Tag Archives: Culture

Cultural Transformations: Lessons of Leadership and Corporate Reinvention (Book Review)

I recently finished up a new book and have been looking forward to writing this review. There are three key things I picked up from the book that I want to share. No wasting time–I’m diving right in. :-) By the way, if the name sound familiar, this is the third book I’ve reviewed for John. He knows what he’s talking about.

Key Lessons from Cultural Transformations: Lessons of Leadership and Corporate Reinvention by John Mattone and Nick Vaidya

cultural transformations book reviewFirst up, stories are powerful. I think we all know that (and I’ve talked about it both lately and in the past), but it bears repeating. The bulk of this book is made up of interviews with CEOs from companies across the globe. One of the biggest challenges for HR is understanding what the business needs and how to solve those problems. In this book you get to peek into the heads of executives that make the top-level decisions every day, and it’s powerful stuff.

Secondly, Mattone points out early in the book the power of innovation, but he doesn’t do it like everyone else. Instead of focusing on what we typically think of as product innovation, he points out the need for innovation throughout the organization. Here’s the snippet:

When executives change their leadership culture, they are rewarded with significant, sustainable outcomes, including… genuine organizational innovation for not only products but also the organizational systems required to sustain innovation.

Do you know what those organizational systems are that he alludes to? Hint: it includes HR! He’s talking about the infrastructure that enables the organization to create value for customers. From marketing and HR to finance and more, there are so many opportunities to truly innovate within the processes and systems we use to drive the organization on a daily basis. This is refreshing, because it departs from the typical look at innovation from the product side–for example, creating the next iPhone. If my internal systems are better, I don’t necessarily have to create the best thing since sliced bread–I can outpace other companies simply due to the effectiveness and efficiency of our systems. That’s a powerful thought.

Finally, the book makes mention of this concept of a “culture value proposition.” If it sounds familiar, you’re probably thinking of its cousin, the employer value proposition, which is the sum of the things you have to offer to candidates/employees to make them join/stay with your organization. What I like is that this looks at culture, a topic I’m pretty fanatic about, at a deeper, more systematic level. From the book:

A strong CVP foundation leads to: capability… commitment… and alignment.

Think about the employees within your company. Are they capable, committed, and aligned with your strategy and goals? If not, it might be time to rethink your culture value proposition, or what your culture can offer to them.

Final Thoughts

If you are interested in checking out what CEOs have to say about culture and business reinvention, or if you’re looking to hone your own organization’s culture value proposition, then I encourage you to check out Cultural Transformations: Lessons of Leadership and Corporate Reinvention by John Mattone and Nick Vaidya (find it on Amazon here). You can also check out the other books John has written: Intelligent Leadership and Talent Leadership.

Find other book reviews here.

How to Ruin Credibility in One Easy Step

credibility integrityRecently someone asked this question on Quora, a site that I sometimes drop by to help shed some light on the world of HR:

If I lie about a past felony on job applications, will the California FCRA keep background checks from finding out?

The first two responses to the question were focused on what the law covers and how the person might hide their information–interestingly enough I don’t see their answers on the site anymore, so I’m not sure what to think on that. However, here’s what I offered as advice:

Since the others didn’t address it in their answer, I’ll go ahead and say it: you don’t want to start your career off with a lie. There are studies that show the number one predictor of long term success is integrity–if you’re willing to sacrifice yours now, well…

If I was the HR director at the organization and found out later that you had lied about something like that, we would terminate. If you lie to me once there’s a good chance you’ll do it again.

This isn’t a dig at you or your history–this is a plea to maintain your honesty, especially when it gets hard. There are careers that don’t require you to pass background checks (small employers and startups rarely use them).

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The Culture Engine (Book Review)

The Culture Engine by Chris Edmonds

culture engine book reviewOne of the topics I love to discuss is culture. I think it’s a powerful, yet underutilized, tool for driving business performance. I recently read The Culture Engine (on Amazon here) and wanted to share a few insights that particularly spoke to me.

Highlights

  • What is the cost of high performing, low fit employees? When you think about your workforce, you know that some people can really get the job done, but they might not fit with the core values of your organization. In other words, they can do the “what,” but they miss the mark on the “how.” Figuring out how to actually put a cost on retaining those folks is the first step in getting rid of them. Companies are reluctant to drop high performing staff, but if they are damaging the culture, driving higher team turnover, or having other negative results, it’s important to define and measure those sorts of impacts against the “positive” inputs.
  • Stop the “don’t” messages. Instead of solely talking about what NOT to do, give your staff values and targets to aspire to. This is something I’ve said for years, but this is great validation for that concept. If you only talk about the bottom, minimally acceptable standards, how do you expect to help staff reach higher goals?
  • Define your values in behavioral terms. Yeah, you have values like “integrity” and “customers first” on your list of values, but what do they really mean? Take the time to list examples (real ones are better!) and the actual behaviors that you want to see. As with the previous bullet point, the more you can define what you DO want to see, the more likely you’ll actually see it.

