Tag Archives: Culture

We’re Only Human 40: How Southwest Airlines Lives and Breathes Corporate Culture

collette williamsonDoes corporate culture matter? Does it really? In today’s interview, Ben talks with Colette Williamson of Southwest Airlines about the company’s approach to culture, hiring, and training.

It’s quickly apparent that culture is about more than just a fluffy set of core values on the wall at corporate headquarters–it’s about a way of life that makes the company fundamentally different than the competition.

In the interview you’ll hear from Colette how the company takes that 2% of applicants that make it through the hiring process and helps to mold them into the people that serve and love their customers in an almost fanatical way. The stories will make you laugh (and may just make you cry), so we hope you enjoy the show as much as we did recording it.

To learn more feel free to reach out to Colette on LinkedIn or, as you might have guessed, check out the Southwest blog site to learn more about the company.

joe deloss

Can a Business Grow Competitively While Doing Social Good? [Podcast]

The United States is experiencing one of the lowest unemployment rates in history, and a new study from Express Employment Professionals shows that 8 in 10 businesses expect to grow this year. Where will that talent come from, since artificial intelligence isn’t here yet to save us?

joe delossFor most employers, this means that retention is going to be more important this year than ever before, and this is especially true for employers where turnover in customer-facing roles leads to critical gaps in coverage, performance, and service. We need to be asking ourselves how we can treat the people we hire in such a way that we actually improve their lives. It’s about more than just offering them a paycheck in so many ways.

In the interview below, I speak with Joe DeLoss, Head Fryer and Founder at Hot Chicken Takeover. The question I asked in the title (can a business be competitive while doing social good?) is clearly answered in this interview as we talk about his mission and vision for the company in the context of the social impact it has.

Subscribers, click through to listen to the interview.

Show Notes

Episode link: Listen on the We’re Only Human Podcast page

Customers come first. Time is money. Tie it to the bottom line.

In each of these instances, we think we’re serving the business. But what if we thought first with our heart instead of our head–could we still serve the business just as well? In this interview with Joe DeLoss, Head Fryer and Founder of Hot Chicken Takeover, we will deeply challenge your thinking on that concept.

In this episode, I talk with Joe about the company’s rapid growth, unorthodox hiring strategies, and what happens when you bend from your principles during times of high-pressure growth (hint: not a good idea). Additionally, they discuss tailoring employee benefits to meet the needs of the workers instead of offering a template plan like the competition. Through it all, you’ll hear Joe’s focus is not just on marketing strategy or chicken recipes, but on the employees he serves as the leader of the business.

For more information about Joe and HCT, check out the links below:

To see all the show archives and learn more about We’re Only Human, please visit https://upstarthr.com/podcast

onboarding connections culture

Onboarding: Creating Connections to Coworkers and Culture

onboarding connections cultureThe onboarding process can be one of the most overlooked areas for organizations needing a quick win in the overall employee experience. Instead of leveraging this process as a way to drive engagement and create a lasting impression, some organizations tend to deliver a subpar experience or forego the practice altogether.

Employees want an onboarding experience, but all too often they only get an orientation session and a handful of paperwork to sift through. However, employees should have an onboarding experience that gives them not only deeper insights into the business, but more connectivity into the culture, the people and the history.

According to the ADP Research Institute, the majority of employees want employers to take time to orient new employees to the policies, benefits and culture of the employer, yet many firms don’t make this a priority. This is strange, because from an employer perspective, onboarding was the number one choice in some of my 2017 research into talent acquisition priorities. Continue reading

9 Lessons for Running a Great HR Function

This weekend I was doing some spring cleaning. Well, summer cleaning, since I missed the spring season. Anyway, one of the things I found was a box of items I used to keep on my whiteboard next to my desk as reminders of important aspects of HR. These shaped the way I practiced HR and ran my department on a daily basis. I thought it would be fun to share the notes here to help give you an idea of what kind of HR I practiced.

running great hr department

1: Your Company Values

Your values statement should be the most tattered piece of paper in your organization.

Most companies pick out a few values as part of a management exercise or checklist and then forget about them. Want to hire great people that align with your mission? Use your values statement every day to keep measuring your candidates and employees to make sure they are on target.

