Tag: Improving employee engagement

Organizational Systems & Processes

“Systems and processes are essential to keep the crusade going, but they should not replace the crusade.” Simon Sinek

Organizations are complex adaptive systems. They consist of interconnected, interwoven components or sets of things that work together as part of a mechanism or interconnecting and dynamic network to achieve an overall goal.

If you take away or change a component it affects the whole system. Ralph Stacey, an eminent figure in the field of complexity, points out that all human systems are ‘self-organizing’ and not open to control. Interactions between humans are co-created and emergent, with multiple possible outcomes at each point of engagement. A complex environment consists of any number of competing factors, combinations of agents and potential outcomes.

The Ralph Stacey Complexity model

Supporting the right functions

The components of the organization system can be viewed in different ways. One perspective is a collection of different functions where the Human Resources (HR) team could be one component, the service delivery team another, the outsourced supply chain another and so on.

These functions are interdependent, so if there is a high performing service delivery team, but the HR processes and procedures are not working well, then the performance of the whole organization is lessened.

“Systems are not sexy – but they really DO drive everything we do!” Carrie Wilkerson

Systems & Processes is the fourth ‘Element’ of the SERVICEBRAND approach. We think of this as the organization’s infrastructure: a collection of ‘assets’ assisting the strategic alignment and co-ordinated execution of the Brand Identity, Employee Engagement and Customer Experience Elements.

We define the Systems & Processes ‘Element’ as the arrangement of resources, communication framework, technology infrastructure and governance to enable and support delivery of a brand aligned Customer Experience. Resources refers to people, functions, information, finance, property, and equipment.

Systems in support

The focus on an alignment and support role is critical because, otherwise, there is a risk that areas within your systems and processes can achieve a disproportionate level of importance to the detriment of the brand identity, employee engagement or customer experience. Can you relate to these quotes?

– “Your details cannot be located because the system needs a case number.”
– “I cannot serve you with a cup of hot water because it is against the company health & safety policy.”
– “Do you have a reservation?” in an empty restaurant.
– “Unless you have your booking reference, you will not be admitted to the event.”
– “The delivery day cannot be changed so if nobody is at the address it will be delivered the following day.”
– “I can only issue you with a uniform when the approval form is received from your department manager.”
– “To collect your train ticket, you must have the credit card you used to pay for it.”
– “Your query will be dealt with by the foreign exchange team. I am unable to transfer you and they do not make outgoing calls so please call this number…”
– “I do not know why you were able to make a reservation for those dates because our arrival date is always a Saturday.”

In all these examples, for whatever reason, the organization’s systems are not helping to achieve the best outcomes and, in some cases, present an active obstacle. Many organizations have issues like this and others: people are swamped by systems that require a lot of maintenance, and meta-work (work about work e.g., meetings, project planning, progress reviews) can take more time and effort than the work that needs to be done.

SERVICEBRAND GLOBAL

Using the SERVICEBRAND approach helps to maintain a focus on what is important (aligned brand identity, employee engagement and customer experience) and to keep in check the component parts within the Systems & Processes ‘Element’. In Simon Sinek’s words above, they do not replace the crusade.

What is SERVICEBRAND Global?

“Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.”
Arthur Ashe

This month marks the 17th anniversary of the creation of my company, SERVICEBRAND GLOBAL Ltd. The SERVICEBRAND journey started with a classic, corporate, defining moment or series of moments. By way of background and context, in 2002, a major global facilities management company were looking for a senior leader to develop the account for a Big Four bank and their UK office portfolio.

A key criterion for the appointment was a five-star hotel industry background. And since I had successfully turned around a five-star hotel and country club, uniquely delivering three consecutive all-green balanced scorecards and receiving recognition within the company and industry wide. I was excited to be offered the opportunity to transfer my skills across sectors from hotels to the workplace environment.

The assignment was an all-round success, founded on implementing a hotel style service delivery model for the collection of service partner companies involved and their combined total of 5,000 employees.

Commercially, the account grew from an £8m turnover catering contract to a £150m turnover multi-services contract. Industry recognition was received by way of a CoreNet Global Innovation Award and a service partner Customer Experience award from the bank.

Both the facilities management company and the bank were keen to explore a co-owned joint venture arrangement to scale the business proposition and take it to the open market, targeting major global contracts. The small management team were set to become shareholders and the business plan revenue numbers were in the billions of pounds.

Defining moments

First, there was a change of the facilities management company UK CEO. The incoming CEO, who had arrived from the international division of the organization sent a lengthy introduction open email to all employees explaining how he was going to create a successful future for the company. Within a week, he had left the business over an alleged historic scandal and the company chose to ‘batten down the hatches’ to focus on the core catering business. The embryonic new business concept was shut down before its first breath and my role was made redundant.

