By: Jay Mittelman
Doing what we say we’ll do is a basic building block of trust and reliability. But, for some companies, the way they define their corporate cultures and the way they act toward employees and customers may show a disconnect between words and action.
With a new year beginning, now is a good time for your company to look at the words it uses to describe itself and how they stack up against the experience your employees and customers have when dealing with your organization.
Recognize Cultural Disconnects
When there is a disconnect between what you say your culture is and how your company treats its staff, your organization creates an atmosphere of disappointment and distrust among your work force. This can have only a negative impact on morale and productivity that, among other things, feeds higher turnover rates and damages customer relationships.
Here are some examples of possible disconnects between values and actions:
Value: “We’re a family friendly business.”
Disconnect: The organization doesn’t extend benefits to spouses or children, or offer a flexible schedule or a dependent care flexible spending account. It does require night and weekend work.
Value: “Trust is everything.”
Disconnect: Cameras record workers’ movements at work, employees and their belongings are searched when they enter or exit the job site, and every purchase — small or large — requires several signatures, including the CFO’s.
Value: “Quality is most important.”
Disconnect: Employees are rewarded for cost- or time-savings — instead of quality standards — when doing their jobs, the office environment is shabby and equipment and machinery is in disrepair, and errors are fixed but the underlying issues causing the mistakes are ignored.
Value: “We believe in work-life balance.”
Disconnect: Overtime is regularly required, vacation time is limited, few company holidays are offered and there is no scheduling flexibility.
In the worst case scenario, workers who see management saying one thing but doing another might feel it’s okay to lie, steal or act in other unethical ways.
Watch for Problems
Certain situations can make an organization ripe for a cultural breakdown, including a management change, merger or acquisition, geographic expansion, or rapid increase in your work force.
These circumstances bring opportunities for culture clashes (especially when two established companies are becoming one) or culture vacuums — when employees create their own culture because none is enforced.
To help you spot these and other problems, talk to employees. Often, organizations speak with a group of company leaders about the culture and then get input from rank-and-file employees.
Many do this through focus groups and employee surveys. Be sure you hear from employees at all levels and in all locations of your organization to get a full picture of what your staff’s experience is like.
Enlisting the help of a neutral third party can yield the best results. An outsider will have no preconceived notions and usually can elicit frank and informative responses from workers. Also, consultants that have experience in conducting surveys and focus groups can ensure the validity of the survey tool and data analysis.
Change for the Better
When the walk and the talk are at odds, only one can prevail. You have to change behavior or change what you say about your culture. Otherwise, problems are bound to occur.