By their nature, unwritten rules don’t exist anywhere but in people’s minds. Ask yourself what norms your employees are holding in their heads, and then get them on paper. Until there’s agreement on what perceptions exist, it’s impossible to address or change them. You should also ask your rank-and-file employees what they think your company’s norms are. You may be surprised what you learn.
Challenge Your Accepted Norms
Leadership should sit down at least once a year and evaluate whether the unspoken norms reflect the expectations that leaders think they’ve set. Think about whether each norm helps the company achieve its goals. If a certain norm doesn’t align with how leaders want people to act, ask yourself why so many employees hold a false perception, and then implement an internal communications plan to change that.
Overcommunicate When the Goalposts Move
As your business evolves, your strategy will change, which will require different behaviors from employees. But your employees can’t change their behavior if no one tells them to.
It’s usually not enough to simply declare a shift in focus and hope that it takes hold. For example, if customer retention becomes a driving goal, then employees charged with achieving it should document their efforts and report them to their supervisors and colleagues. As for management, there’s going to be some repetition involved, because a new message or ethos doesn’t spread through an organization at first mention. The shift should be part of every all-hands memo, every company-wide address, and every senior management meeting, so that managers can take the message to their teams. This is especially important in the early going, as many people respond to change by quietly waiting for it to go away.