for an unhappy customer on the phone at
the dinner hour, and flowers delivered to a
customer whose mother had recently died.
“These are customer services reps who
are empowered to do whatever is required
to give the customer a ‘wow’ experience,”
said Flatt. “The culture is about the ‘wow’
and the policies support this.”
Smart recruiting has always been a key in-gredient
to an organization’s success and
the interview process has become more
sophisticated over the years to reflect our
growing understanding of the process. But
when the goal is to hire employees whose
values align with the organization’s, the
hiring process can require some ingenuity.
Values, core beliefs and natural tendencies
– these can be difficult things to uncover
during a typical situational interview.
To counter this, some creative compa-nies
put together involved behavioural
interviews to spot their future super-stars.
WestJet, a company that considers
itself to be in the hospitality business
(rather than the travel business), con-ducts
lengthy behavioural interviews
to zero-in on candidates who are natu-ral
hosts. WestJet co-founder and senior
vice-president of customer service, Don
Bell, has famously said, “People by na-ture
are negative, but some are criminally
enthusiastic.” WestJet tries to spot those
optimists by putting potential employees
into unconventional group situations that
bring out natural instincts.
“These front-line people represent the
manifestation of culture,” said Flatt. With
that in mind, what may seem like an ex-pensive
exercise becomes a reasonable
and justifiable investment in culture,
brand identity and retention.
Hiring isn’t foolproof, of course. Even
great recruiting tactics can mean onboard-ing
the wrong employee from time to time.
To counter this, Zappos rather famously
offers new hires a certain amount of cash
to quit after the one-week mark and even
more cash after the one-month mark. As
Zappos sees it, if a new employee takes the
cash, they don’t fit the culture.
As an organization attempts to shift its
culture, there will inevitably be employees
whose values no longer align with the or-ganization’s.
Sometimes, employees will
identify this on their own and take the ini-tiative
In other situations, leadership will need
to make some difficult decisions, especially
if an employee excels in certain areas but
shows problematic behaviour in others.
“There’s the classic example of the em-ployee
who hits the ball out of the park
every year when it comes to results, but
who struggles with behaviour that drives
engagement and sustained results,” said
Sabapathy. “Does leadership then make
the tough call to say, ‘This person is coming
off the high potential list and if he doesn’t
improve, he’s going to be fired’?” If an or-ganization
is committed to changing its
culture, this is the kind of hard choice that
needs to be made.
Within even the most aligned and positive
culture, there will still be room for person-ality
differences and deviations in personal
style. Teams, too, may develop their own
healthy variations on a cultural theme.
This can be true on a global scale as well.
Four Seasons founder Isadore Sharp man-aged
to run a very successful organization
with outposts around the world despite some
obvious challenges to a singular culture. For
example, a team working in a hotel in Tokyo
would have a different set of values than one
in Rome and another in Toronto. What
Sharp managed to do – very successfully –
was to connect a geographically spread-out
team by way of one all-encompassing prin-ciple:
treat others as you would want to be
treated. It’s a trickle-down theory, spreading
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