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Blog : Creating the human habit


Creating the human habit

By Mary-Jane Flanagan, Head of Learning

With businesses becoming increasingly more challenged through refined costs, complying with government regulations, improving service levels, and reducing the workforce; systems of working are becoming ever more complex. Scripts, service level agreements, key performance indicators and standard operating procedures are now a daily occurrence across many organisations.

On the flipside, consumers want to go back to a time when life was simpler; where they knew the bank manager’s name and telephone number and could talk to him personally; a time where every bar really did know your name. Customers want a more intuitive and personal service and if they don’t receive, as highlighted by the latest Harris Interactive Consumer Impact report (2011), they will stop doing business with that company: 86% of respondents stopped because of poor service, an increase of 30% from four years ago.

It is therefore no coincidence that employee engagement and empowerment are hot topics at the moment. I believe, however, that it is more than engagement. It’s not just getting the teams to do what you want, it’s winning their hearts and minds so that they become ambassadors for the organisation; making the right decisions on behalf of the business and empowered to offer a more personal and intuitive service. I call this “creating the human habit”. 

However engaging and empowering our people, giving them the confidence to ‘own’ the business, does not happen by chance. It is, in many cases, a whole shift away from the finger pointing and point scoring blame culture, to a more collaborative and trust based environment where people are allowed to make mistakes and learn from them.

The cunning plan

So how can we create the human habit? I recommend following these eight key stages:

  • Define your values with the workforce - If they are already set, go back to the team and ask them what they actually mean to them, explain the company expectations and ensure they are in tandem.
  • Be clear about your strategy and direction – and again involve your people at key stages. I have always favoured Jack Welch’s Town Hall approach: simple, honest and straightforward.
  • Be clear about the products and service you sell and draw up a set of non-negotiables, these are the things that could make or break the sales. Ideally no more than ten.
  • Establish the behaviours the team need to exhibit in order to deliver the non- negotiables in line with the values which will take the business forward according to the strategy. Train the team in the skills needed to live the behaviours.
  • Draw up the leadership guiding principles upon which your leaders will develop and inspire the team. Measure their ability to deliver these and fill the skills gaps accordingly. Creating personal development plans and using rich one-to-ones to set goals and move them forward works well. Even Nasa, at the beginning of the space race, started by setting their leadership guiding principles. Spearheaded by Gene Krantz these appear at the back of his biography - “Failure is not an option”.
  • Align your systems and processes with these core elements  and litmus test against customer and client satisfaction.
  • Review, reinforce and recognise great performance.
  • Live and breathe the values and manage accordingly.

Creating a positive culture is not an overnight task; in fact some organisations have to go through growing pains and lose some of the non-believers in order to make it work.  Those who have stuck with it, however, are really reaping the rewards as this case study demonstrates.


Do you create the human habit in your organisation? How do you think it can impact your business?

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