Why Workplace Culture Matters

Does anyone think their business culture is a competitive advantage? If not, why not?

We typically hear about organizational culture in Human Resources circles or in the news when big headlines hit. But without an understanding of exactly how culture affects people and ultimately performance it’s easy to lose track of why a leader or a company might want to invest time and energy in developing it.

If working on a company culture didn’t actually do anything but make employees a bit happier at work, then one might think of it as a low business priority. After all, it takes time to build the necessary communication, hiring, rewards, and recognition infrastructure needed to make a culture successful.

We have seen some companies’ business cultures become so effective that they have even differentiated their company brand because of it.

Did you know, a positive and deliberate culture impacts performance?

• Companies with engaged employees outperform high performanceothers by 47% to 202% (Watson-Wyatt Research).
• Organizations with employee engagement scores in the top quartile had 18% higher productivity and 16% higher profits (Gallup).
• Highly engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave their organizations than highly disengaged employees. (Corporate Executive Board)

“Culture change led from the top and encompassing every part of the organization can deliver huge cost savings, improve performance, and boost profitability.” ~ Senn Delany

The 2006 Maritz® Customer Experience Study found 43% of all customers who defect do so because of customer service issues. The study also found 77% of the time those customers blamed employee attitude as the primary reason leading to their defection.

“A good culture is a competitive asset associated with economic performance” Almost 25% of the returns in sample companies were accounted for by the relative strength of their corporate culture. ~ Ronald Burt, University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Other research snippets you’ll see around the web on culture and happiness at work.
Happy employees:
- are 300% more innovative (HBR)
- have 50% less safety incidents (BMC)
- have 66% lower sick leave (Forbes)
- have 125% less burnout (HBR)

Next week we’ll be talking about the importance of trust when building customer relationships and how culture directly impacts trust.

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Quick tips to making things better at work

Gayle Watson By Gayle Watson

We often get questions about how to make things better at work or improve the company culture. This is a very broad question without knowing the specifics of each company’s situation. Often workplace culture journeys begin by conducting a culture assessment which gets into the details of your culture such as whether employees can even identify company values or not, but I’ll get into that in a later article.

The simplest response is, why not ask your team?business meeting

Get them involved, get them focused on ways the team can be better. This could involve anything; however it’s important that the discussion be about common goals. Therefore the assumed question is “how can we work well together towards a common goal”?

In the end workplace team improvements usually come down to two areas. First, issues around delivering the customer experience and second, issues around the team experience, both of these influence business results. It’s unreasonable to focus only on one without the other. You can’t just say, oh let’s have a happy team. The team needs to be focused on a goal.

To Get the discussion going.
Ask your team. What will make our team experience better?
Ask your team. What will it take to make the customer experience better?
Get the team focused on a common goal. Examples of common goals could be.

  • Being known as a great place to work.
  • Achieving high customer satisfaction scores.
  • Reducing costs and waste without sacrificing services.

If you really want to make an impression, begin implementing some of the team discussions so people know their views are being heard and addressed.

Every workplace culture is different, but having a team with similar values makes achievement of goals a lot easier. You can actually hire people with desired values if you know how. This is why we recommend the PeoplePix hiring tool which helps you hire people that match  your company values. You do have a company Values Blueprint established right? The Blueprint let’s everyone know the Values and the minimum set of behaviors that are expected from everyone in real terms everyone can understand and be held accountable for.


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Is a Values-Based Culture Worth the Effort?

Ann Rhoades

Ann Rhoades, Author of Built on Values

A high-performing culture doesn’t just happen. It can’t be forced into being through willpower. But it can become an inevitability if you create the right environment to foster it. We have found that to move to a positive, performance-enhancing culture, leaders simply need to model the values and behaviors they want to see in employees and create systems to reinforce those behaviors. Yes, it is simple conceptually. You can change culture by design if you remember that you can influence how your employees think.

Your corporate culture can actually elicit cooperation and commitment from employees, almost without their awareness, if your values are clear and your systems are properly designed to reinforce them.

And, perhaps surprisingly, a strong corporate culture can have a huge and direct impact on performance.

Roy Disney Quote

In the course of my work, I have become convinced that positive, people-centered corporate values lead to higher performance. Perhaps you have noticed that in the thirty-five years of its values-rich existence, Southwest Airlines is the only airline that has been profitable during every one of those years. Research similarly supports these findings. For example, Harvard professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter studied large market leaders worldwide that she calls “vanguard companies.” She has found that these companies have been able to nimbly deal with challenges and transform themselves when necessary because they are “fundamentally driven by a core set of values.”

