Monday, January 25, 2010

Change, Change Change....Change is Brewing!

Since the New Year began, we have visited several of our clients. The one thing they all have in common is a MAJOR change:
1) One company is dramatically changing their strategy
2) Another company is going through a transformation, executing strategy that necessitates a change in culture, systems, and structure.
3) Another company is going through a top leadership change.
4) Another company is executing on an existing growth strategy.
5) Another company is creating a growth strategy for their highly niched business

WOW, and all of that is taking place in an environment that has changed and continues to change on a daily basis.

I was thinking about this because I seem to get the same few questions from staff at these companies:
1) How long does change take?
2) How can we change our culture to fit the new direction of the company?

Good questions and if I had the answers to those questions, I think I would be writing this on a very beautiful warm island.

Seriously, here are my thoughts:

Change as mentioned in the examples above do not happen overnight. Leadership want big changes to happen yesterday and employees want small changes to happen incrementally. The question is how do we get to some kind of middle ground? Leadership must paint a very compelling reason for the changes and do that in a motivational, inspirational way. Most of the changes discussed above are about surviving in the new normal. If that is the case, then say it but talk about your company's strengths and how you all will be better post changes. Employees need to know why the change is happening and what the future holds. Keeping employees abreast of wins/losses along the way will satisfy their need to "know where we are headed."

How to change culture...I believe it has to be deliberate and yes, managed. I know that is a weird combination, managing culture, but it is no different than managing your people. Especially if you are going from a culture that is at one extreme, like an entitlement based culture to one that is performance based. That takes a radical change in thought, behavior and philosophy. Those things have to be planned and managed and yes, even measured along the way.

I happen to believe that with most changes, like the ones listed above you can't look at strategy without looking at your culture. They are connected, they are dependent, they have a causal relationship, they are hard to measure, they are sometimes hard to understand. But they are critical to success...think of Zappo's, think of Chick-fil-A, Nordstrom's, Ritz Carlton, their leadership really understand that relationship.

What are your thoughts on change and how long they take? What about how to change a culture, what is your experience, should it be managed or left to chance? Does your strategy and culture have a positive relationship?

Monday, January 18, 2010

What is Your Company's "It's My Pleasure?"

Over the last week I had the opportunity to present to the SHRM-Atlanta new Perimeter GEM.  It was a great experience.  The topic was "Leading Companies the Engaged Way." Lots of good discussion was sparked with attendees.  We began discussing the 5 enablers that drive business outcomes: Strategy, Leadership, Culture, Employees and Customers and how important it is for all areas being aligned to the same mission/vision such as a service focus.  We began discussing service cultures where you can FEEL the empathy and the deliberateness in which employees serve customers.

I cited my experience with Chick-fil-A.  I knew before that they work hard on their service culture, but I can really tell that have really gone that extra mile to further set themselves apart from their competitors.  My son and I often make a game of seeing if the drive through employees will say, "It's my pleasure!"  Chick-fil-a has also added fresh flowers to the table and employees offer to take your tray for you when you are finished eating.   I really believe the employees when they say,  "it's my pleasure."  It is very Ritz Carton-like, but so refreshing in a fast food restaurant.  So, I began to think, how do they execute on "my pleasure?"  How do they align all 5 areas, so that everyone in the company understands the mission and how they deliver on that mission.  Here is some areas that I feel are key when you want to Lead an Engaged Company:

1) You have to hire for "my pleasure" making sure the right people are serving your customers
2) You have to train for "my pleasure" making sure all employees understand the service promise.
3) You have reward for "my pleasure" making sure behaviors are reinforced.
4) You culture has to support "my pleasure"
5) Leadership has to walk their talk making sure they serve employees in a "my pleasure" manner.
6) You must have a clear and articulate strategy for "my pleasure" that everyone understands what that means in their job.

So, here is my question...what is your company's "My Pleasure?  For example, Zappo's hires for "helping others." Ritz Carlton hires "Ladies and Gentleman that serve Ladies and Gentleman."  Tell me about your company's "My pleasure."

Monday, January 11, 2010

Is Engagement SO Last Year?