Conclusion

If you also are interested in culture, values, and how those can drive actual business results, then I think this is a book you’ll enjoy. You can get your copy here.  If you’re not quite convinced that culture is a tool that organizations can use to increase revenues and become more competitive, then this might also be a good opportunity for you to learn about how some companies are doing just that with measurable results. It’s a great book!

The Secret to Zappos’ Amazing Success

Today we’re hosting a guest post from a long-time friend and fellow HR practitioner. Jane Jaxon is the rockstar HR Director for a tech company in Boston. Learn more about her in the bio below the article. 

Zappos is my HR idol. I have posters on the wall, read articles about them in HR Beat, ask them to sign things – you know how these crushes go. I’m obsessed not because of their dreamy eyes or perfect coif, but because they are known world-wide for their happy employees (many of whom are in a call-center – no easy task!), clearly defined values (that they have the cojones to hire and fire by), and because they scaled culture without negatively impacting their bottom line (they still are the dominant player in their market).

I was lucky enough to tour their HQ in Las Vegas recently. They do Insights tours daily and quite literally open their doors on company culture. There were some obvious takeaways as to what makes them special – the perks, zany work environment, and tons of things they do to make work-life easier for employees – but I walked away thinking I finally get their special sauce. Hint: it isn’t what companies focus on poaching when trying to create a special culture, but it’s what they should focus on.

The Zappos secret

So what makes Zappos, Zappos? Employees really, truly feel comfortable being themselves. It’s not just a show they put on for the tour, it’s palpable. Zapponians dress in what makes them comfortable. Work stations are tailored entirely to their owner – be it a prim and proper organizational center or an ode the their favorite sports team or hobby. Work seems to be an extension of who each and every employee is as a person. Oh yeah, and their CEO is out there for everyone to run into, talk to, and approach with issues.

How can we, as HR professionals, allow and encourage employees to be themselves? It starts with the interview (maybe even before). Give candidates a chance to talk about what gets them excited outside of work … and genuinely care to hear the answer. It will let them know that they can be more than a contributor at your company – they can be a person. Boy does that make a difference!

It also comes from the top. Is the leadership team opening up and sharing a bit about who they are as people with your employees? Is your CEO accessible and open with employees? Do you celebrate your employees as people instead of just as contributors? The answers to all of the above should be a resounding yes.

Aspiring to be like Zappos is a challenge, but I’m convinced that there is a business reason to try. Recruiting gets easier through referrals and word of mouth. Happy, engaged employees will work harder, be invested in the company’s success and stick around much longer. And coming to work doesn’t feel like, well, work. Who wouldn’t want that?

About the author: Jane Jaxon is the HR Director of a high-growth tech company in Boston where she gets to focus on building a great workplace and scaling people operations. Jane’s favorite buzzwords of the trade are eNPS, talent density and (of course) people operations. She likes neither pina colada’s nor getting caught in the rain, but sure loves marathoning critically-acclaimed tv series, reading in the sun, plotting her fantasy football world domination and, lastly, keeping a stealthy social media presence. Find her on LinkedIn.

Trust in the Workplace-Does It Really Matter?

Approximately half of your employees think you’re not being open and upfront with them, according to a recent study conducted by the American Psychological Association. In an environment where mistrust abounds, how can we operate our businesses in a way that rises above these troubling issues?

How HR can help

One activity that human resources has always been fond of is policy creation. There is a time when policy formulation needs to occur, but it also needs to take into account common sense and organizational culture. It all comes back to trust — do you trust your people to do great work, treat customers well, and support their team?

Too often we build policies with the minority in mind. Instead of creating rules around the 5% of people who will abuse our trust, we need to start looking at the 95% of people who will be inspired by our trust.

Give your people trust and autonomy and they will reward you with engagement. Withhold trust from your people and they will withhold trust from others, creating a downward spiral of negative, toxic behaviors.

Building a Culture of Trust

Recently I was listening to a story about an organization that put the principles above into practice. The leadership focused on giving the employees freedom to do their work, and the employees responded with new ideas, additional effort, and a sense of ownership over the business results.

That, my friends, is a culture of trust.

