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Real-World Tips for Instilling Green Values in Your Corporate Culture

<p>Conventional wisdom holds that the best way to bring about sweeping culture change is to jettison old ways and jolt the existing culture into a new reality. Management experts offer a different approach.</p>

Conventional wisdom holds that the best way to bring about sweeping culture change is to jettison old ways and jolt the existing culture into a new reality.

Anyone who has experienced corporate life in America in the past decade knows that method brings mixed results and often a lingering resentment that can foul efforts to repair the damage.

This can be particularly harmful for companies trying transform a traditional corporate culture into one that values sustainability -- a construct in which employee engagement is essential.

"We suggest that such change can take place in the absence of initiating jolts, may be infused in everyday organizational life, and led by insiders who need not hold hierarchical power," management experts from Oregon and Boston universities say in research that's now available from the Network for Business Sustainability.

Use of creative, "liminal" space is the key, the researchers say. Liminal spaces can be anywhere or any occasion that allows employees to get together to talk about new ideas.

Coincidentally, the study complements a research project by Johnson Controls, whose latest look at workplace trends examines growing expectations for collaboration -- and the lack of enough workspace today that is designed for teams.

The study by management profs and a doctoral candidate concluded that:

  • Change can be fostered in everyday activities such as meetings or training programs. But to work, the interactions must occur in "safe places" for people to brainstorm and experiment with new ideas.
  • Company officials, consultants or others viewed as authority figures need not run the show. In fact, it may go over better if a respected insider facilitates. "Insiders who understand the current culture are successful change agents because they can connect new ideas to current value," the researchers contend.
  • It's not necessary for employees to unlearn existing cultural elements in order to adopt new ones.

The research from Johnson Controls was led by Marie Puybaraud and dovetails a project she headed last year that produced a widely read study on what Gen Y wants in the workplace.

The current study, released today, is based on a survey of 1,700 experienced workers and interviews with 26 experts in the industrial, technology, finance, oil & gas, and life sciences sectors.

Johnson Controls found that professionals, like the generation entering the business world, have growing expectations for collaboration in the workplace. Collaboration has become a watchword across industries and if companies hope to stay ahead of the curve and business trends, they need to provide space and technology for staff to convene face-to-face and virtually.

The findings underscore that "one-size-fits-all workplace environments are less effective than those that are built for purpose," Puybaraud said in a statement.

A summary of the research by the management professors is available for free download from the Network for Business Sustainability (pdf). Johnson Controls' full study and an executive summary (pdf) are available free from the company.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user celine nadeau.

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