Nervous About the New DOL Overtime Rules? 4 Steps to Implement Cultural Change

With the new Department of Labor overtime regulations looming, businesses might want to try these four tactics to preserve their company culture.

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By Tony Delmercado


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

At the end of this year, new rules from the U.S. Department of Labor go into effect to provide overtime protection to 4.2 million salaried workers -- providing an estimated $47,476 for a full-year-round worker.

While some companies won't feel a huge difference, others will be dealing with major cultural shifts as it becomes more expensive to squeeze lengthy weeks out of their salaried workforce.

Related: Why Company Culture Is More Important Than Ever

Employers may be worried at the prospect. In fact, a recent survey by the Society for Human Resources Management found that 67 percent of HR professionals surveyed said they believed that the new regulation will decrease workplace flexibility and autonomy. Another 84 percent of respondents in a separate survey said culture is critical to business success, so organizational leadership should pay close attention as the effects of the rule take shape.

Remote workers may be one early casualty, for instance: Many workers have grown accustomed to working remotely, but as companies retreat to traditional office settings to preserve their company cultures and avoid paying those overtime bonuses, remote offices may be a lot less feasible.

If you're expecting a cultural shift at your own organization, try these four steps, which I've taken with my own company, to implement cultural change.

1. Let employees see everything.

As soon as I understood how this new rule was actually going to affect our company, we let everybody know about it. Employees value transparency. Transparency is one of those factors that determine job satisfaction.

Companies like Buffer strive to achieve levels of transparency that are hard to find in corporate America, so it's a good company to follow. Buffer shares information with employees about salaries, company revenue, valuation; it even shares cost breakdowns with customers.

Sometimes just saying, "I don't know exactly how we're going to deal with this yet, but I know that it's a thing, and we are putting it on the radar" is important. People will be less likely to worry about a forthcoming change if they know about it.

More importantly, they should know that you know about it. By announcing the rules and letting employees know you're working on any resulting issues, you'll satisfy the team by sharing what you know as things stand right now.

2. Get all hands on deck.

Any sort of massive change requires buy-in from the leadership team. According to culture change expert Dr. John Kotter, 70 percent of all organizational efforts fail because executives don't get enough buy-in, so it's important to keep everyone aligned. Even then, failures happen.

Our company is a fairly flat organization, but we do have seven team leads, for 52 employees. These leads help their teams understand any changes we make in our pricing, our pitch, services or marketing messages.

We once incentivized our operational teams with commissions, essentially turning them into sales staff in the face of a big change to our upselling strategy. Our leadership team had to find a way to reconfigure the resulting compensation structure to achieve the results we wanted, and get the entire team on board.

Related: Getting People to Say Yes When Everyone Isn't on Board

3. Keep a watchful eye.

As reported in a recent survey of 500 corporate leaders, the further you are from the change, the less likely you are to see the fallout: In that survey, only 28 percent of c-suite executives said they were aware of change fatigue, while 47 percent of vice presidents and senior vice presidents were aware.

Even with companywide buy-in, you have to keep paying attention. After we rolled out our commission structure, it took a couple of months of meetings before we revisited the issue and actually listened to client calls and watercooler conversations around the office.

Our accounting department let us know that people were asking a lot of questions about who would get paid how much for doing what, and the change fatigue that followed started dragging our company down.

4. Watch your behavior and your language.

My son is 16 months old, and he models my behaviors to the point that I'm hyperconscious about what I do. He can't really speak yet, but I'm sure he understands what I say when I'm cursing like a sailor. So, I restrain myself in front of him and bring that same poise into the workplace.

Recent research has shown that positivity is contagious. Workers will follow the example of their leaders: If you exude fear about a change, it'll permeate your company, but so will motivation, determination and a smile.

Related: The 5 Leadership Behaviors You Need to Boost Employee Engagement

So, with any cultural change that comes to your company, take it in stride, and push through it as though it doesn't affect you. Resources will shift, budgets will tighten and schedules will change, but you're the captain of this ship, and you won't steer it wrong.

Tony Delmercado

COO, Hawke Media

Tony Delmercado is the COO at Hawke Media.

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