Employees need to see these characteristics displayed by everyone in the organization, but this especially applies to members of the leadership team. Talk is cheap, and actions speak louder than words.

I know what you’re thinking–what happens if we have someone who abuses that trust? Let’s look at one of the best ways to correct that issue.

Empowering employees

Developing an intentional culture of trust is similar to gardening. When weeds begin to flourish, the answer is not to wipe out all nearby vegetation. The solution is careful weeding to take care of the specific offenders.

A few years ago I was at an event listening to the speaker talk about what had led to his organization being named on a local “best company” list for several years in a row. He said something to start his presentation that I will never forget.

You don’t create a “Best Place to Work,” you defend it.

That was such a powerful statement. You can develop a workplace that people really want to join, but in order to have a noteworthy organization for the long term you need to create a mindset that it is everyone’s job to protect the culture from harm. A great way to make that happen is by enabling employees to seek out those “weeds” and apply pressure to either get in line or get out. You should find willing participants, especially if the current employees have already begun reaping the benefits of a culture of trust (greater autonomy, less micromanagement, etc.) Here’s a hint: if your employees are willing to fight for you, then you’re probably on the right track.

Instead of managers or HR having that role tacked onto their list of duties, make it the job of every single employee to ensure that a culture of trust prevails. Together, we can fight the mistrust that has invaded our work environments and spread a powerful culture of trust.

Originally published here

The Struggle Between a Caring Work Environment and Talent Density

Today we’re honored to have a guest post from a long-time friend and fellow HR practitioner. Jane Jaxon is the rockstar HR Director for a tech company in Boston. Learn more about her in the bio below the article. 

Building a caring work environment and increasing talent density: compatible or mutually exclusive?

If you’re reading this entry for an answer, skip ahead to the comments section, because you definitely won’t find it here. The question is of critical importance to where we are as a company and I’m actively debating it in my quieter moments. People – their collective personality and their performance – are our differentiator in a tough tech market.

caring work environment

Is building a supportive environment a goal of your organization?

A little background: our company culture is built on integrity, ownership, simplicity, service and balance. We’ve strictly held to our core values in hiring decisions, resulting in a place that people enjoy working because they get to work with intelligent, driven and truly amazing people they care about. Our people also know that HR, the Leadership team and our co-founders care about them on a personal level, which is both a key to retention and to recruitment.

But to build a successful company that scales, we need the most talented team possible. Talent attracts and retains talent and builds a better product. There’s the idea that winning teams succeed because they have the best players on their team. Successful sports teams cut fan favorites to upgrade their roster and aren’t slow to trade away players when underperforming. It’s all understood as part of the business of winning. But it also feels very impersonal and at odds with the familial culture we’ve built.

Is there a happy medium? Can a company truly care about its employees while remaining committed to increasing the level of “A-players” on the team? How does one handle the model employee that just isn’t up to the task at hand?

As I shared, I’m not sure what the answer is, but I think it’s possible for a company to toe the line by investing in “coaching up” struggling employees, being clear about expectations and where the gaps are, and making a genuine effort to get people to where they need to be. To be sure, this requires a genuine commitment from the top of the organization and far more effort than any alternative, but I think it can and should be done.

There will always be cases where things just don’t work out. Treat departing employees with dignity, respect and honesty. Ask yourself, “Does this feel right?” Others in the organization will know if you gave the departing team member a fair shake to keep their job, and will take note of how you treated them on the way out. If you can navigate this maze, I think you can have both talent density and a caring corporate culture. Who knows what success awaits from that point forward?

About the author: Jane Jaxon is the HR Director of a high-growth tech company in Boston where she gets to focus on building a great workplace and scaling people operations. Jane’s favorite buzzwords of the trade are eNPS, talent density and (of course) people operations. She likes neither pina colada’s nor getting caught in the rain, but sure loves marathoning critically-acclaimed tv series, reading in the sun, plotting her fantasy football world domination and, lastly, keeping a stealthy social media presence. Find her on LinkedIn.

Using Culture to Drive Policy Decisions

Decision making isn’t always a process of identifying and communicating facts. There’s often an underlying foundation of history, preferences, and other elements that add a layer to the decision making process. Recently I talked about how even something as seemingly simple as a policy decision can be affected by the organization’s culture.

culture policy decisionThe corporate culture influences the determination from the initial consideration through to the final steps of implementation. Over at the Brandon Hall Group blog, we’ll look at some of those underlying factors and how you can leverage them to make policy decisions stick.

Check out Culture Drives Policy Implementation at Human Resources Today to learn more