Last week I received an email from an MBA student in Kuwait who found me via the Conversations in Public Relations video series on YouTube. He asked if I would be willing to provide my thoughts on internal communications vehicles, specifically, which vehicles are best for influencing employee behavior.
After a few email exchanges, it became clear that what he really needed was some advice on how to change what appeared to be a toxic employee culture, one marked by distrust, destructive behaviors and disrespect.
In essence, my correspondent wanted to know whether he could “cure” the culture with employee communications programs, and if so, which ones would be most effective.
Great question. Unfortunately, there’s no miracle cure for a toxic culture.
Internal communications alone cannot “fix” a negative culture. That would be like putting new paint on a building that is structurally unsound. The exterior will look better, but the building will soon collapse because the structure has not been reinforced.
And changing a culture takes time. You can’t simply announce a program and expect behaviors to improve in 30, 60 or 90 days. In some cases, it will take up to two years to see significant and sustained changes.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that many companies face the same issue, and the best companies have been able to change the culture.
In order to be successful, cultural change must be approached holistically, driven by senior leaders, reinforced by the management layer and sustained by a system of recognition and rewards to drive the new behaviors.
Employee communication is just one component of cultural change and change management. No single vehicle can cure a toxic culture, but a comprehensive, long-term approach, supported by a multi-faceted internal communications strategy, can and will provide a foundation for sustained improvements.