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” Epictetus

The beginning

It was August 2005, and the above experience was the encouragement to set up, for want of a better term, a management consultancy business. The decision was based more on intuition than on a considered business plan and was informed by the following:

• a personal passion for customer service, the importance of front-line people and creation of admired brands.
• success in several senior leadership roles, both with large corporate organizations and smaller entrepreneurial companies.
• experience at Managing Director/General Manager level with a deep understanding of operational delivery and several specialist support functions, particularly Marketing and HR as well as Sales, Finance, Health & Safety, Property Management, Revenue Management, and others.
• a wide network of business connections.
• a realization that frustration with the way in which decisions were made in large corporate organizations kept being repeated.
• a desire to work with progressive service organizations who wanted to be leaders in their market or sector.

The business name came easily. It needed to indicate a focus on people delivering great customer service and the strength of an organization’s brand identity. It needed to have potential to scale internationally and, ideally, would be a name with a unique quality. SERVICE BRAND GLOBAL was born, and quickly became SERVICEBRAND GLOBAL, and the invented word ‘SERVICEBRAND’ was registered as a trademark.

Initially, it seemed like a good idea to offer support and advice to senior leaders of service sector organizations in a wide range of areas to improve their businesses, but it soon became clear that this ‘jack of all trades’ approach was not compelling when people were usually seeking a solution to a specific challenge or problem.

A three-month contract to lead a cultural transformation for the corporate real estate division of an investment bank for their London office provided some thinking space to develop a more coherent, packaged, or productised service offering, rather than basing the proposition on personal expertise, knowledge, and service.

The creative thinking process to develop and articulate the offer was a replay of the approach used in various leadership roles over the previous twenty years. Significant business impact and success had been achieved repeatedly so the task was to draw out the common threads of how this had been achieved.

Core themes

One strong core theme was a combination of theory and practice: understanding the theory which helped to underpin successful practical outcomes, applying theory in practice and, finally, understanding the relationship between the two.

Personal experience of working with various business models or frameworks (e.g., EFQM Excellence model, Hospitality Assured, IiP, and the Service Profit chain) had also been beneficial. The key insight was the value of having an overarching organization framework to support general management of the business instead of allowing an approach more reliant on individual functions and the organization structure.

These frameworks helped to join up the functions of business horizontally and vertically i.e., actively involving all members of the team and keeping them focussed on the priorities for the business as a whole. Other areas which had helped to create improved business performance were putting in place various common operating systems and processes including communication channels and employing methods to capture measurement and insight.

Evolution

The concept development process helped to identify that the first time the SERVICEBRAND approach had been used in its (almost) full form was at the City of London’s leading conference venue in 1996 (yet without knowing it) and then at a five-star hotel and country club. There was more conscious application with the facilities management company operating one of the Big Four bank’s UK offices portfolio.

In the seventeen years since the ‘beginning’, the SERVICEBRAND approach has been refined and developed alongside the use of a set of associated tools, some proprietary and others in collaboration with partners. Various projects have been delivered at different levels across industry sectors.

At one end of the scale, the framework has been applied in its entirety in large corporate organizations on a global or regional basis with a variety of workstreams over a two to three-year period. At the other end of the scale, much smaller, sometimes single location organizations have chosen to focus on one ‘Element’ of the SERVICEBRAND approach and perhaps even one specific tool e.g. 31Practices.

What all of the clients in these organizations have in common, is a progressive mindset and a recognition that a values-driven approach to a team of brand ambassadors delivering a memorable customer experience can be an immensely powerful way to achieve sustained performance. Both larger and smaller projects have received industry awards.

In 2018, the word SERVICEBRAND became trademarked in US and in EU.

It has been quite a journey so far, time flies when you are having fun. And there are still more adventures to be had with a retreat concept, a customer experience training program partnership and a global visual arts initiative all forming!

Building a Community at Work

We are social beings and find isolation challenging. This simple statement is well understood, yet the damaging nature of a lack of interaction and connection with others seems underrepresented and underestimated.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic brought to the forefront issues of isolation and loneliness. It highlighted the stress we feel when our sense of community and connection is taken away. The impact can be immediate and is detrimental to varying degrees. Our mental health and sense of well-being is affected as well as our personal and professional relationships.

Hybrid work is now becoming a new reality for many organizations. So how can we build a sense of community among different people that aren’t necessarily inhabiting the same physical space?

Why stress matters

Stress comes in many forms and is a natural reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure. The great philosophers suggest we need a certain amount of eustress to feel pushed and driven to overcome the challenges of life. However, too much stress seriously impacts our health, both physical and mental.

We might feel anxious, doubt our self-worth, feel irritable and be unpleasant to be around. All these things affect our ability to work well in teams and further push us towards greater isolation and loneliness. Loneliness and lack of connection are distressing, causing greater levels of stress that, in turn, create behaviours that result in further isolation. It is a vicious downward spiral.

Even before the Covid pandemic, stress related illnesses were a leading cause of hospital admissions in the UK, costing over £8bn in 2019.

Getting connected

In a pre-pandemic world, in countries like UK, we are likely to spend 9 and half years over the course of our lifetimes in the company of the people we work with. If workplaces no longer provide this connection, we will become distanced from one another. The part of us that desires a sense of community, that doesn’t want to be isolated, might start to feel stressed in this situation.

