Culture change may be needed to boost results

By Jim Kendall

This column originally appeared in the January 19, 2015 Daily Herald

                You know when things aren’t going well: The company culture, the workplace atmosphere, has gone negative.

Employees are grumpy, quicker to leave at the end of the day than they are to start in the morning. More importantly – often a direct correlation – production, performance and profits are down.

The issue is how to turn things around.

Enter John Blattner, managing partner at PAS International Inc., a Downers Grove team of business-oriented psychologists whose role, broadly defined, is to help businesses of all sizes stay or, more typically, get back on track.

Heads up: If your name is in the top box on the organization chart – if the company is yours, for example – Blattner’s process begins with you. That’s because you could be the problem.

“The leader sets the tone,” Blattner explains. “They’re usually not aware of the impact they have on an organization, but the leader’s approach – positive or negative – creates behaviors (in the workforce) that become a critical piece of the culture.”

That’s why Blattner says the “leader-CEO-owner must buy into the process, must make a commitment to change – even change themselves.”

If you accept the idea that your behavior influences employee attitudes, then Blattner’s principle that you “must establish a trusting relationship or you can’t change the culture, which changes because people change” makes sense.

Blattner’s approach is twofold:

* Get buy-in at the top.

* Make certain employees are good fits for the jobs they’re doing, which doesn’t necessarily mean heads will roll.

“Organizations get stuck in roles and job descriptions,” Blattner says. The idea is to “help individuals find where they fit” in the business.

“Sometimes people at the lowest levels have the best ideas. Why not listen to them?

“We ask employees what they like to do, what they do well and what needs to happen so they can do it better.”

Before that employee-focused process – interesting, creative and part of the problem-solving – begins, some introspection may be needed.

In some ways, the initial PAS approach is similar to what many consultants offer. “We begin with an assessment,” says Blattner. “This is where we are. Where do we want to be in a year?”

Assume for our purpose that you – perhaps concerned about data that say the business is not doing well – are on board with the PAS approach. Here are two examples of how the process might work:

* “Why,” Blattner asks, “don’t we have the sales people work together, rather than compete?”


* A larger but still small company created a team of 10 professionals to do compatible projects. “Nine were doing very well,” Blattner says. “There was one we had to do something with.”

Blattner’s conversation-and-listening led to an internal change of jobs for the one otherwise misfit employee, who is now happier in a different department that is doing better with his participation.


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