2: Communication Breakdown

The void created by the failure to communicate is soon filled with poison, dribble, and misrepresentation.

Continue reading

8 Powerful Ways to Create a Culture of Innovation [Podcast]

Innovation is often discussed as an activity available only to a select few people or companies. but it is an incredibly powerful tool for companies, especially when we seek ways to use our HR influence to drive a culture of innovation.

[Click here to listen to “8 Ways HR Can Drive Enterprise Innovation“]

In this episode of the We’re Only Human podcast, we point out 8 key ways that HR leaders can create, reinforce, and drive innovative behaviors in the business. In addition, we cover two common ways that companies kill motivation and innovation with their human resources practices. Continue reading

7 Lessons on Creating a Powerful Employee Experience

7 lessons employee experience

I just finished reading a brand new book called The Employee Experience. It’s a great look at the relatively new concept of creating an experience for employees, not just trying to engage them or do some other one-off program that doesn’t deliver long-term results.

7 Powerful Lessons on the Employee Experience

1) Congruent customer and employee experiences

I’ve long said that the customer experience will never exceed the employee experience. Well, what I’ve actually said is, “Employees will never treat customers better than their management treats them,” but it’s one and the same. The experiences will be congruent, or similar. That means companies that live and die by customer satisfaction scores need to start not with customer bonuses or other gimmicks but with a positive employee experience.

2) The Employee Experience is not the Employee Life Cycle

One of the issues with someone’s initial attempt to grasp the concept of the employee experience is to put it in the context of the employee life cycle. The experience, or how someone feels, is part of the life cycle, but it’s not quite the same thing. Don’t think that understanding the mechanics of onboarding and performance management means that you have a great employee experience. Instead look at the candidate or employee-centric nature of your processes and see to what extent they support, encourage, and engage your workforce. That’s your hint.

3) Tell me about your employees first

If I walked up to you right now and asked about your company, what would you start with? Your products? Your mission? Your customers? What about your employees–would they even make it into the discussion? It’s so common to think about this in the context of customers when in reality it’s our employees that make us successful. Start with employees and go from there. It will change the perspective of those around you.

4) Expectations rule the day

A big part of why employees have bad experiences in the workplace is because of expectations. Have you ever had high expectations for a raise, performance discussion, or meeting, only to walk away feeling disappointed? The theory of expectancy plays into motivations and how we feel about choices we make. If you want to deliver a poor experience, make sure you give people a warning ahead of time so their expectation gap (what they expect and what you deliver) isn’t as large.

5) Companies don’t really exist–people do

The trouble with leaders in many organizations is that they view the company as “The Company,” an automonous entity that doesn’t need to be understood or afforded respect. In this worldview, employees are replacement parts, and we don’t have to worry about the feelings of replaceable parts.

People get stuff done, not “the company.” People are the face of the firm, not a logo, billboard, or slogan. Remember that.

6) Design thinking for the win

The concept of design thinking centers on this: efforts are spent not just on solving problems, but on creating solutions with the end result in mind. In this case, how can we create ideas that focus not on the organization or on the customer, but on the employee experience. Instead of thinking about how to fix a problem specifically, the focus is on becoming something radically different. For many of us, that’s the direction we need to go to rectify design flaws in our processes and policies that can actually hamper our efforts to engage our workers.

7) Scrap the fancy job titles and get to work

I’ve heard in the last few years about new job titles popping up in the HR space. Chief Culture Officer, Chief Employee Experience Officer, etc. This was also mentioned in the book.

At first I was excited about the idea, but the more I thought about it, I realized that in some cases it was an abdication of responsibility. Think about it–when a task is assigned to someone specifically, everyone else can forget about helping with it and it falls off their list of priorities. That’s where I see the challenge in hiring these types of roles or even trying to create that kind of organization. Guiding and shepherding corporate culture isn’t one person’s job, it’s everyone’s job. Creating a powerful employee experience isn’t just HR’s or the C-suite’s job, it’s everyone’s job.