Good company culture isn’t just about employees doing a job. Its about connecting employees to an overarching sense of meaning and purpose, that makes them valued, involved, and fulfilled, while working with others to achieve a goal.

There is nothing wrong with having a strong individual work ethic. Some people are better equipped to work alone. But individualism has its limitations. No matter how frequently you might hear workplace rhetoric about being ‘the only person for the job’ or ‘doing it myself, because others won’t get it right’, ultimately, performance is delivered by people working with other people.

Building community

Building community within any organization is about more than an office pizza day or a zoom coffee morning check in session. Henry Mintzberg highlights the importance of ‘communityship’ Rebuilding Companies as Communities (hbr.org) and shares these lessons:

1. Community building in an organization may best begin with small groups of committed managers.

2. The sense of community takes root as the managers in these groups reflect on the experiences they have shared in the organization.

3. The insights generated by these reflections naturally trigger small initiatives that can grow into big strategies.

4. As these initial teams promote change, they become examples for other groups that spread communityship throughout the organization.

5. An organization knows that communityship is firmly established when its members reach out in socially active, responsible, and mutually beneficial ways to the broader community.

In summary, Minzberg refers to a healthy society balancing leadership, communityship, and citizenship.

I can relate this concept of communityship to several roles in corporate organizations and cultural transformation projects. In all these situations, the goal was to create a strong sense of community spirit, for every member of the team to feel a sense of belonging and value, and to be proud of what the team was achieving. There were several pillars that enabled this. They might have looked different for different situations but shared these common underpinnings:

1. A clear, well communicated statement of the team vision
2. The importance of every person’s contribution
3. Interdependence
4. Everybody had a voice even if not everyone could decide
5. Acknowledgement of the person (not just the role they performed)
6. Respect and support collective decisions (even if you do not agree personally)
7. Recognise and celebrate achievements
8. Share disappointments and learn for next time
9. Equity and no ‘seniority privilege’

These principles have been applied and been effective in a single business unit, multi-site organizations, a large global organization in different locations around the world and even in ‘extended team’ settings such as supply chain service partner groups.

This collection of research in the area will be an interesting follow on read for those who are curious to know more Workplace Communities: The Research (cultivateall.com)

SERVICEBRAND

At SERVICEBRAND Global, we believe in creating a sense of community in organizations. The SERVICEBRAND approach and associated tools and techniques enable this. When your business runs in an interconnected way, your employees will be happier, more motivated, and far more efficient and productive. They will be loyal and proud ambassadors for your business. If you are struggling to build a strong company community, why not see what SERVICEBRAND Global can do for you?

Values as a Competitive Differentiator

“Authentic brands don’t emerge from marketing cubicles or advertising agencies. They emanate from everything the company does…” Howard Schultz, Pour Your Heart into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time

It is no secret that we live in an oversaturated market for many products and services. Every day, businesses and organizations compete for our attention. We are constantly bombarded by advertisements, product placement and subliminal messaging.

As a result, the majority of us forget a brand’s advertising attempts within three days of seeing it. The functionality of intelligent tools that let us search for whatever we need, whenever we need it, also plays a roll in this mass forgetting. We don’t need to remember where anything was or if it was good, because we have tools to access all that information.

So, if people aren’t really connecting to the branding and marketing for your products and services, how can you maintain their loyalty for the long term?

Setting up for success

Brand awareness can be complicated to measure correctly. Especially if you are unsure about what to measure in the first place, or how to properly extract meaningful insights from the data you gather.

Your connection to your customers and service users is about more than the product or service you are trying to sell them. People need a sense of feeling that they can connect with. They like to feel like their purchasing decisions matter and are more likely to support organizations whose values align closely with their own.

Do you know what your organization values? Is there a set of well thought out and simply defined values that are core to the way you do business? Critically, are those values communicated in a consistent way, not just verbally, but in every action and behaviour across the organization?

Benefits of knowing your Values

There is near limitless choice for customers. Anything we want we can get, and from multiple organizations.

We are motivated by story lines and remember them far longer, for the way they made us feel, than if we are told a series of facts about the product or service. The cost or functionality of a product or service can be replicated easily by competitors. When your organizational values are the foundation of every interaction your customers will have with you, they become a powerful differentiator which is not easily copied.

Consistency is key

Having values that set you apart is only as good as your ability to send that message to your customers and other stakeholders in a consistent way. The experience someone is having of your organization should reflect your values in action and behaviour and it should be the same at every point of service. As you can imagine, this is no easy task, but when your organization gets this right, it will help you to improve stakeholder loyalty and performance and drive sustained profitability.

Finding the flow

Imagine a time when everyone in your organization is in full alignment with your values. Your employees don’t have to wait or go through countless steps of approval before acting. They embody and live your organizational values in every moment of their working day. They are clear about the behaviours expected and what is not acceptable. They are trusted to do the right thing without micromanagement.