My inbox is full of information about employee engagement. I have several interesting conversations over the last week regarding employee engagement and what that means post the Great Recession.

Saturday, I had a great lunch with some really smart, savvy HR professionals. We discussed how we all felt the new model of how we work is going to be much different. We believe the recovery from our recession will have employers being very careful about their hiring of "permanent" workers. With healthcare costs rising, and futures uncertain many companies are adding staff back through contract (1099) type workers or outsourced talent. We talked about the how companies discussed moving to a contingent workforce back in the late 90's early 00's but we never really fully went there. I believe the recession is "forcing" a different talent model on companies. Emphasis on TALENT, as we still have to employ talented individuals, just the model is changing. This model not only allows for cost reductions but also flexibility. (When the project is's over.) These recent layoffs have been hard on everyone this time and perhaps can be avoided if we have a more flexible, "just in time" workforce.

So, what does this new model mean to HR? As we continued our discussion on Saturday, we began thinking about employee engagement and will it matter in this new model. Last week we heard from the conference board how only 45% of US workers are satisfied in their jobs. Do we and should we care about that especially if we migrate to a more contingent workforce?. Mike Klein posted an excellent blog on the subject, 'Questioning Engagement, Things to Think About."

I believe we should care about engagement because engagement impacts our customers no matter the employees status. I think as Mike Klein stated, you have to know what your company means by engagement. Is it in your culture or is just a program with a t-shirt and a mug?

Our contingent and our "regular" workforces must be "engaged" around the same vision/mission and be clear on what is expected. Our companies must provide the environment for employees to thrive and be engaged in. The employees then must deliver on those expectations and be rewarded appropriately.

The tricky part is understanding what drives engagement for these two groups as a contingent worker has pay for performance built in his contract which is a strong driver to perform. If high engagement leads to high performance shouldn't we really be serious about paying for that?

HR can impact both of these areas ENGAGEMENT and PAY FOR PERFORMANCE. As companies look at the workforce and determine which positions are key and should remain "regular" and which are contingent and can be outsourced, HR needs to be in the KEY line. By thinking strategically and always having a "business" hat on, HR can be a valued resource as the new model unfolds.

I have really thrown a lot of questions out this week as these discussions are interesting to me. I don't know the answers, but would love your perspective and opinion. Is Engagement IN or OUT?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Corporate Culture for Sale, by Owner

I just read an interesting article in the January 11, 2010 Businessweek, titled, "Zappos Retails its Culture."  Of course, that got my attention. 

I am very skeptical on how you can sell workshops and seminars on how to recreate the Zappos culture.  I believe you can share the methodology, values, mission, vision and even the model.  But, it is up to the individuals contributing and delivering on all those elements that creates the culture.  Just like Disney selling its management and leadership courses, hoping to spread "magic" to other businesses.   You can get the methodology but it really takes the dedication, motivation and engagement of your own unique work force to create a culture that is truly unique.

Now if I can figure out how to recreate an engaged and motivated workforce, then I believe I could retire on some very beautiful exotic island. 

The CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh, made the excellent point in the article regarding hiring the right people to begin with.  In regards to hiring $11/hour customers service reps, Hsieh believes that the most productive employees work for the psychic gratification in helping others.  He gives the service reps a lot of freedom to satisfy customers which in turns leads to job satisfaction and high engagement for those individuals.

So, this model of understanding what motivates your customer facing staff (and all staff) is a excellent one.  But will paying your service reps $11/hour and giving them carte blanche to satisfy your customers work for you as well???

I think that answer depends. 

It depends on if that type of reward and empowerment model aligns with your organizational strategy and that strategy is easily understood and communicated to everyone delivering on that strategy.  So, I think that another company's culture is very hard to RECREATE but perhaps the process for aligning culture to strategy is something that may be shared and tweaked.  The delivery and execution is where customization is needed based on your company, your industry, your workforce, and your strategy. 

I believe we are not talking about RECREATING a culture but CREATING your own based on tried and true methods...

Good for Zappos for creating another valuable revenue stream....and for sharing that to other businesses.  They must have something least Amazon thought so! 

What are your thoughts on culture creation???