My first real-real job of strategic merit included handling internal communications and public relations, and my office was right next to that of the Company's Founder. An after-effect, now some twenty years later at the same company, is that I think of myself as a bit of a company culture maven. The culture and the stories of this place are deep within in my cerebral muscle memory.
For the past few years I've gone more officially into this space of "culture," as we work on connecting the hearts and minds of the people of EMC to one another (community), and to the company strategy at a level one million times greater than the 'small company' approaches we used way back when. I know what we're doing and how we're thinking at EMC today represents a major change, and could, in fact, be considered "transformative" ...
AND YET, it took an off-the-cuff remark by EMC's EVP of HR, Jack Mollen, the other day to shed a new light on the subject for me. He said,
"Over the years, your product strategy changes, your go-to-market model changes; it only makes sense that your people strategy would need to change as well."
Simple sentence, yet profound.
At EMC, "our people strategy" and culture had never really been a big topic of discussion. (Barring one time in the late 1990s when business was so strong, our people got a bit cocky. In this case, "attention" was like a big "Time Out" for many employees.)
Sure, HR has had its talent strategies, succession strategies and the like -- but until recently, I've never heard such constant chatter and focus on it from the executive and line business leaders. AND THIS TIME, it isn't because anyone has been misbehaving. IT IS POSITIVE in focus, in intent ... and is being built on a position of strength. There is no burning platform, just a burning desire to be great. And as a result, it is transforming our company as much, or more, than any product- or market-oriented strategy.
Just the other day, Joe Tucci, our CEO, was in an interview and discussed the natural evolution of culture. (See clip -- short, and even humorous).
Funny enough, the very next day, he addressed about 6,000 EMC employees and after discussing the giant new company strategy (Private Cloud), he went right to being a great company for our people.
There was no NEED to do that. No PRESSURE to do that. It comes from a clear desire.
His passion, role modeling, and endorsement of big new people-centric BEHAVIOR (think "open culture' as seen in widespread employee social media participation, major roll out of flexible working arrangements, record candor and regular communication throughout the downturn and now upturn, serious commitment to sustainability, and more) is having wide ripple effects.
------------------------ TALK BACK --------------------------
How is your department, or your company doing on elevating this conversation on par with that of the customer strategy, the product strategy, and the financial strategy?
Are you still treating and talking "to" your people like you did in the 80s or the 90s?
It was only three years ago at EMC that we stopped a "cultural classic" memo sent to all employees (for 2 decades) right around the first snowfall. Its title, "Yes, Folks It Snows in New England." The "on the surface" message was that we have customers all around the world who depend on us, and we need to be here -- snow or no snow in New England -- to tend to their needs. The "under the surface" message was, "Get your behind to work. Get up earlier to shovel if you have to, just get into the office."
It took some time for many who saw themselves "upholding the culture" to open their lens and realize, at this stage of remote connectivity and the like, that we can still be customer-centric while also being human ... and more considerate of our CURRENT workforce and workplace needs. A more recent and still living example, is the embracing of open, collaborative, Web 2.0 behavior at work. The act of embracing this, involves releasing some of the old cultural, "command and control" norms.
In short, it was time for an UPDATED, people strategy that lived within the fabric of the culture itself -- a strategy that could sit alongside in importance with the customer strategy and the product strategy.
Maybe I'm sharing too many warts here. Maybe your company has had a deep and caring people strategy ON THE SURFACE and OUT IN THE OPEN for decades. (Our people caring strategy has always been intense and generous, but was all too often behind closed doors. On the surface, we were the "tough-get-to-work; serve-the-customer" company.)
Why bother with "The People," given other loud business priorities?
As I see it:
- Engaged people engage customers, who engage your top and bottom line.
- Business is conducted by people. Customer satisfaction begins with your people.
- Healthy, passionate, and energized people breed a healthy, passionate and energized company.
-- Polly Pearson
@pollypearson on Twitter