The key to achieving this outcome is alignment across the areas of Brand Identity, Employee Engagement and Customer Experience, supported by Systems & Processes and Measurement & Insight. This is the SERVICEBRAND approach which has delivered measurable success across a balanced scorecard of business measures for organizations in different sectors, of different sizes and in different geographies.

SERVICEBRAND

At SERVICEBRAND Global, we believe that your organizational values set you apart. We can help you figure out the values sitting at the heart of your mission and show you how to bring these to life with all stakeholders. When used well, values can build transform business performance. Why not see what we can do for you?

Tools to Manage Customer Unhappiness

Is it admirable to pursue a business model or strategic plan that aims to ensure all your customers are happy all the time? Or is this approach unrealistic, leaving your organization open to criticism and self-doubt when faced with genuine customer dissatisfaction and unhappiness?

It is perfectly natural for customers and service users to be upset, frustrated, or annoyed from time to time. Sometimes this will be because of a specific incident with your organization. Other times, their interaction with you, was merely the last straw, before they reached their tipping point. The building frustration might have been caused just by your organization or by your organization and others. And sometimes, the issue might be related to other factors the customer is dealing with that has nothing at all to do with your organization.

Managing the unhappiness of others is complicated enough at a personal level, let alone in a professional setting. Knowing how to de-escalate difficult situations, with understanding, empathy, and emotional intelligence, gives the best chance of even the most unhappy customers being willing to give you another chance and remain loyal to your brand. To encourage you to strive for this, research indicates that customers who have had a problem resolved well are more loyal than customers who have had no issue in the first place.

What not to do

We have all had a bad customer experience and you can probably think of recent examples with little effort. Some businesses and brands seem to have a mindset that you can’t please everyone and don’t try very hard to mitigate customer unhappiness (anyone thinking budget airlines here?)

“Expectation is the root of all heartache.” This explains why we feel unhappiness to a greater degree when let down personally or by an organization or service that we believed had good character. Our values play a key role in how we align ourselves to others. When something we trusted to behave a certain way lets us down, we feel that far more acutely than with an organization we know has a poor track record.

Set the tone

It is often the case that we don’t recognise what matters to us until we feel the lack of it. Empathy is one such critical value, whose absence is felt deeply. 83% of people want to feel connected with organizations in a compassionate and empathic way. Lack of empathy is cited as a motivating factor in switching business to a competitor.

Before you can resolve any potential issues, your customers must be able to trust that you will listen to them when they try to voice their dissatisfaction. Becoming confrontational, adversarial, aggressive, or rude to customers that are unhappy, risks losing them forever. One way to communicate this within the organization is that complaints, dissatisfaction, and constructive criticism are precious and welcomed. This feedback is what helps the organization to improve the service delivered to customers. If you know about it, you can take action. If you don’t know, you cannot take action. The following six step model has been used in demanding customer service environments with remarkable results:

Listen

The first step in dealing with an unhappy customer is to listen to them. Don’t talk over them, rush them, or immediately try to prove why they are wrong. Foster a deeper understanding by truly listening to why they feel so hurt and unhappy.

When people feel heard, they feel valued. A customer that feels valued and understood is far more likely to be forgiving and remain loyal to you. Keep yourself open to hearing their truth. We all interpret truth in different ways. Even if you immediately know the customer is mistaken, they will likely have been holding a great deal of tension around talking with you. If you cut them off before they can explain and release it, that angry, sadness and frustration are likely to come out anyway, often directed towards the customer service agent or call handler instead.

Empathize
Once you have listened to the customer and understood how they feel about the situation, you can show empathy. Put yourself in their shoes. Demonstrate how you care about their feelings and the situation and want to help them. Customers respond to honesty. When you act with humility and understanding, it becomes easier for them to understand that even if you aren’t sure, you are actively willing to help them resolve their issue. It shows you care and will work to achieve the best possible outcome for them.

Apologize
This does not mean that you and your organization are accepting responsibility for every situation. It is your apology for the customer experiencing an unpleasant situation with negative emotions. Of course, if your organization is clearly at fault, it is best to own up to this.

React
Respond quickly, so that customers feel someone is watching out for them. Even a simple acknowledgement to buy time to diagnose the customer’s issue can help. Second, don’t shy away from responding to unhappy customers, even if you can’t immediately resolve their issue. Finally, even small gestures such as having agents sign their names or initials creates immediate value for your business. How Customer Service Can Turn Angry Customers into Loyal Ones

Notify
It is of limited benefit for customer issues to be resolved, even successfully, if other customers continue to experience similar problems. There needs to be a process in the organization to capture the details of what has happened, identify the root cause and take corrective action.
It can also be helpful to notify the customer of the improvements made so that they understand how the issue they raised has been dealt with and other customers will not have the same poor experience.

The above approach is referred to as the LEARN model and at a working session with a group of hospitality managers one of the attendees suggested a final additional step which has been added to form the LEARNT model. This is to thank the customer for raising the matter in the first place, expressing the importance of knowing about issues so that action can be taken.