A 2008 American Management Association study found that a “positive corporate culture” is associated with higher performance. And as far back as 1999, Ronald Burt suggested that a good culture was a “competitive asset associated with economic performance.” Burt, a professor of Sociology and Strategy at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, found that almost 25 percent of the return in his sample companies was accounted for by the relative strength of their corporate culture. More recently, a study of thirty large corporations over the past five years by consulting firm Senn Delany in Los Angeles showed that …

Culture change ”led from the top and encompassing every part of the organization can deliver huge cost savings, improve performance, and boost profitability.”

Too many leaders, though, feel that corporate culture is a low priority, especially when compared to running the business day-to-day. My colleagues in culture-rich companies would respectfully disagree. “The best companies-those with clearly articulated values and a sense of direction-have a constant sense of urgency but they’re not frantic and under enormous stress,” noted Joel Peterson, chairman of the board of JetBlue and former CEO, Trammell Crow. Is your company like an emergency room, he asks, a survival culture that’s just trying to keep the company alive or maximize sales or new product development? That works great for a while, but your best people will burn out eventually. Remember, the best employees-your A Players-have options, no matter what the economy is like. In the war for talent, as in the war for profit, culture does make a difference.


This post is an excerpt of chapter one from the Book Built on Values by Ann Rhoades (Business culture designer)


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How to Create a Customer-Centered Corporate Culture

By Micah Solomon, a customer service speaker, customer service consultant, author and entrepreneur.   His latest book is  High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service. 

A strong, consciously developed pro-customer (and pro-employee) company culture is a business advantage that will serve you for years—and inoculate you against competitive inroads.  And unlike other business advantages, a strong company culture is almost entirely knockoff-proof.  Why?  Your competitors can be 100% relied on to not take the time to focus on the long-time-frame commitment needed to build one.

Here’s why a focus on culture is so powerful in ensuring success with customers:

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Yahoo – Telecommuting Culture Gone Wrong?

What’s really wrong at Yahoo?

Ann Rhoades

Ann Rhoades, Author of Built on Values

By Ann Rhoades

Recently Yahoo announced that it was canceling employee work from home arrangements for all employees. The resulting criticism has been varied but certainly loudest from employees. Critics point out the downside to employees such as productivity losses, commuting headaches, child care costs, and other increased employee costs as reasons for their dismay. From an employee relations point of view this policy change has been a viewed negatively and comes during a time when tech companies like Google are bending over backwards to keep a happy workforce.

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Company Focus: The Company that Culture Built-Infusionsoft

Companies who are living their values and exemplifying the concept of a high performing people-centric culture deserve recognition.  They serve as an example to model, learn from, and even envy. Today’s company focus in on technology company Infusionsoft “The company that culture built”

At Peopleink, we are pleased to see Infusionsoft’s focus, from day one, on building an exemplary culture through lived values Continue reading

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The Value of a Chief Culture Officer in Your Company

By Kyle Lagunas, guest writer.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)/Globoforce Winter 2012 employee recognition survey reported that 90% of the 770 HR leaders surveyed identified culture management as an important or very important challenge for their organization. To help address this challenge, more companies are hiring culture leaders or adding responsibilities to existing roles within the company. But should this role fall on one person or or does it reside with everyone in an organization?

corporate culture right Continue reading

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Five techniques to vastly improve your interviewing and hiring results

We’ve talked in prior articles about the importance of consistently living company values through clearly defined behaviors and why this is important. Today’s article is HOW TO select people who fit the values you have defined for your company.

Later in this article we have a product recommendation for you that makes the hiring process simpler and more effective. This product is directed towards the hospital and healthcare industries yet the principles discussed next can be applied to any company.

Are you still using ineffective interview techniques that don’t deliver the best results?

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Psychology At Work-Happy Employees Give Better Customer Service

By Alexa Thompson. (Alexa writes for an online psychology resource providing prospective students and professionals with useful information about the study of psychology.)

Employees give what they receive.

Businesses understand what good customer service is but are sometimes disappointed when delivery of a product or service is combined with poor employee attitudes.  Clearly customer service training and expertise is important in delivering a positive customer experience but how does the environment employees work in affect customer service? Is it reasonable to expect employees to provide a great customer experience when their managers are disgruntled or working conditions are tough? Businesses who want more than just a warm body to provide customer service might look at how internal company management affects employee attitudes and end customer outcomes. Continue reading

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5 Steps to Creating a Values-Rich Organizational Culture

Instilling values requires more than writing on the wall.

Ann Rhoades

Author, Business Leader, Speaker

by Ann Rhoades

Just by looking at the behavior of leaders, you can tell what the values of a company really are. And all too often, those lived values bear almost no resemblance to the stated values — those lofty statements painted on the walls or sanctified in a mission statement. Many leaders want to believe that all they need to do is proclaim a set of values, and culture will magically change, but that does nothing to retool the actual values that inspire the day-to-day actions of employees on the front line.

