Culture Chat

And other musings on humanizing the workplace
Don't Try to Be Google. Just Deliver What You Promised

Don't Try to Be Google. Just Deliver What You Promised

October 10, 2016
Jamie Notter

I’ve been speaking a lot lately to companies in the manufacturing arena and other industries that are not typically known for being “cool” places to work. The participants are clear when they talk to me about it: In these work environments, we’re never going to have gourmet lunches catered, Xboxes on every floor, or a keggerator. We’ve got machinery and forklifts and trucks and night shifts. We’re never going to be Google.

So that’s okay. I think we need to give up trying to be these cool places and instead focus on who exactly we need to be and, perhaps more importantly, ensuring that the experience of what it’s like to work in our organization actually matches what we told people it would be when we hired them.

The first step is figuring out who you need to be. That’s getting clear on what’s valued internally and making sure it crisply aligns with what drives your success as an organization. Everyone talks about all the fun that flight attendants have on southwest, and that is an important part of their culture, but what you don’t hear as much about is when the pilots end up wheeling down one of the pre-board passengers or come out and help clean the cabin with the flight attendants. You know why they do that? Because it makes the turnaround time faster, which means the passengers get where they’re going faster. That’s strategic on Southwest’s part.

From the very beginning, they chose not to compete with the other airlines as much as they chose to compete with your car. They wanted to make flying cheaper and faster than driving. That means you need to get things turned around quickly, and you can’t do that if you have a culture where the pilots are considered “above” providing that kind of help. Align your culture with what drives success.

And then deliver on it. Once you clarify your culture, make sure it happens that way all the time, and when it doesn’t happen, take action. Fire people. Give people a different job that their better suited for. Redesign the process to make it more aligned with the culture. Just make sure that the experience people are having matches the culture that you bragged about during the job interview.

If you want to attract Millennials to your less-than-sexy industry that has jobs in some less-than-cool locations around the country, then double-down on culture. Millennials care about culture—more than pay and benefits according to some surveys. You still might be losing some folks to Google (welcome to the club), but you’ll start getting better talent when you can show people how clear and powerful your culture is. 

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