SERVICEBRAND

At SERVICEBRAND Global we believe in dealing with customer unhappiness and frustration in an open, empathic, and honest way. We recognise the importance of customer loyalty and consider lifetime value rather than focus on short term costs. We also strive for customers to play the role of advocates for organizations rather than the role of a saboteur. This is of particular importance in our super connected world of the internet and social media where customers can communicate their thoughts and feelings in a heartbeat to millions oof people around the world…. And you have no idea of their reach.

You might be experiencing high levels of customer complaints or low levels of customer loyalty. Or you just might be curious to know what the positive impact on business performance could be of improved customer service and loyalty. Either way, get in touch to see how we could help you build better practices in your organization.

Cultural Alignment


Understanding the terminology around Culture, Values and Alignment can be a challenge. This is a highly subjective area and, as such, every leader, employee, service partner and customer might have a different perspective on what certain words mean and which behaviours are appropriate or not.

Can your Values align with that of the organization without being a cultural fit? Or do you have to fit in with the company culture to be aligned with the organization?

What do you mean?

Being a cultural fit can be interpreted in different ways, but at its heart, the meaning is about how well an individual fits in with the rest of the organization, while retaining their authentic and normal self. The trouble starts when different individuals champion their understanding of what fits as the only right way or feel forced to change their everyday behaviours to fit in with other people.

It is a fine balance, but the bottom line is that speaking to the nature of your culture doesn’t make it so. This is especially the case if customers and employees are having a different experience entirely.
On the one hand, leaning too heavily on one idea of what organizational culture should be can cause problems. Sometimes it helps to investigate the true personality or nature of the organization’s culture from all perspectives. On the other hand, leadership need to grasp that it is their responsibility to create the desired culture and can have a strong influence. We love the quote from Steve Gruenert and Todd Whitaker that “The culture of any organization is shaped by the worst behavior the leader is willing to tolerate.”

The right people

The happier and more connected employees feel while working, the more likely they are to remain with your organization and to be consistently productive. Just because someone is occupying physical space doesn’t mean they are interested or engaged to be there. Take the time to find people that really connect with and love what they are doing. It is not rocket science that this investment of time is paid back over and over again.

Employees that aren’t a good cultural fit can also be damaging to the overall health of the organization. When people don’t mesh well together, conflict and toxic behaviours arise that can spread quickly. In a short time, there can be a widespread bad feeling about engaging with the business, even with those who are a good cultural fit.

What culture fit isn’t

Organizations seeking to create culture-based hiring strategies often look to the skills and personalities of their ‘successful’ (through one lens of success) people. They think it will be a simple process to identify those traits and then match external applicants against them.

The big problem with basing culture fit on skills and personality is that you end up with carbon copy employees that think and act in incredibly similar ways. Diversity is a proven generator of innovation. Having a wide mix of differing personalities, skills, and abilities, creates the ideal melting pot for continued growth and longevity within an organization.

Desiring a specific kind of culture, should never amount to creating barriers that certain people cannot pass. When companies like Abercrombie and Fitch for example created their ‘look policy’ a toxic culture of exclusion was created for anyone that didn’t fit that mould. Now this policy has finally been removed, it opens the way for innovators to rebuild the brand into something that can be enjoyed by everyone.

The Value of Values

So, if designing culture around personality can lead to problems, and the same is true for skills, what can you do?

Values are the best starting point for any cultural design. When you study and understand what it is you truly Value and how your organization wants to bring that Value to the world, you create the perfect beacon with which to attract other likeminded people to share in your vision.

People can share common Values while embodying a multitude of different skills and personality types. If your organization designs its cultural fit around Values alignment, you’ll end up with the best people for you, all working towards a common goal.

In this way the gender divide, the age gap, reductive beliefs around people with disabilities in the workplace, all fall away in pursuit of finding people that live the way of being you value the most.

SERVICEBRAND

At SERVICEBRAND Global, we believe in placing Values at the heart of everything an organization does. Whether you already know what your Values are, or if you are at the beginning of your journey and would like to identify your values, we can assist in the creation and implementation of strategic designs that see your organization create the best cultural alignment possible. The key is alignment across the organization, vertically and horizontally. We have specific proven tools and approaches to do this. If you are stuck in a toxic situation or just wish to understand a bit more about the Value of Values, why not connect with us and see what we can do for you?

Organizational Alignment and Growth

Organizations are becoming more aware of the value alignment can bring in increasing profitability, employee retention and customer satisfaction. Research suggests that highly aligned organizations are 72% more profitable and grow revenue 58% faster than non-aligned ones. When your strategic plan, company culture, employees and customers are all aligned with your purpose and values, the chances of growth are significantly enhanced.

So how do you choose which area to focus on first? Knowing where to start building alignment can be a challenge.

Slow down to arrest momentum

Understandably, many leaders start with energy and enthusiasm to develop new strategies to create improved alignment. However, one area that is frequently overlooked is the impact of the ‘status quo’. How are your current strategic plans affecting organizational culture, customer experience and employee engagement? If misaligned strategies have been pulling your business off course, it is important to deal with these. ‘There’s no point hoisting new sails if you’re still laying anchor.’

