So a retailer, bank, service provider, etc. has a bad culture. While many employees and customers are miserable, we are lucky the mortality numbers are low. Businesses that deal with our physical infrastructure, like utilities and energy companies have even bigger reasons to purposefully manage their cultures...people's lives. As I say above, disaster is totally preventable and totally fixable from here. All they need to do is Design of Work Experience. Let's hope that the message is heard, for people's sake!
Feels like Uber is getting a lot of media coverage these days, for better or worse. The title of this New York Times article is "Uber's Model Could Change Your Work" (Click the pic above to see it). I share this not because I agree with the author here, but for the dialogue that it stimulates. Warning-the tone is unnecessarily negative and conveys one emotion above all others, fear. Disrupting the status quo in an evolutionary or revolutionary way is how innovation happens. The #futureofwork is coming no matter what we do, so I'm not sure what this article expects people to do with their information other than to be cranky. We can influence whether it is for the better or worse. Having a tech company's model re-draw the boundaries is not necessarily a bad thing, it's different. The question for us individually is whether we are willing to adapt ourselves into the talent of the future and bring about positive outcomes. Work is changing and has always changed so there is no use fighting it. Leverage it.
When will companies learn? Click on the pic above to learn all about the failures of A&F, partly due to their culture. Media coverage of good and bad cultures are pretty polarized--an organization is either rocking it or crashing and burning. I personally think that we could learn a lot more from companies that are "working on it" somewhere in the spectrum. After all, should we all be in that bucket?
I regularly have "meeting days" in SF with potential clients or networking contacts. I almost always have the other person pick the place because it rewards me with a great find once in a while. Crossroads Cafe is one of them. The cafe is " a training school of the Delancey Street Foundation, the country's largest and most acclaimed self-help residential educational center for people who have hit bottom to completely rebuild their lives." The people who work there are part of the "community of last resort" and proud of it. They work hard and are friendly to customers and each other. Apart from the broad range of offerings and great prices, the cafe is a perfect place for some book browsing, quiet conversations, or contemplation by oneself. Their model is to use the bookstore/cafe as a training ground and stable environment to get people back on their feet. In working there, they are also giving back to the community, and thus the community gives back to them. It is a great virtuous cycle. Every community should have one of these. Leave it to the mindfulness and design expert I met with to show me here :)
Click on the pics above to learn more about the Delancey Street Foundation.
Image Credit: Kimmins Design
In the book, I talk about how different the #FutureofWork will be. With more work to be done than professionals, it is within the realm of possibility that we will become free agents and freelancers, working on projects that best suit our talents and ambitions, across different companies, industries and even countries. In Free Agent Nation, Daniel Pink referred to this as the “Hollywood model”. I found inspiration from this as I forged into my portfolio career almost two years ago, choosing to do what I love 100% of the time: research, writing, consulting, public speaking, and creative pursuits.
Companies of the future who need knowledge workers and experts will have to figure out how to meet business demands with transient talent. For high turnover workforces such as in the retail and restaurant industries, it is today’s reality. Other industries have their own revolving door jobs, mostly in their hourly staff as well. Not enough is done to manage these work experiences, so companies live with higher volumes of employee relations issues, labor disputes, and constant recruitment/termination cycles. It doesn’t have to be this way. A January 2012 article from Harvard Business Review talks about choosing the virtuous cycle (good results) over the vicious cycle (poor outcomes), and how making these jobs “good” will decrease turnover, increase efficiency, and positively impact customer perceptions. (Source: Why Good Jobs are Good for Retailers) Some exemplary retail shops and restaurants have proven this to be true, though any organization can create their own way of doing this, regardless of industry. Here are a few suggestions on where to start from a Design of Work Experience (DOWE) perspective:
1. Make It a Great Place to COME FROM. Similar to other parts of the organization, collaborate with your employees to design a culture and environment that exemplifies your company’s values and ties work (at all levels) to the achievement of the business strategy. Create an environment where people feel valued, find meaning in their work, and collaborate well with others. Tap into the natural human desire to make a difference and learn new things. Establish ways to track achievement even in the most repetitive jobs. Enable employees to have great relationships at work. In other words, set the conditions for success.
You can also use this workforce to provide key insights on customer experiences, perceptions, and interactions that will improve your business. Word will get out as employees brag about their workplaces to their friends and family, knowing that it is a privilege to be a part of something so cool. The good ones will want to stay or stay longer. Those that move on to their next employers will remain loyal customers for life. Who knows? They might advance their careers and return one day to lead in greater capacities. Ultimately, the good reputation of your company will ensure you will always have enough applicants, plus a strong brand to boot.
2. Invest Efforts in Finding the Right People. No matter what degree of skill is required for the job, you want good people who are aligned with your values, take pride in their work, and are honest and ethical. Design your recruitment experience to weed out those that ultimately won’t work out and select for those that will. The standard interview questions won’t do. Create a recruitment experience unique to your company that engages people, digs beyond the surface, and gives you a chance to observe behavior and capabilities.
3. Be Consistent. Treat standards of performance and conduct for what they are—standards. This takes the guess work out for people because they will know what to expect and where the boundaries are. Don’t settle for “ok” or “good enough”, and don’t let things slide. Doing so would give you a workplace with middle performance at best and a tendency to decline. Too often frustrated employees have complained about those that “get away with” things, raising fairness concerns. Address issues through to resolution quickly, whether it means coaching, providing feedback, or even termination. Your stronger workers will appreciate this, and it minimizes stress for everyone.
These principles will help you determine what works best according to the unique context and complexity of your organization. While these are not easy to do and will require some work, the benefits far outweigh the cost in the long-term. Begin your “virtuous cycle” today, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
How is it in this day and age we still suffer these completely preventable scandals? Often times we ignore these issues until we can't. Collectively as a society, we all lose. It will happen again if all we do is throw more policy and procedure without getting to the root cause: culture. What conditions were in place to precipitate these issues? How might we change the culture to ensure a healthy work environment? Purposefully managing culture won't prevent bad behavior, but it will set expectations and solve problems before they are out of control. The DOWE process helps organizations to design and implement strategies unique to their context. If you think we've had enough, then we should make sure we do enough.
Bank screws old lady. Old lady writes viral letter. We find the letter funny 'cause it's true. Companies sometimes forget that customers are the ones that keep them in business--I'm talking to you too, healthcare, cable, airlines, and rental cars! This serious lack of empathy and human-centeredness shows. Appalling customer service and unfair policies have been accepted as an annoying part of everyone's lives. We all have our stories. Imagine how much better business and people would be if we were just a little bit more user-centered? The same can be said for our workplaces. Why deal with miserable employees when they can be happy? Purposeful experience design would work wonders.
A place to share interesting concepts that will inspire, spread, and/or apply new ideas. This page is dedicated to sharing my twitter feed, announcements, and blog posts.