Lately, I've received a lot of emails from people who are worried about the unpredictability of today’s business culture. Employees simply can’t stomach the constant swinging from one direction to another. They dislike being forced to change priorities every five minutes and want to be able to set long-term goals that will benefit both the organization and their own careers.
The advice I offer in response involves learning to be more comfortable with uncertainty and staving off worry by considering how they'll cope with the worst-case scenario. Some change is healthy, I suggest, and if their organizations don’t continuously evolve, they'll eventually die.
Hearing from all these miserable people has given me pause, however. Perhaps the current business climate has become too volatile. Employees who don’t know what the next day will bring can't maintain productive focus, and organizations that are constantly taking two steps forward and two steps back can't grow to their full potential.
While business owners should constantly be looking for new ways to innovate, they should also consider how they can promote greater stability in their cultures in order to provide their employees with a blueprint for getting things done. Here are five places to start:
1. Create a Relevant, Long-Term Mission
Your entire senior management team should be involved in creating a big picture mission that is universally agreed upon and can be easily communicated from the top down. This mission should relate to ongoing goals and objectives, and efforts should be taken to ensure that employees understand how their roles fit into the mission and how their performance will be measured. You should use your mission as a starting point to talk straight with employees about your expectations for them, and it should be periodically refined and emphasized so your business stays the course.
2. Beware of Too Many Initiatives
When there are a lot of idea people in the house, it’s tempting to jump on the initiative bandwagon: The market needs this, our employees need that … hey, let’s launch a new program! But think carefully before starting something new that takes focus away from your overarching mission and requires loads of employee effort to get off the ground. While creativity is invigorating and can lead you in new and profitable directions, change for the sake of change is not productive.
3. Implement CEO-Vetted Processes and Procedures
One of the reasons some businesses experience so many shake-ups is that every new manager who comes on board is given free rein to change everything in their domain that they feel could be done better. Startup culture, which typically requires people to wear many hats, is especially vulnerable to this. While every employee should be encouraged to improve upon the status quo, shifts should not be made indiscriminately. Any process or procedure that affects the entire company should be discussed with and coordinated by the higher-ups and integrated consistently across departments.
4. Don’t Move People Around Too Much
There’s something to be said for encouraging employees to experience work in other areas of the company. However, it takes time to establish rapport and cohesiveness among a team, and every time you do a reorganization, your people have to start from the beginning. Structural overhaul should not be an annual event, and you should not be doing it at all unless there’s a critical strategic reason.
5. Stick to Your Plans
Before embarking on a new project, ideally, you'll work hard to reach a general consensus about the best course of action your company should take and you'll have effectively addressed and neutralized any naysayers. Once you’re out of the gate, nothing short of an unanticipated disaster should stop the train from changing course. Realize that every time you backtrack and change direction, it costs your company money and frustrates employees to no end. Get the necessary input upfront, and then focus on moving forward with minimal delays.
Does your company need more stability? How are you approaching this problem? Share with us in the comments below.
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