Let your work­ers make de­ci­sions on cul­ture and com­pany iden­tity

The East African - - BUSI­NESS -

You can­not have a dis­rup­tive com­pany with con­ven­tional cul­ture. The cul­ture is what pro­duces the dis­rup­tion yet many want to hold on to their old cul­tures and they ex­pect dis­rup­tion to happen. No or­gan­i­sa­tional trans­for­ma­tion can happen with­out a trans­for­ma­tion in the think­ing of the em­ploy­ees es­pe­cially in their at­ti­tude to­wards the com­pany. In­deed, there is a di­rect cor­re­la­tion be­tween en­thu­si­asm, sense of own­er­ship and per­for­mance.

Let us take some­thing as sim­ple as job ti­tles. I read about a com­pany that had a Chief In­sta­gram Of­fi­cer. This was not at the mid­dle or ju­nior lev­els. This was at the top man­age­ment with a seat at the ta­ble along­side other C-suite of­fi­cers. A study of job ti­tles in a chang­ing world will re­veal ex­actly how much the world is chang­ing.

There's a Direc­tor of Chaos at Berk­shire Hath­away. In­stead of hav­ing a ser­vice tech­ni­cian, Ap­ple has the ti­tle of Ge­nius for peo­ple who do the tech­ni­cal work in re­tail stores. In­stead of hav­ing a re­cep­tion­ist, an­other com­pany has Direc­tor of First Im­pres­sions. An­other one has a Direc­tor, Eth­i­cal Hack­ing who helps fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions iden­tify the vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties of their Web ap­pli­ca­tions and net­works. Map­info Corp has a Master of Disas­ter who helps fed­eral, state, and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties in the United States ac­cess the in­for­ma­tion they need to re­cover quickly from calami­ties.

Other new gen­er­a­tion ti­tles in­clude the Cat­a­lyst re­plac­ing the Ex­ec­u­tive As­sis­tant, The Cre­ator of Op­por­tu­ni­ties in­stead of a Busi­ness Devel­op­ment man­ager. There is also the Dig­i­tal Prophet whose job it is to pre­dict global trends for AOL.

CEO'S are not left out of this. In­stead of the CEO ti­tle, some com­pa­nies have opted for ti­tles such as Chief Trans­for­ma­tion Of­fi­cer, Chief Trou­ble Maker, Chief Amaze­ment Of­fi­cer, and Chief Cheer Leader. There is even a com­pany that has a Chief Get­ting S#!t Done Of­fi­cer! Some com­pa­nies have even gone to the ex­tent of al­low­ing their em­ploy­ees to cre­ate their own job ti­tles based on their job de­scrip­tions.

What in the world is go­ing on? Are peo­ple crazy? The truth how­ever is that it is not re­ally about the ti­tle. It is about tak­ing own­er­ship of the job and the com­pany. It is a proven fact that peo­ple per­form bet­ter when they have a feel­ing of be­long­ing and a sense of iden­tity. In the book

by Dave Lo­gan, John King, and Halee Fis­cher-wright there is the story of a hos­pi­tal that was a death­trap. In fact so many bad were things in this hos­pi­tal that if a per­son was trans­ferred there it was usu­ally to go and die.

Then the un­think­able hap­pened. Things turned around so dra­mat­i­cally that the hos­pi­tal had a 10-year streak of be­ing named by For­tune Magazine as one of Amer­ica's best places to work. What hap­pened?

It all started when they got new lead­er­ship that un­der­stood the power of iden­tity. Peo­ple were al­lowed to be a part of the trans­for­ma­tion. It was not a top to bot­tom thing. The new lead­er­ship at the hos­pi­tal cre­ated an en­vi­ron­ment where a cleaner could tell you with pride that it was his idea to put a flower pot in cer­tain place. This was repli­cated in all the staff. They all had a story of their con­tri­bu­tion. They all felt important and knew that their voice mat­tered and that their day-to-day life was in­deed mak­ing a dif­fer­ence. The re­sult was the dra­matic trans­for­ma­tion.

Glass­door is a job and re­cruit­ment web­site which also al­lows former em­ploy­ees to anony­mously re­view com­pa­nies and their man­age­ment. Af­ter re­view­ing over two mil­lion com­pa­nies they were able to put to­gether a list of the things that the best places to work have in com­mon. These in­clude amaz­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion, a clear goal, strong peo­ple devel­op­ment programmes, an iconic leader and a place where peo­ple mat­ter.

The Glass­door re­port also found out that sat­is­fied em­ploy­ees cre­ate wealth for com­pa­nies. They are not sat­is­fied be­cause the com­pany was wealthy. The com­pany was wealthy be­cause the peo­ple are sat­is­fied.

The need to be­long to some­thing, to be part of a big­ger pur­pose than self is such a deep seated need in hu­man be­ings that stud­ies have shown that re­jec­tion or the per­cep­tion or threat of it can some­times pro­duce re­ac­tions that are sim­i­lar to those of phys­i­cal pain.

When peo­ple own a part of the or­gan­i­sa­tion even through some­thing as seem­ingly minute as a ti­tle that they love and which gives them an iden­tity, their per­for­mance will shoot up. When peo­ple work in an en­vi­ron­ment which al­lows them to grow in ways that ben­e­fit their ca­reers and per­sonal life, en­thu­si­asm and own­er­ship are the nat­u­ral byprod­ucts.

To dis­rupt the mar­ket you need to give your cus­tomers an un­for­get­table ex­pe­ri­ence and con­vert the cus­tomers into am­bas­sadors but to do this, you must first give your em­ploy­ees a senses of iden­tity. Give them a sense of pur­pose and mis­sion. Give them a place where they know that their voice too mat­ters. Think of it, if the per­son that you pay and who in­ter­acts with you ev­ery day of their life is not ex­cited about you why should the per­son who pays you and who in­ter­acts with you on a need to ba­sis?

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