How Do You Implement Cultural Changes at Work?

How Do You Implement Cultural Changes at Work?

By Rita Wirth and Zeina Yacoub

We initiated movements to make our workplace more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable. Here’s how we did it.

Having been at AMC for more than 2 years, we’ve seen a surge of various societal developments knocking at our workplace door. In the whirlwind of cultural, political, and economic changes happening worldwide, being adaptable and nimble are key to maintaining how AMC supports its staff, nurtures its core values, and remains vigilant and mindful in the wake of these inevitable shifts. This has energized a handful of staff members to take the lead on mirroring these larger social movements and enacting change at AMC, kickstarting brand new diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and environmental sustainability programs. 

Making Room for Real Conversations

There’s no doubt that the task of introducing new ideas and norms to our workplace’s culture was a daunting one at first. To us, it was important to foster the creation of dedicated spaces for engaging in honest and open conversations about DEI and sustainability, how they pertain specifically to AMC, and the steps we’d need to take to engage staff and build excitement. 

Luckily, AMC already has a special interest group (SIG) program that provides us with tools and resources to create spaces where all levels of staff can discuss topics and issues that relate to their professional roles. But what about making room for SIGs based on who we are and what we care about outside of our professional interests? After some deliberation with the SIG program chairs about how we might be able to do this, the Young Professionals (YP) SIG’s Going Green Task Force formed AMC’s new Sustainability SIG, which now acts as a springboard for directly involving staff in the execution of current sustainability efforts and planning future ones. 

To further emphasize the SIG program’s role in advancing cultural shifts at AMC, the idea of creating a DEI program was born during a dynamic round-table discussion at a YP SIG meeting. Our conversation centered around the #MeToo movement and how association professionals like us can be prepared to be inclusive allies to our woman-identifying colleagues. It’s also where a group of us first came together and formed the DEI Advisory Group with the support of AMC leadership. The group spent the better part of 2019 quickly making strides in cementing the importance of being deliberate in creating a welcoming and equitable environment to all staff and valuing diversity of all kinds as a critical asset to AMC staff’s success from the bottom-up. 

Ultimately, we saw sustainability and DEI as opportunities to support AMC’s core values of caring, mutual trust, and respect. Though AMC already follows some sustainability practices, such as a long-standing recycling program, the Sustainability SIG explores how can we build on this work and adapt it to the larger conversations currently happening around environmental conservation. Similarly, even though the SIG program has long been an important element of fostering inclusion and providing safe spaces for sharing diverse perspectives, we wanted to be even more deliberate about creating a welcoming environment through DEI. At that point, it was time to spread the word about both movements and strategize on the most effective way to do so. 

Building Support and Keeping Up the Momentum 

Having visibility in the workplace is best achieved not only with the support of leadership, but also by having genuine and thoughtful conversations with our colleagues. DEI made its way to the forefront of current affairs at AMC by rallying leadership behind the cause so it could be presented to staff as an important upcoming effort. Our Leadership Team used AMC’s spring and fall 2019 company-wide meetings to focus on the importance of DEI and the upcoming efforts to create a more inclusive and equitable workplace. Additionally, the DEI Advisory Group mediated three 1-hour sessions for our executives to create a space for questions and determine the best way to involve staff at all levels in this journey. The DEI Advisory Group continues to work with leadership to promote awareness and visibility to employees and throughout the workplace.

To increase the visibility of the Sustainability SIG, the key stakeholders, who were the original task force members, began using on-the-ground advocacy to spread the word and make visible changes in our office. Since many of the sustainability initiatives required individual effort, the SIG found that educating individuals on more sustainable options and practices would yield the best results. This included providing resources like reusable dishware and silverware, communicating guidelines, creating more options for recycling, and posting information in public places, such as the lunchroom and on the intranet. Creating awareness about which practices were sustainable and where staff could easily make improvements was the key to involvement.

What’s next?

The support of AMC and its task force members was imperative to the success of current and future DEI and sustainability efforts. We are committed to walking the walk instead of simply talking about making change. Soon, AMC will have concrete definitions of what DEI and sustainability mean to our staff so we can tailor our upcoming programs accordingly. Although we hope that AMC staff will immediately see the benefits of DEI and sustainability programs, we know that change takes time and each of our colleagues is on their own journey to seeing why these cultural shifts are so necessary. It’s crucial for us to remain adaptable, listen to anyone who has questions, and be open to feedback along the way. 

Rita Wirth is an education coordinator for the American Association of Neuroscience Nurses and chair of the Sustainability SIG; and Zeina Yacoub is a content marketing associate on the Creative Media Services team and chair of the DEI Advisory Group.

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