The key here is to understand the impact of a change in one specific area on other parts of the organization. For example, if you put in place a productivity initiative to enable call centre team members to handle more calls, what is the knock-on impact on their behaviour and, ultimately customer perception/satisfaction?

When you begin to understand the interplay between all parts of your organization, it makes it easier to identify points of friction and drag. These challenges can be expensive in terms of money, time, effort, morale, and employee turnover and impede growth and development of the organization.

Building on strategies

Having a clear strategy will help provide direction for everybody in the organization. A focus on the purpose and values of the business will provide a strong foundation to build a strategy on. It will create a compelling reason for employees to want to work with you, and for customers and service users to want to engage with you. However, an inspiring vision on its own is not enough. It must be supported with a strategic plan that is believable and achievable.

There will be issues with an alignment approach if leaders are not honest and transparent about their motivating factors. For example, it is fine to have a focus on profitability but, if this is the case, avoid stating your vision and purpose as being one of service to the community just because you are trying to create a harmonious and aligned culture.

Take time to consider deeply what it is you are offering, and why. When you truly know the why, finding people that are interested in achieving that same purpose will become easier. Once employees are in alignment with your purpose and values, they can become the best sales force and brand ambassadors you could ask for.

Alignment and Culture

One of the reasons alignment fails is the lack of harmony between the espoused culture employees and customers think they are engaging with and how things operate in reality. Time should be taken to capture measurement and insight about the perceptions of various stakeholder groups (customers, employees, service partners, investors, local communities) and their behaviour (through monitoring and observation).

Organization culture exists, whether this is by default or by conscious design, is up to you. How can you expect to scale your business as successfully as brands like McDonalds or Starbucks, if you don’t understand how everything is planned? Why would anybody expect to create alignment, assist flow, and make scaling and growth a natural and inevitable result, rather than something that is a constant struggle?

High performance needs high performers

Growth comes when we find the right people to tend to our vision. People that share the same or similar ideals and values to us, that can find a home and purpose by aligning themselves with our organisation.

Values are difficult to teach. It is far easy to make it clear what you stand for and let people who feel the same come to you. How you attract employees and engage them will play a key role in driving their performance and thus your growth. If you’re company culture or strategic planning are lacking, alignment will quickly dip, as the employee realises your organisation isn’t the beacon, they had been looking for to help achieve their own desires for a meaningful and purposeful life.

SERVICEBRAND

At SERVICEBRAND GLOBAL, we believe in fully understanding the relationship between alignment and growth. We want to help organizations understand what is holding them back and how to create strategies, cultures and performance that will keep them on the cutting edge of their chosen industry. If you are looking for help in understanding how to elevate your organization to one of consistent alignment and growth, why not see what we can do for you?

Why Do Organizational Values Matter?

There are numerous benefits for organizations in declaring a set of core values that embody the way you wish to go about achieving your mission or purpose. Driving collaboration and teamwork between likeminded individuals is one. Streamlining decision-making process by aligning everyone with the same ideals about the way the organization does business is another.

One of the most powerful aspects of having a strong set of organizational values is the ability to communicate who you are and what you stand for to your stakeholders. This is the case for customers, employees, service partners, investors and local communities. In the emerging paradigm we refer to as the Values Economy, successful organizations will establish a sense of shared values with all stakeholder groups. When everyone knows what your organization believes in and trusts you mean it, they have no reason to go anywhere to have their needs met. Nothing creates brand loyalty faster than trust.

Who are you?

Around 82% of people believe that a good and well understood set of values can give an organization a competitive edge. It is no wonder that so many leaders are desperate to tick this box.

But simply laminating some words and putting them up on the wall, doesn’t create a successful values-based organization. To know what you value, you must first know what you stand for. Our values are never more consciously present than when they are being tested, or when we succeed.

You cannot copy another organization’s values and expect to achieve the same outcomes. Effective values statements reflect the truth at the heart of the company. They are unique and not transferrable.

It is important to follow a robust process to explore the essence of the organization. Why does the organization exist? What does it hold true to the core and will never give up? What differentiates it from others? If you are people driven, your values will reflect this, and, if you are profit driven, that is fine too. Values are neither good nor bad, they are an expression of what matters to us. For example, if money/financial performance/return on shareholder value is important above all else, it is better to be honest about this. You might discourage some people, but you will also attract the kind of customers and service users who are aligned with that kind of value ideal. What is critical is to avoid a situation where you claim that the organization stands for something and then does not live up to this with behaviours and decisions that are made by employees (all levels).

Who do we want to be?

Once you know who you are, it is easier to decide where you would like to go. You can develop a purpose statement and set of values that will serve as a beacon for every stakeholder that engages with your organization. Now is the time for clarity and simplicity. Have confidence in the words used by the people in your organization rather than feel drawn to copy and paste other people’s values. The words need to be yours. Then when you have the concise wording, give thought to how this can be communicated to every person in the organization and, more importantly, put into practice.