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A Customer Service Culture-Congratulations to JetBlue Airways Award

Congratulations jet Blue on another customer service award.

Below is a June 13th letter from David Barger of JetBlue Airways informing crew members of the eighth consecutive J.D. Powers award for highest customer satisfaction.

JetBlue continues to astound.

If your looking for an example of how organizational culture can drive performance & customer satisfaction, look at JetBlue Airways. Continue reading

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Built On Values-Candidate for 2011 Book Award

Ann Rhoades’ Book on Organizational Culture becomes an Award Candidate

business book awardsThanks to everyone who has purchased the book Built On Values-Creating an enviable culture that outperforms the competition  by Ann RhoadesPeople Ink has received positive feedback from business leaders, companies, and clients about the value and usefulness of the book.  It is now a candidate for the 2011 800-CEO-READ Business Book Awards.  Nominees for the the 2011 awards are posted here

The winning books, authors, and publishers from the categories of Marketing and Sales, General Business, Entrepreneurship and Small Business, Finance and Economics, Innovation and Creativity, Leadership, Management, and Personal Development will be announced in January 2012. Continue reading

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Values-Based Culture The New Hot Topic in Business Management?

Values Based Leadership and Cultures Based Upon Values is now apparently Hot.

A recent online article by The Economist Magazine reports that Walmart is trying to instill a “Values-Based” organizational culture. Congratulations. If you need help please call us :-)

“AS WALMART grew into the world’s largest retailer, its staff were subjected to a long list of dos and don’ts covering every aspect of their work. Now the firm has decided that its rules-based culture is too inflexible to cope with the challenges of globalisation and technological change, and is trying to instil a “values-based” culture, in which employees can be trusted to do the right thing because they know what the firm stands for.”    source The Economist Magazine Continue reading

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Employee Engagement Starts by Hiring “A” Players.

Gayle Watson, V.P. Of People Ink answers questions about employee engagement and organizational culture.

Employee Engagement and Management Practices.

Question: Lately I’ve been reading about employee engagement at work and strategies to help promote employee engagement. To me some employees seem more motivated about doing a good job and it’s not really a management issue. Do you think an engaged workforce is up to management or is it that some people are just more engaged because of the innate personal qualities they have such as integrity?

“Fundamentally, you have to have the right people working for you”

Gayle: Well, it’s both, but most importantly employee engagement comes down to hiring the right people, the people that reflect the Values of your organization. Of course you can do things to reinforce employee engagement, but fundamentally you have to have the right people and if you don’t have the right people, then you won’t be able to engage them.  There is a saying, that you can teach a squirrel to fly, but it’s easier to hire the eagle. Continue reading

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Defining Your Organization’s Values-A Step towards Intentional Workplace Culture

We recently received this question from a reader:

“I have a quick question….  I am working with a client to define “values.”  Bought your book and discovered that the Values Team is doing much of what you suggest, which is nice to learn! However, we are getting very hung up on what is a value, vs. a strategy.  I don’t find any distinguishing definitions in the book.  Any help?”

What are Organizational Values?

This is a great question and one we get asked frequently when we are facilitating Values Blueprint® Workshops. Organizational Values are those beliefs held so strongly that they drive people’s behavior and dictate how people interact with and treat each other. Values, together with their defined Behaviors, set the minimum expectation of behavior for everyone in your organization, and help to lay the ground work for your company’s culture. We call this set of Values and Behaviors a Values Blueprint®. If your organization has been working on its culture for some time, then all employees should be able to state your organization’s Values and describe the Behavior that is expected of them.

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Interview Strategy-Your Quest to Attract Top Talent

Hire the Best People with a Values-Based Interview Strategy

By: Ann Rhoades, author of Built on Values: Creating an Enviable Culture that Outperforms the Competition (Jossey-Bass, 2011.)

In your quest to attract top talent, are you hiring too many people who are just average? Why not let your best people help you select candidates who are a better fit for your corporate culture?

Getting your best people – your A Players – involved in the hiring process is a technique I call values interviewing, as part of a values-based hiring strategy.

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How Google has become one of the world’s most enviable workplaces

Can lava lamps and beanbags REALLY inspire innovation?

This is a guest post by Kursty Groves of EnviableWorkPlace.com (visit their site to read more interesting articles on workplace culture, design, creativity)

News travels fast when there’s a new cool office that’s been opened – especially when that office belongs to one of the most talked-about companies in the world: Google.  With about a billion requests processed per day by the ubiquitous search machine, Google’s bid to ‘organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’ is ever-becoming a reality.   But what’s just as remarkable as the bold business ambition is the expectations on what Google demands of its work spaces.

