Modern businesses today are harping on “culture” where business leaders and managers are working hard to instill a strong organizational culture which is a critical component to their success. However, it is a challenge to develop and establish the right kind of corporate culture in a company when few experts are in the know-how. As it is, most executives seem to implement and manage its path according to intuition.
One of the ways in establishing a company culture is to search within the company in its quest to transform the existing culture to something more realistic for true ownership by every employee from the top level to the least.
Companies that wish to instill a good and viable company culture may need to check out 3 simple approaches.
1) Activating Culture to Drive Performance
Company managers and leaders are instrumental in developing good organizational cultures which could impact their company's bottom line. Market research in this area reveals the motivation of employees in an organization for higher performance.
2500 employees in such a study were asked to analyze medical images as they were divided into 2 groups. One group was told that work would be discarded while the other group was informed that objects of interest were “cancerous tumor cells.” The workers were paid according to the number of images analyzed.
The second group spent more time on every image to earn 10% less than the “discard” (first) group with a higher quality of work. The experiment revealed that the workers’ motives could be reshaped to result in better performance.
Much study have been conducted on workers with a major breakthrough in the 1980s when Edward Deci and Richard Ryan who were University of Rochester professors identified 6 primary reasons people work. They are:
- Emotional pressure
- Economic pressure
Their research framework provides a good basis in adapting to the modern workplace in understanding and improving how people work. Researchers confirmed that the first 3 motives work to improve performance while the latter 3 work to reduce performance.
The research also showed that companies which endorsed good cultures in a wide cross-section of industries from airlines to retailers maximized the good motives while minimizingthe last three.
Workers who are motivated by work itself are at play mode because they enjoy what they do; even if it is work. It is the teacher at play who enjoys the central focus of teaching which encompasses lesson plans, tests and grading, problem solving and student interaction.
Play is to be a dynamic learning instinct when tied to curiosity and experimentation could lead to a greater interest to explore and overcome challenging problems.
Workers who experience a direct outcome from their work that fits their identity fulfill the purpose in the life or work objective. The impact of work or its outcome is valued and this motivates workers to get on with it. The teacher is driven by values or goals in the education of children as they teach to empower their learners.
When the work outcome benefits workers’ identity, the work enhances the workers’potential. The teacher with potential works diligently with a focus of becoming a principal.
These 3 motives are directly related to work; hence, they are known as direct motives. They serve to enhance work performance to some degree respectively. On the other way, indirect motives work to reduce it.
a) Emotional pressure
Workers tend to experience high emotional pressure when some external force threatens their identity. It could be a sense of guilt inflicted to compel workers to work. Fear and peer pressure as well as shame are various emotional pressure forms inflicted on workers.
Emotional pressure is experienced when workers are stressed or constrained to work to avoid disappointing self or others like superiors or loved ones. Such a motive is a total
separation from the work.
b) Economic pressure
This is the external force to compel workers as they need to work to secure a reward or divert a punishment. The motive works to separate work and identity.
The motivation to work is missing when inertia steps into the picture. Workers are at a loss of their presence at work without a purpose to work for. There is no clear understanding of their role in work as they are lost in their identity. Work becomes a ritual or routine which they know must be executed but not why; they have lost track of their goal or purpose in work. Inertia is still a motive as workers continue their activity without a clear focus or conviction. These indirect motives work to lower performance as work is not a priority in life. Workers are besieged with potential disappointment or reward. They may not have any motivation to do better with easy distractions coming on more often. Hence, the quality of work decreases; yet workers are not bothered.
Research shows how a high-performing culture could be instrumental in optimizing the good motives on workers while minimizing the bad motives. This is termed total motivation (ToMo) creation.
Another experiment conducted by Teresa Amabile at Harvard revealed how these motives impact individuals. One group of poets was requested to write a simple short poem on laughter. They were divided into 2 groups; one group read out “play” reasons as a poet while the other group read out “emotional and economic pressures” reasons.
The “play” reasons included “enjoying the opportunity for self-expression” and “a good time to play with words” while emotional and economic pressure reasons included “to impress the audience or teachers with potential writing talent” and “financial security through bestselling works”.
The experiment reveals a better performance from the play group with 26% more creativity than the pressure group. There is an obvious higher total motivation by the play group to make a clear distinction with performance.
2) Worth of Culture
It is not impossible to creating a business culture although it could be a challenge. It is difficult to measure the genuineness of the creative, proactive or resilient worker. However, total motivation could be measured using questions to analyze the ToMo of an organization to determine the performance impact.
An airline industry has many players sharing terminals and planes but customer satisfaction depends on the services of individual carriers. An experiment where the ToMo is measured on employees of 4 major airlines, their cultures were also identified and measured based on customer satisfaction outcome. The experiment confirms the culture of an organization as highly related to customer satisfaction.
