Why Businesses Need to be Uncompromising on Cultural Fit and Alignment – 3rd in a series of distillations from Wavelength Connect’s Behind The Brand Modules
A unique part of Wavelength’s Connect programme takes participants inside a range of organisations Behind the Brand to learn first-hand, warts n’ all, from those that have been there and done it. We have been looking at what they learnt and showing some examples of who shines within Wavelength’s nine fundamental characteristics of high performing organisations. In the third part of our Behind the Brand blog series, we are looking at the subject of Culture.
As we continue Wavelength Connect’s Behind the Brand series, we look at the importance of culture and alignment and how important this is to flourish in today’s environment.
Culture encompasses many aspects of a business. It defines the environment and includes the purpose or mission, values, ethics, expectations and goals.
Finding people who fit the culture fuels productivity and creativity, and enables people to be authentic, happy and passionate about what they do.
SNS are rigorous about their culture. To build trust again in consumers, and to deliver on their purpose, they must ensure they have people who embrace what they stand for. So much so that they ask potential store managers (franchisees) to come in with their life partner or spouse and read their manifesto out loud (almost like taking an oath!). If approached by a football team with a potential sponsorship deal, the biggest discussion point is the team’s manifesto. And this determines whether it happens.
The company were open about their existential fears of future potential shareholders not valuing their culture. It’s something they seek to protect unequivocally.
John Lewis similarly demonstrates a commitment to their partnership culture by recruiting staff according to values. The confidence and self-esteem of their teams is a priority for the business, with rigorous training to ensure employees are fully role ready. We learnt that preparing an employee for the sleep department requires 34 days of mattress training!
Over 500 John Lewis partners have been trained in theatrical skills by actors working for the National Theatre to help them deliver outstanding customer service at the retailer’s new shop in White City. This demonstrates an investment in people that goes above and beyond the norm, fundamental in the creation of a brilliant culture.
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company leads the luxury hospitality market and is world-renowned for its exemplary customer service. Again, they recruit based on values, ensuring employees can demonstrate abilities to anticipate needs, resolve conflict and be pro-active and solution driven. It’s this consistency that gives them an incredible edge. They actively seek to recognise STAR qualities in their people (this stands for situation, task, action, results).
Align relentlessly, using structures not wish lists
Alignment within organisations is no easy task, and it’s essential that the right structures are put in place to ensure it happens. Structures that support and facilitate teams collaborating and communicating.
An example of an effective live structure is ‘clear desking’ within the BBC. The move to BBC North signalled the end of desktops, which became laptops. Fixed desks became hot desks as it was widely recognised that this had a great impact on culture and collaboration and reflected a more contemporary and dynamic way of working. The process was (and is) rigorously enforced, and items left by desks are removed weekly and later thrown away if not retrieved. This structure required careful management and oversight but has now become second nature to the team.
Metrobank is the UK’s first new high street bank in over 100 years. Their branches are open seven days a week and they claim to have dumped “all the stupid bank rules”.
They ensure consistent recognition and development of their teams by assessing their talent and putting each person into one of the following groups: hero, explorer, pioneer, or revolutionary. For each group they have specific plans for development and engagement, as well as specific challenges. They take a structured approach to giving personal and tailored feedback, support and development. It’s been hugely effective at helping build their culture and ensuring that there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach.
The physical environment of LEGO is structured for activity-based working, ensuring that teams are given the right space to be productive in all they do. So, it works that one floor is for collaboration, one for socialising, another for a solo focus. This helps employees stay energised and focused in the most appropriate way.
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