Community Culture

Organizations are effectively a community, comprising of the various stakeholder groups. Just like in the rest of the world, there are healthy, flourishing communities and less healthy ones. When you articulate your values, it makes it easier for likeminded people to find and align themselves with your purpose and what you stand for.

The notion of improvement and growth is applied and understood in most areas of business. So how do you apply this to the area of values in your organization? What perception do your various stakeholders have of how well your organization’s employees live up to the stated values? If you do not know the answer to this question, how can you take action to make improvements? If your values are important to you, why would you not measure your performance? We offer a corevaluescore survey which provides a snapshot of stakeholder perception of the way in which your organizational values are lived in practice.

Remember that, as with personal values, organizational values might adapt, change, and grow. Over time, the organization will be presented with new situations, opportunities, and challenges. Sometimes the core values will remain the same but might manifest themselves in different ways. In certain situations, you might feel that there is a need to re-examine or refresh your values. The key point is, from time to time, to ask the question “Are our values (and associated behaviours) still relevant and reflect our essence?”

SERVICEBRAND GLOBAL

At SERVICEBRAND GLOBAL we believe strongly in the power of organizational values. We have been delivering award-winning projects with measurable impact in this area internationally and in UK for nearly twenty years. When values are done well, they create shining beacons for employees, customers, and all stakeholders to follow. Not only that but values aligned employees and customers have much higher productivity and loyalty. You might be right at the start of your values journey or feel that it is time for a refresh, or you might be struggling to embed your values effectively in practice. Whatever stage you are at, we would love to help you take the next step so why not connect with SERVICEBRAND GLOBAL to see how we might help you create a healthier, values-driven company culture… in practice.

Creating Positive Organizational Culture

Culture is one of the key elements contributing to organizational success. A strong and sustainable culture makes it much easier to attract the kind of employees that fit. More importantly, it will keep them engaged. This will help you retain skilled and talented employees for longer.

Organizations that succeed in creating healthy workplace cultures, often find themselves a cut above the competition.

Where to begin?

It can be hard to know where to start, and difficult to admit that you might be getting it wrong. All too often we see organizations championing values like honesty, accountability, and respect. Yet, in the day to day, we do not see these values put into practice.

Employees that are punished for their honesty, are less like to be honest again. Unfair and uneven processes of accountability often breed resentment and demotivate employees from trying to do the right thing. Respect is a two-way street. You cannot demand what you refuse to give.

When starting the journey to a healthy and positive organizational culture, you must first consider what really matters to you. What is your organization’s purpose and values? Clarity about what you are trying to achieve and the way in which you want to achieve it provides a guiding compass that will sustain your business on its journey to success.

The value of different points of view

It is valuable to gain insight into what is important to a wide range of stakeholders, especially employees. This might be straightforward in a healthy, open culture and more of a challenge if you are attempting to fix a toxic culture. If your employees fear the leadership or management they work under, it will be harder to get an honest and unbiased answer. Getting to the truth of the real experience employees are having is critical to creating a positive culture.

Anonymous surveys can be a way to get genuine feedback. Prepare yourself though. Just because your employees aren’t complaining, doesn’t mean they are happy. They might be in fear of their losing their job or that horribly demotivating feeling of finally speaking up and still not being heard.

The way your employees see the organization is critical in understanding and exploring strategies to build more positive culture. Make sure to give them the time and space to express themselves. And try not to take how they feel personally. Your role as a leader is to create a safe and positive company culture through understanding, not blame-shift or deny the experiences of others, as they feel them. This is the same approach as encouraging and receiving feedback from customers.

Painting the right picture

Think of the creation of a healthy culture being like an artist painting a picture. They both take a delicate balance of structured planning and attention to detail to deliver the best result. Too little structured planning and the ‘canvas’ will become a jumbled mess, too much attention to detail and it will take too long to finish for fear of getting it wrong.

Navigating the path between those behaviours you wish to encourage and those that you must make clear cannot be tolerated is a complex one. Pay close attention to the way you train and teach what is unacceptable behaviour. If you train your employees too strictly over minor infractions, you risk creating a group of disengaged people that will likely only perform when they know you are watching. On the other hand, as Steve Gruenert and Todd Whitaker state “The culture of any organization is shaped by the worst behaviour the leader is willing to tolerate.” It is a fine line.

Culture informed processes

Once you know your purpose and values, you can start to design processes that will eventually create a self-sustaining loop of positive culture. When you know what you value you can start to look for people that are already aligned with similar values. Your recruitment processes should always look for the right ‘fit’ for the company culture. Rather than talking about the organization’s values, you can reflect and reinforce the values in the process itself.

Skills can be learned, trained for, and developed overtime, but our values are wholly unique to our individual life experience. It is far better for your organization’s longevity and profitability to hire people that work well within the kind of positive culture you wish to create, than it is to hire an incredible seller or customer service agent that doesn’t work well in a team.