Hence, inspiring cultures that emphasize on more play, purpose and potential while concentrating less on emotional pressure, economic pressure and inertia saw higher customer outcomes. The Play factor works dynamically across industries with a strong impact on customer satisfaction and bottom lines of the organization.
a) There is no silver bullet.
A lot of organizational processes impact employees’ ToMo. A survey conducted on thousands of US employees measured the impact of certain elements at a workplace affect the outcome of ToMo. Managers may think that leadership is the primary component to employees’ motivation but there are other more important processes that generate bigger impacts.
The ToMo graph shows how each process impacts the total motivation of the employee as collated from survey responses. The role designed could be a factor in swinging total motivation to the other end as with a badly designed role resulting in very low scores. It is noted that admired cultures would have much higher results on ToMo.
With this understanding, more and more companies are making special efforts in designing better motivating roles to encourage their workers in work performance. Toyota generates relevant business opportunities for its workers to be creative with new tools and ideas on their factory or assembly line.
Other companies offer their employees more free time and relevant resources to generate new ideas for boosting company development and growth. Southwest Airlines encourages employees to enjoy their interactions with customer and treat these as play where boring safety announcements are creatively transformed into comedy sketches by flight attendants to capture attention and interest; thus meeting their objectives.
b) Company Identity by Employees
The identity of the company or any organization is critical in developing a good culture where its mission and behavioral code must gel well. Medtronic empowers its team of engineers and technicians design, develop and implement medical devices in the market to confirm their work purpose. UCB Pharmaceuticals invited patients to executive meetings as a form of identification with the company and its purpose to appreciate the work executed.
Walmart management meetings report the savings made by each division instead of the quantum of sales the company has enjoyed. This helps employees feel important and relevant as they see their role in the welfare of the company which they had an active part in.
c) Climbing the Career Ladder
Smart companies today are revising their system or process in the evaluation of employees in the hope of driving their people to greater heights of achievement and promotion. The current employee appraisal processes executed by most companies tend to discourage motivation and performance of employees where employees are pitted against each other with increased emotional and economic pressure.
Big companies including Microsoft and Lear are shifting from performance-based review systems to motivational appraisal systems without fostering unhealthy competition.
3) Impacting Processes on Organization Culture
Thousands of managers have been asked to define a high-performing culture but most have no distinct feasible definition. Culture is termed as the set of processes which an organization undertakes to impact the total motivation of workers.
A high-performing culture would activate these processes to maximize total motivation. Different processes that impact the total motivation of employees revealed a couple of lessons.
Culture is an Ecosystem
Culture has several elements that would interact and reinforce with each other. Sales commissions as an organization culture work to decrease the workers’ ToMo but if the workers believe in their role and work that would boost customer confidence in them and the brand, the commission works to increase their ToMo.
This is the basis of ToMo where it is crucial to believe in what is indulged in by the working. An organization culture like a sales commission could work to increase or decrease the worker’s total motivation depending on their understanding and application to motivate their action
These processes reveal that culture stands out clearly as the operating system or heartbeat of an organization. Senior management could build a high performing culture with maintenance by trained managers to lead through highly motivating ways. Bank branch managers who offer high ToMo leadership training showed a 47% improvement with personal loan sales and 20% improvement on credit card sales.
Company leaders should consider seriously in establishing culture with a budget where trained HR managers work to implement and maintain important culture elements that would enhance performance reviews.
Team leaders could activate ToMo with or without redesigning processes by:
- Holding a weekly team reflection huddle. This could be an hourly session where team members reflect and share on their play, purpose and potential during the week. Play reveals what was learned and Purpose recalls the impact made while Potential helps team member to consider next week’s focus and achievements.
- Explaining the rationale of work. When the team members understand the rationale of work without the emotional pressure of ToMo, team performance improves. A good leader could change the culture with a Play, Purpose and Potential objective to motivate team members instead.
- Designing team’s roles. It is important that every member in the team has sufficient space to play where they could experiment freely to enhance their ToMo. This could be part of the enhanced interaction with customers or improvements to current processes suggested by team members.
Every team member should witness the impact on their work through their role which might help them establish a better and stronger purpose. It is also crucial for every team member to consider their role in the company in a couple of years’ time where management could generate a viable development plan to help them reach their potential.
A great culture in any organization is a challenge but could prove to be a competitive advantage when it is well developed into a high performing culture. Organizations with great cultures are poised to satisfy customer demands and industry requirements in the market. Establishing a good culture is not left to chance as there is nothing magical about it with leaders taking the initiative.