Organizational Culture, Trust and Employee Engagement (Part 3)

Over the past few months, I have had the opportunity to interact and engage with members of the sales organizations from three major companies. I had the opportunity to spend a day with the global sales team from Delta Air Lines (KLM and Northwest), I interact regularly with various members of the Microsoft sales and services organization, and have worked with multiple international sales and customer management teams from Teradata. These companies have different services, solutions, tools and techniques, are in completely different industries, go-to-market in different ways and yet, have a common focus on recruiting, hiring and retaining absolutely excellent team players that work together to deliver results and service to customers.

What is most evident to me when in meetings and working sessions with teams from these companies is the importance of building teams with the "right" mix of business and technical skills, customer experience, relationship-management knowledge, balanced personalities, strong core values, and passion for delivering results. Culture fit is key to winning services and sales teams.  Couple of thoughts to consider when building a team...

Culture Fit Must Be Part of Hiring Criteria:  Candidates can have the right business background, years of experience, and education and still not be the right "fit" for an organization. Consider this - a "poor" hire leads to several unintended consequences.  First, the new-hire will not be respected by the team.  Second, it reflects poorly on the hiring manager that considered "this" person as the right fit for the organization.  Third, communication, teamwork and organizational trust may grind to a halt as formerly open lines of communication are no longer in place due to the change in organizational structure (this leads to timelines being missed and work product quality deterioration).

At the same time, a good leader may hire an individual that does not fit the existing culture in order to make top-down change thereby establishing a new culture and direction for the organization. 

Bridge the Gap:  Ideally, a new leader is able to bridge the gaps between their own style and the existing culture in place within an organization.  You do not want a new hire to completely change to fit an organizational culture - and a leader does not want to "give in" to an organizational culture that does not fit their style.  There is a happy medium and great leaders are able to step-in and adapt - bridge the gap - and find ways to make things happen in a fixed organizational culture.

Trust-Based Relationships:  From my "informal" study of many unique and different organizations, my conclusion is that trust is the #1 factor for organization success or failure. Trust between employees / peers.  Trust with managers / organization leadership.  Trust with customers and partners.  Trust is difficult to build in a relationship and so easily broken or lost based on decisions, actions and / or behaviors.  Open lines of communication and dialogue are key to creating a growing, delivery-focused workplace culture.  Transparency in communication absolutely builds trust and furthermore, the fuel for the trust fire is action and behavior by those in organizational leadership roles demonstrating trust in others and accepting trust from team members and peers.

Employee Engagement and Culture Fit:  Cultural fit is a key element of overall employee engagement, says Julie Gebauer, a managing director at Stamford, CT-based Towers, Perrin, and co-author of Closing the Engagement Gap.  Some elements of engagement, she says, come from the employee - such as a person's openness to challenge, optimism and inclination to set high personal and professional standards.

A key component of employee engagement that supports a trust-based organization is a formal or informal coaching and mentoring program.  Coaching and mentoring relationships within and across organizations facilitate open dialogue, idea-sharing and trust-based friendships and working relationships.  This, in turn, establishes career development and personal growth as core elements of culture.