SERVICEBRAND GLOBAL

At SERVICEBRAND GLOBAL, we believe in creating bespoke strategies that focus on understanding purpose and values to drive organizational alignment. We don’t believe in copy and paste organizational cultures. We want to help you create a self-sustaining positive culture in the workplace that lets you get the best out of your employees because they are valued and part of a team. Why not see what SERVICEBRAND GLOBAL can do for you!

How to Create an Encouraging Workplace Culture

Creating a culture of encouragement and support in your organization can be a challenge. Successful culture isn’t about maintaining positivity 100% of the time. It is more about employees feeling a sense of belonging, being part of something and contributing that is valued. They need to feel that they can engage with leadership in a common cause to achieve the organization’s vision and objectives. When employees feel seen and heard, it bolsters confidence to face challenges and improves resilience to overcome setbacks, knowing they are supported.

The pitfalls of positivity

It is not possible to maintain a positive attitude 100% of the time, group-wide or individually. It is also important to understand that everyone is unique and does not fit a standard mould when it comes to positive thought and action.

Leaders have a responsibility as well as a privilege to ‘set the tone’ in an organization. Encouragement at an individual level is key. When positivity is enforced without focusing on encouragement at an individual level, employees can lose their sense of self-worth and self-belief, leading to potential burn out. Toxic positivity is a leading cause of demotivation among employees. Telling someone to be happy, doesn’t make it a reality. On the other side of the coin, leaders can exert significant positive impact on any event. Employees welcome honest presentation of the facts (even when this might not be comfortable), an inclusive approach to identifying potential solutions and are generally motivated to make an improvement. If your employees are struggling to maintain a natural and balanced sense of positivity in the workplace, it is your role as a leader to discover why this is the case.

Leaders lead… in practice

It can be tempting for leaders in organizations to think that their role is to focus on the future and planning. Of course, this is true… but not at the expense of becoming disconnected from the need to support day to day operational delivery. Employees need the right tools to do the job alongside the encouragement to overcome challenges. It is a key leadership role to make this happen, and, if or where this is not possible, to agree another approach. Pretending the challenge does not exist is not an option. In general, employees want to do a good job. Of course, human error happens but usually when something goes wrong, the reason is a business process that is not fit for purpose, inadequate tools, poor communication or similar. When you face these situations, resist the temptation to place blame and, instead, encourage people to understand what went wrong, why this happened, the impact of the situation, the importance of identifying a solution and how future repetition can be avoided.

Every voice matters

Building an encouraging organizational culture starts with listening. This can be scary for leaders who sometimes think there will be an expectation for them to address every issue raised. However, an open and practical approach is generally appreciated “It is so helpful that, with your valuable input, we have now identified a wide variety of issues that need to be addressed. The XYZ team has reviewed the list and conducted a high-level assessment to identify how we can focus our efforts for the best impact. I will share this plan, so you know what we are planning to do and when. Your ongoing input will be critical as we progress to get the best results.”

Employees are often our first point of contact with customers and service users. What they say and do, has a dramatic impact on how the organization is perceived by customers. Because of this proximity to customers, these employees are also the first people to know when something is not working, unfair or causing problems. These ‘eyes and ears on the ground’ are priceless, so grasp the opportunity to tap into this rich seam of knowledge and make employees an integral part of the decision-making process.

When you encourage your employees to speak up and practice listening to what they have to say, you’ll keep your fingers on the pulse of your organization. Recognise, affirm, and reward employees for bringing their voices and positive contributions to the table.

On another practical note, there will be a minority of outlandish or even inappropriate requests. Don’t allow these to knock you of course by giving them to much attention or airtime. This is where your judgement as a leader comes into play – humour can be a valuable tool in some (but not all!) situations.

Teamwork makes the dream work

Teams made up of people that think and act the same can be stagnant, uninspiring, and blind. Diversity of thought breeds innovation. What can you do to create more difference of people, background, character, and ideas?
Team building exercises and challenges are a well-established way to simulate the stress of a real crisis and give people the opportunity to bond, trust each other, and begin to trust their ability to get the job done. These kinds of exercises also give you the chance to model the kind of encouraging behaviour that you wish your employees to model – no derision if they make an error and, instead, supportive, and constructive feedback, encouraging them to try again when facing difficulties.

To create real value from this sort of activity, consider two points. First, team building shouldn’t only work horizontally. Vertical integration is pivotal in building the kind of lasting culture that sees strong teams trained to believe in their abilities and achieve greater results for the organization. Marriott’s Spirit to Serve program was a powerful global initiative founded on cross-functional and hierarchy workshops. The second point is to make sure that the team building experience and lessons is taken back into the organization, applied, and developed. Otherwise, these events can become a fond memory with no lasting impact on the organization.

SERVICEBRAND GLOBAL

At SERVICEBRAND GLOBAL we believe in the power of encouragement to create a healthy, flourishing and long lasting positive organizational culture. Perhaps you have an aspiration to build the kind of teams and culture proven to improve profitability, retention, and longevity or maybe you are struggling with your current organizational culture. Either way, why not see how SERVICEBRAND GLOBAL can help you create new and more meaningful ways of engaging with your employees.

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