures of inclusivity, engagement and belongingness.

Yet, despite their impressive results, these pioneering brands continue to be viewed as an exception, rather than a rule. I see this all the time; organizations are quick to blame their lackluster culture on a low budget, small team, or abrasive leadership.

It kind of drives me bonkers… because culture change is tangible. It’s attainable. And it’s waiting for you.

So here are the five biggest misconceptions I run across in my business, and what you can do about them.

Misconception #1: A negative workplace is a lost cause.

As someone who has devoted her career to building positive work environments, I can confidently say that I’ve seen it all. I’ve witnessed bullies turn into heros, managers turn into leaders, and employees turn into company advocates and cheerleaders.

Take one of my current clients, a company who works with kids “the system” leaves behind. Their work is hard and emotionally draining, and they were burned out. Employee engagement scores were very low.

We’ve been working together since April, and just started a bi-monthly pulse survey. Scores have gone from 75% of people being dissatisfied with the work environment before our partnership, to 75% being satisfied. And before our partnership, 66% of people thought the organization didn’t care about them, and now 64% of people think it does. (We’ve still got some work to do, but we’re getting there!)

It is possible to make strides in culture. Contact me if you want to talk about how we can help you deliver a positive work environment to your employees just like this organization did.

Misconception #2: Culture change is expensive.

While optimal results may require an investment in time and resources, there are many things you can do right now to boost employee morale that don’t cost a thing.

In my ebook, Employee Engagement Doesn’t Have to Be a Mystery, I list 55 easy-to-implement (and mostly free) action items to get you started. Remember – subtle, yet consistent actions can make a bold difference. Be resourceful and watch employees (and your bottom line) thrive! It doesn’t have to cost you a million bucks.

Misconception #3: HR can’t get leadership buy-in.

One perpetual problem HR professionals seem to face is convincing their boss to invest in their ideas. Fortunately, persuasion is an art I’ve learned to master in order to help my clients sell culture change to their bosses.

I wanted to help you out, too, so I created an email template for you to use. I used my Workplace Culture Makeover Masterclass as an example but you can tailor it to match your needs.

Also, check out this hot-off-the-press 4-page ebook about how to get buy-in. It even has five survey questions you could ask your workforce to help you make your case!

Misconception #4: There is no ROI to culture change.

I very often preach about the power of culture change. I believe it can solve all sorts of problems in an organization. And while many HR representatives understand my advocacy, it’s hard to prove ROI to leaders.

Leaders like numbers, and that’s how they make decisions. Until they see numbers, engagement feels abstract and fluffy.

But when I say engagement boosts performance and productivity, reduces turnover rate, and saves the company money, it’s not coming out of thin air. Check out this infographic to see what I mean.

So do your research, condense it into bite-size nuggets, and present it to your boss.

Misconception #5: Change is hopeless.

This one hits close to home. I remember that feeling all too well – the helplessness, the idea that I can’t carry the weight, and the strong desire to make work a better place but no idea as to how to make it happen. (You may remember my story from a previous email – delivered to a room of 150 people.)

While I can’t go back in time and change my experiences, I can tell you that you can find an “in.” The president of the company I worked for wouldn’t buy-in to the fact that our “bully” was hurting people and our business (heck, he was hurting me personally), but he was all about personal and professional growth and sent me to all sorts of training programs. That was my “in.”

Had I approached him with something like the Workplace Culture Makeover Masterclass that I created for you, he probably would have said yes.

Then I would have used the survey questions provided inside the masterclass to survey employees, and then I could have proven to him that I wasn’t the only one who could see the bullying needed to stop.

And then, using the tools in the masterclass, I would have created core values (which we didn’t have) and tied them into performance management. I would have also delivered a training on building a positive and respectful work environment.

Now you have a bunch of tools to tackle those misconceptions. No excuses! Time to give your employees the gift that keeps on giving – a happy and and healthy work environment!

Whoot whoot!


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Catherine Mattice Zundel

About Catherine Mattice Zundel

Catherine Mattice Zundel, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

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