About Workforce Echoes

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Organizational Values (1 in a series on values)

Values Determine Behavior

Do you ever step back, look at your life, the decisions you've made and the things that you have done and wonder why?  Why do you consistently follow a pattern when reacting to the world around you?  If you did step back, you would likely see certain patterns. Fear of certain things, the tendency to gravitate to similar types of people, or always avoiding certain situations, are examples of behavior patterns.  Mostly likely, you are using your own set of personal values to guide your behavior.  Your values are formed by the environment you grew up within--parents, teachers, significant events etc.  These events and experiences lead to certain beliefs which then serve to form your values. 

Organizations behave similarly. Whether an organization has declared values or not, values WILL determine behavior in all organizations.  Successful organizations have a set of strategic values integrated into all people practices.  This forms the foundation for the business ecosystem.  Values impact how employees behave and respond to customers, what goals are set and reached, what policies and procedures are followed, how managers treat employees, and how employees treat each other.  Just watch behavior.  You can also determine an organization’s values by finding out where time and money are spent.  Organizational leaders have a choice: allow any old values to naturally grow, or create, communicate and integrate strategic values that purposefully move the organization forward.  What values are controlling behavior in YOUR organization?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Organizational Culture (4 in a series)

Friendships in the Ecosystem
I am continuing one more week with our ecosystem analogy.  Today I want to make the point that you create a work environment in hundreds of ways.  When we think of all the people systems within the work environment, the typical thoughts go to hiring, rewarding, performance appraisals, and communicating expectations.  Yet it goes way beyond this.  Trust, freedom, supplies and equipment provided, procedures, space, colors, moods, signs, newsletters, emails, and on and on all have an impact on the environment you grow. 

For this week, I want to focus on the impact of friendships on the environment.  Think of how different the culture of an organization will be if employees get along well and maybe even like and respect each other!  You can’t force friendships.  But you can hire right.  You can provide time and places for socializing with colleagues.  You can learn about and implement team building practices.  You can take personality into consideration when making specific job assignments.  You can resolve performance problems immediately, and treat people fairly so that resentment doesn’t build.  There are many things you can do to help build trust, respect, and friendships within your environment.  A Gallup study proved that one of the key ingredients to employee engagement was having a close friend at work.  When people get along well, they WANT to help each other because that’s just what you do in a cohesive community.  They care about each other and it will show in their behavior and actions.  The company doesn’t have to dictate the rules as much because behavior is impacted so greatly by positive emotion, friendships, and relationships.

I use the term “touch points” to mean all of the various ways, both small and large, that employees are impacted by policy, procedure, their boss, colleagues, employees, customers, and the overall work environment. Everything that impacts an employee’s attitude towards work in general and each work day are touch points.  What makes their day pleasant?  What makes their day frustrating?  It helps if you focus on your own work day, and the multiple ways in which your own mood is impacted by policy, procedure, and people.  These are the touch points and should be your focus as you work towards creating a positive work environment.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Organizational Culture (3 in a series)

The Answer is an Absolute “Yes!”
As an American who has grown accustomed to a fast paced life and the need for fast food, I’ve also developed my expectations for the service I’ll receive in these fast food restaurants.  I know that the employees who work in these establishments are paid very little.  I know that many of the employees view this as a temporary job.  I know that most of the front line staff work there for one purpose only; to make money.  This is how I justify the poor customer service I’ve grown accustomed to.  It never surprises me to deal with seemingly grumpy staff, to rarely receive a friendly smile or even eye contact, and more often than not, to have my order be wrong.  Despite this, I keep going back for more.
Our last two blogs have focused on viewing the business environment as an ecosystem.  So, if we are saying that managers can create this ecosystem, is it possible to create a friendly and engaged environment at a fast food restaurant?  The answer is an absolute “YES!”  As an example, there is a Chick Fil A in Edgewater Maryland.  The manager here must deal with the same elements that other managers of fast food restaurants must deal with.  That is, the difficulty in recruiting quality people, the low pay, the attitude of this job being temporary, and the fact that the front line employees rarely have a purpose in working there other than a pay check.  Yet this particular manager has created a friendly and engaged environment.  I go there more often than I care to admit.  Every single time, consistently, I am greeted with enthusiasm, a smile, an attitude that says “what can I do to help you?” and always a very friendly “thank you.”  I always feel that my business there is appreciated.  This manager has created an engaged work environment and it is noticeable to every customer.
Environments are created.  Cultures grow.  No matter your workforce, no matter your industry, it is possible to create a positive environment.  Examine your hiring practices, reward practices, performance management systems, communication habits, expectations, and goals.  Examine all the ways you and the business impact employees.  It takes time and patience, but with some determination, you can begin to change the work environment and allow desired culture to grow.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Organizational Culture (2 in a Series)

For this week’s blog I’m going to continue with the garden analogy from last week; i.e. that being a manager is similar to growing a healthy garden. This analogy enables managers to view behavior as logical rather than random.  The focus this week is on performance problems, the weeds in your garden. 

Some gardeners tend their garden regularly.  Weeds don’t have time to take over and when even a single weed pops up, it is noticed immediately and yanked out. A beautiful and healthy garden is allowed to flourish. In the business world, managers who handle people problems on a regular basis, and who do not allow problem behavior to go unnoticed, are able to grow an environment of engaged and productive employees that is noticeable to anyone observing this team.   On the other hand, a manager who focuses on performance issues only once per year at the annual review, will have a garden that has been so taken over by the weeds that it seems overwhelming. Problem behavior becomes the norm, and desired behavior will get choked out. When you stand back and observe this team, you will observe conflict and chaos.

If your work environment is currently filled with conflict and chaos, there is hope!  It is a lot more work than plucking a single weed, but it CAN be done.  Clearly state expectations and goals.  Monitor behavior and progress daily.  Deal with problems immediately. This will be equivalent to a large scale climate change in the environment, and you should expect it to take a while for the ecosystem to settle and become sustainable again. When it does however, you’ll find that desired behaviors become the norm.  The environment change will eventually change the organizational culture.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Organizational Culture (1 in a Series)

Managing is just like gardening. I did a simple Google search on “planning a garden” and, on the first page of search results alone, was quickly able to find the following quotes:

“A well-planned garden is easier to care for. It saves time in the garden and is more productive than an unplanned garden.” http://urbanext.illinois.edu/tog/planning.cfm

“When getting started, carefully planning your garden now can save a lot of trouble in the future.” http://www.gardensalive.com/article.asp?ai=74

“A vegetable garden should do what you want it to, so ask yourself what your desired outcome is.”

Do you notice the analogy? Just like the first quote, a well planned business is easier to care for. Planning saves time and is more productive than an unplanned business strategy. Have you defined specific goals? Can you visualize what your garden, I mean business, will accomplish and produce? The second quote also applies. Carefully planning your business goals now can save a lot of trouble in the future. The third quote can equate to both planning and hiring. Are the employees you’ve hired able to do what you want them to do and achieve the desired outcome? In the business environment, people you hire replace the seeds in a garden. What have you planted in your business environment? What type of person and what talents will help the business achieve defined goals? A haphazard hiring system is equivalent to throwing out a package of mixed up unknown seeds and then feeling frustrated that you’re not growing roses. Take a moment to sit back and analyze the garden you’re growing. If you find business articles boring to read, perhaps a good book on gardening could help you produce a winning team!! We will continue this analogy with our next several blogs. Stay tuned.