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Shopping in a well known store which prides itself on its customer service we were rather startled to overhear the comments of one employee. Apologising for keeping a customer waiting whilst they emptied bags of change into the till they commented that in the past this would have been done for them but now the majority of their team members just dropped off the cash and walked away.
When the customer pointed to the prominent sign on the wall which promoted friendliness and helpfulness the staff member said that that sign related to customer service and that staff-to-staff relations were completely different. This gave pause for thought. Why in an organisation which prides itself on the employee buy-in and engagement would such a fundamental as team work and peer-relationships be so awry?
Of course it is possible that this problem existed just in that one store or even with that one individual but it does serve to highlight the fact that when looking at the culture of a company and at its employee engagement everyone matters. The danger is that when an organisation focuses on one particular aspect of its offering, the all-round vision is lost. So an organisation which is concentrating on building the levels of its employee engagement may concentrate on the employee/organisational relationship to the detriment of service levels and an organisation which focuses on customer service may lose sight of internal interactions.
Translating the vision into reality
To counter this danger it is vital that the leadership remains strong and vigilant in translating the vision into reality and in monitoring and aligning the culture to ensure it stays on track. In our website pages on cultural alignment we talk about business/employee alignment, about business/supplier alignment and about business/client alignment. But none of these work without fundamental shared understanding between employees.
Hiring for cultural fit
We are increasingly seeing a move towards hiring for cultural fit among those businesses which have embraced the potential to be gained from a strong organisational culture. Leaders are starting to recognise that the best candidates on paper may not be the best at producing results within the team. In truth it is surprising that this concept has taken so long to catch on in business. Sports managers have always looked for that elusive chemistry which turns individual talent into a cohesive winning team and without that cultural fit and spark some of the greatest rock bands of the past would simply be a few chaps playing music in their homes.
But hiring for cultural fit doesn’t mean that everyone has to be the same. Organisations are constantly enriched by a range of employees who all bring their own talents, ages and specialities to the mix. Uniting these individuals into a team which looks out for each individual and works for the benefit of the organisation is the challenge for all leaders.
Far too often when leaders look at culture and vision they concentrate on the hierarchical relationships. So we see comment about silo mentalities, poor team leadership, bullying or lack of engagement with the organisational aims. We may see talk about teamwork but it is usually in the context of the team failing to meet targets rather than individual interactions. And yet an organisation which looks to build a strong culture should be looking out for the benefit of all. Leaders need to consider inter-personal relationships and take steps to ensure that everyone is working for the benefit not just of the organisation but of each other. It is only then that a strong united culture can take on the world. So when you think about how you treat your customers or your suppliers or your subordinates, don’t forget your colleagues; they are people too.