Building a great organizational culture is a win-win for employees, managers

By Ann Rhoades

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 20 2012 10:13 a.m. MST

An organizational culture has the potential for creating a win-win not only for the business, but for employees and customers as well.

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In today’s increasingly competitive business environment we are seeing more conversation and interest in how a culture can improve the end customer experience, which ultimately influences the overall performance of the company. The old command and control management theories are being replaced by new culture thinking that suggests people are not only a company's greatest asset but influence a company's brand image, affect creativity and problem solving, impact customer loyalty, and yes, even drive profits.

The basic principles of creating high-performing people cultures are not new. Treat people fairly and well and they will exceed your expectations. However, there is more to it than paying people more or giving them more vacation time. New culture thinking does not work when employees are treated poorly because their hearts and minds are disengaged. Data suggest disengaged people do just the minimum necessary to get the job done and also require a great deal of management oversight.

The right culture has the potential for creating a win-win not only for the business but for the employees and customers as well. As one of the founding executives of JetBlue Airways, winner of the JD Powers award for customer service eight years in a row, I can tell you that these types of organizations do not happen by sporadic culture initiatives or even by simply treating people fairly. Building a great company culture where everyone knows the core company values, understands what these values look like in action and knows what is expected of them takes focus and a great deal of energy on the part of leaders.

However, the benefits I've seen from building a strong positive culture will apply both to internal employees and external customers. Here are a few benefits from each point of view.

A company’s point of view

  • Lower levels of absenteeism and turnover.
  • Increased employee engagement.
  • Increased alignment of employee performance and corporate objectives.
  • Increased customer satisfaction scores.
An employee’s point of view
  • An increased feeling of well-being and job satisfaction.
  • Increased trust in management.
  • Higher engagement scores.
  • Higher productivity overall.
A customer's point of view
  • Increased responsiveness to customer needs.
  • Higher service quality levels.
  • Increased levels of trust due to higher transparency and open communication.
  • Increased customer satisfaction.
'Improving culture' cannot be a catch phrase

Even though culture building is not impossible, you cannot simply "improve culture" by assigning the task to a committee. Here is a general rule and one of the basic principles I use:

You can improve organizational culture by creating the right environment

The right environment includes things such as clearly defining values and behaviors and leaders who are committed to living the values because leaders drive the values in organizations. You will know when a company is living its values when it is including values in hiring, rewards and recognition and daily decision-making processes. I have seen companies rise to the top of their industry, increase revenues and increase customer satisfaction scores as high as 99 percent by focusing on defining and achieving their desired culture.

Whether you are a job hunter looking for a new position or a company looking to hire, make certain you find a match for your values. My next article will start outlining specifically how to build these cultures and is based on my own and my team’s many years of experience doing it for companies. The following link will give more details about how my team and I do it, built on values.

Ann Rhoades has been influential in the building of well-known people-centered cultures such as Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways and is a frequent speaker for the Washington Speakers Bureau. Her company's website is Peopleink.com

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