What are your thoughts on the employee experience? After reading some of these ideas, are you creating a great one, or does yours need some work

How to Scale Culture: Notes from #GDSummit

One of the scariest parts of having a great culture is the fear that it will shift and change in negative ways as the company grows. I can remember talking with Atlassian earlier this year, an organization that has an enviable culture and has leveraged it for incredible success. Every team at Atlassian has a person dedicated to defending the culture from poor fit hires, and these culture stewards can veto any hiring decision at any level. That’s an excellent way to help protect the culture as the organization scales up, but it’s not the only method for making it work. Today at the 2016 Glassdoor Summit, one presenter offered some amazing advice that is worth exploring.

Note: you can catch the livestream of the entire conference for free online

So far at the event we’ve heard from several speakers, including CEO of Glassdoor, Robert Hohman, about the value of transparency into culture. One quote this morning was particularly hard-hitting for me, and it came from Katie Burke, VP of Culture and Experience at Hubspot.

After talking about culture and the role of transparency, Katie threw out the quote above. I also believe the idea that acting on employee-generated ideas is one of the greatest ways to scale culture.

When we look at how culture is misrepresented in the media on a daily basis, it’s no surprise that HR leaders are craving a more concrete option for creating and scaling a culture that truly embodies the values and beliefs of the organization. Pick up any magazine or read any news article and you’ll quickly see that culture is purely about ping pong tables, free beer in the office fridge, and dog-friendly work spaces.

But as HR and talent leaders chase that elusive goal, they quickly become disillusioned and believe that this “culture” thing is just for the Googles and Ubers of the world.

As I pointed out in a recent Lighthouse blog around killing the traditional performance management approach, it’s critical for companies to point out culture in behavioral terms so that people have a concrete idea of what culture really means. But what about this concept of innovation, especially the type that is employee-driven?

Innovation, Engagement, and Culture

Innovation is not a new topic, but it’s one that is not often discussed in relation to the way we engage employees. The people throughout the organization are closest to the work, and they often have the best ideas for how to innovate and create new value. Therefore, innovation can be used as a valuable metric of engagement.

How many employee-generated ideas do you implement in a given year? One? One hundred? One thousand? Because it matters to your employees, and it’s an opportunity to improve business performance.

Last year I read The Idea-Driven Organization and thoroughly enjoyed the book. The main concept was the power of listening to employee suggestions, giving them serious consideration, and implementing them when feasible.

It’s fundamental, really. We all know that we should be listening to our employees. That goes without saying. However, the next step is actively soliciting input and then acting upon it. Instead of ignoring or fearing employee input, go the extra mile to encourage them to provide suggestions. The authors share a story that I think is a powerful reminder of this.

Employees at a bar had the opportunity to provide input on their jobs by submitting ideas. There were few, if any restrictions on the type of ideas, so one might expect them to pick some that made their work easier. But it turns out that was often associated with an improvement in the customer experience as well.

For instance, instead of having to carry a massive carton of empty bottles down to the cellar when it filled up, they installed a chute at the back of the bar for empty bottles to slide down to the cellar unassisted. This decreased the risk of workplace injuries from walking down stairs with heavy objects, improved customer service by not pulling away a service employee during a busy shift, and allowed bartenders to monitor and discard the empty bottles unassisted.

Even if nothing else came from these ideas other than the improved customer service results, it would be worthwhile. Yet it also improved the engagement levels of the employees by eliminating a non-value- added task from their daily work.

Another great example is from a former employer of mine. We used a “The Big Ideas Database,” which is a grandiose title for a spreadsheet. Any employee could share an idea through the web form and it would be considered by leadership for implementation.

Many of the ideas were actually acted upon. Some were quite minor (larger garbage bags in the break room), but others were considerably more important (repurposing/licensing a piece of software led to an additional $2 million in sales annually). Employees were actually excited about sharing ideas via the platform as a way to drive innovation and continuously serve customers better.

And, as with the previous story, it drove their engagement as well.

Want to create a culture of innovation and high performance? Focus on seeking out employee feedback and acting upon it. It’s powerful fuel for organizational performance and can be a significant competitive advantage if implemented properly.

Does your organization encourage employees to share ideas? Have you ever considered the effect on engagement or culture when an employee’s idea is implemented?