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Corporate Culture Award of Distinction to Juniper Networks.

Congratulations to Juniper Networks for making the list of World’s Most Ethical Companies for 2011.

We are very pleased that one of our former clients is being recognized among the top companies in the world. :-) What follows is  a letter written to Ann Rhoades of People Ink from Gregory Pryor, vice president of leadership and organization effectiveness at Juniper Networks.

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Ann Rhoades Overview of Values-Based Leadership.

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Ann Rhoades provides overview of Values-Based Organizational Leadership. Video.

What drives performance in values based organizations?

The basic model that we teach and use is that organizational leaders drive the values, values then drive the behaviors, the behaviors drive the culture, and the culture ultimately defines the performance.

Organizational leadership modelSuccessful Organizations are Predictable

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It’s Official- In Bookstores Now-Built on Values

By Ann Rhoades

It has been over a year in the making but my new book is finally out in book stores. Yippee!!  This is a photo from a local Barnes & Noble store. More photos will be forthcoming.   I would like to express my thanks to all the people who have helped bring this to publication including my partners, colleagues, clients, and friends whom I list in the book.  No book is written alone and for all those who have contributed I consider it our book.  My fervent wish is that the knowledge I have helped develop over the years will be useful to organizations looking to create a desirable work place where people are treated fairly and hopefully encouraged to reach both organizational and individual potential.

Normally I leave writing of books to the professors but with the many requests over the years to put our culture management model into print it seemed like a worthwhile endeavor and one that I believe people can take and literally apply within their organizations.  Look for more information, content, even videos in the near future.

built on values book

Our local Barnes & Noble

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Creating a Successful Corporate Culture-Q&A

The following excerpt was made through The Entrepreneurs’ Organization (a dynamic, global network of more than 7,500 business owners in 38 countries)

Q&A with Ann Rhoades, author of Built on Values: Creating an Enviable Culture that Outperforms the Competition.Based on Ann’s years of experience with JetBlue, Southwest and other companies known for their trailblazing corporate cultures, Built on Values reveals exactly how leaders can create winning environments that allow their employees and their companies to thrive.

Overdrive: How integral is a company’s culture to its overall success and profitability?

AnnR: Every company has a culture, but a negative culture – where employees feel used up and spit out – works against your ability to succeed and make profit. You need a positive culture that empowers people to outperform the competition. High performers like JetBlue, Southwest, GE, Starbucks and Zappos, have a strong, distinct culture that employees are conscious of and use every day. Leaders need to keep in mind that companies like Pan Am, Eastern Airlines and even Enron had strong cultures in the beginning that ultimately became negative and failed their people. Continue reading

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Expert Ideas on Creating Your Organizational Culture (Podcast)

Ann Rhoades is featured on The Cranky Middle Manager Show. Visit the site to download the audio podcast or listen to it online.  Useful and practical ideas on shaping your company’s organizational culture. Below are the show notes of topics covered in the podcast:

Today Wayne Turmel talks to author Ann Rhoades about her new book: “Built on Values, Creating an Enviable Culture That Outperforms the Competition”.

  • Can you consciously create a culture or is it something that happens by accident?

  • How do you decide on your values and how can your company actually stick to them?

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Built on Values – Inspiring a Values-Rich Organizational Culture

By Ann Rhoades.

(This article was published in the January 2011 edition of Leadership Excellence Magazine which I recommend as a valuable leadership development resource. More information about the magazine is at bottom of this page)

The Behavior of Leaders Tells the Real Values…

…of a company. Often, the values as they are lived bear little resemblance to stated values sanctified in a mission statement. Some leaders believe that all they need to do is proclaim a set of values and culture will magically change, but that does nothing to retool the values that control actions on the front line. Changing those inherent values takes more effort and can’t be done by any leader or executives acting alone.

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Creating a High Performance Team- Book Review of The Orange Revolution

Creating High Performance Teams for your Organization

As of today The Orange revolution is currently in the top 25 on Amazon in the categories of leadership and management. Congratulations.  We give The Orange Revolution a thumbs up and high recommendations.  This book will have broad appeal but be especially useful to department and project mangers, human resources, business leaders, CEO’s, and other executives. Anyone gathering to work with others as a group will walk away with something useful from this book.

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Build Customer Loyalty with Transparency

A great deal has been written about customer service.

In our experience, transparency is the differentiating factor between good and great customer service companies.

Leaders who… make decisions based on what is “right” for the customer, above all other considerations, win customer loyalty in the long term leading to sustainable bottom-line results.

PPI graphic 5 steps circle-cust transparency

Principle four - People Ink Culture Model

Leaders of values-centric cultures do a few key things consistently to ensure good customer service. Some keys for success include:

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