Customer service is important but according to Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, one thing may be even more important: company culture. He is a strong believer that if a company gets that right, everything else will fall into place.
Researcher Dan Denison, who has spent much of his life studying workplace culture, defines it as “the underlying values, beliefs and principles that serve as a foundation for an organization’s management system as well as the practices and behaviors that both exemplify and reinforce those basic principles.” Some company’s executives emphasized establishing a positive workplace culture early on in the formation of their company, so it has become a natural part of running their business.
Whole Foods is a great example of a company that focused on creating a positive company culture early on, and is reaping the benefits now. Since the company opened its first store in 1980, it has grown to include more than 310 stores and has profits double the grocery industry average. Whole Food’s co-CEO, John Mackey, believes that Whole Food’s attitude towards its employees is directly related to the company’s performance. Whole Foods is a model for decentralized, transparent management. Every Whole Foods employee has access to the salaries of each position in the company. Executive salaries are capped at 19 times the average employee pay, at a time when the typical Fortune 500 CEO is paid 431 times more than the average employee at a company. In an open letter to employees written in 2006, Mackey announced that he no longer needed or wanted to work for money, and would earn an annual salary of $1. Whole Foods also instituted an emergency fund for employees facing personal emergencies, which the company contributes $100,000 to annually. It is clear that Whole Foods values its employee’s security and their opinions of the company’s executive leadership. As a result, Whole Foods has been named in Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list for 15 consecutive years.
Unfortunately, not all companies focus on building a positive workplace culture from the beginning. Digital tools may offer a solution. It seems strange that a largely morale and relationship-based concept like workplace culture can be affected by a digital tool, but startups like Yammer and its add-on Crane are making a valiant effort. Yammer is a social network for internal company use. Much like on Facebook, employees can post status updates, exchange messages and “like” other employee’s posts. Crane, designed by emotion-intelligence company Kanjoya, is designed to analyze an employee’s posts on Yammer, and measure how they are feeling.
Kanjoya CEO, Armen Berjikly, believes it is a useful tool. He said bad moods at work are often never addressed, creating tension in the workplace. This tool can identify those feelings before they affect performance.This use of digital tools as a fix for a poor workplace culture is an extension of executives using traditional social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, to establish workplace culture. Sometimes, however, executives over-estimate the effect a “great job on that presentation” tweet can have on employee morale and, in turn, company culture. A study conducted by Deloitte found that while 45% of executives believe that social media has a positive impact on workplace culture, only 27% of employees agreed.
This is the exact point Jason Fried, CEO of 37Signals, likes to make. He believes that workplace culture is created in real-time and face-to-face, not through any applications or on social media sites. “Company culture is a by-product of consistent behavior,” he says, “With these sorts of tools you start to remove the humanity from it. I think there are very few things that substitute for going out to dinner or hanging out with co-workers.” Jim Lim is also skeptical of tools like Crane. Lim co-founded Delivering Happiness with Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. Their brainchild assists companies in instilling corporate values. Lim does want to create a system for measuring culture in the workplace, but thinks it is one part of many steps in improving company culture.
Source: Profiles International
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