I printed this article on my personal website and it generated enough interest in the HR community that I thought CUE members might have interest in reading it as well. Blue’s main point here is that smart companies don’t wait for a communication or PR crisis similar to the flurry of issues that have hit Uber before they start developing a plan. To quote Blue, “If you’re a CEO, don’t wait until an Uber-like disaster strikes before you do a values check-up.”
You can read the rest of of the article below.
By Steven L. Blue
When I started to write this article I originally titled it “Culture Is Not a Four Letter Word.” It was intended to address the CEO’s who think culture is a squishy, beer for lunch, feel good concept that doesn’t deserve a place at the grown-ups table. I wanted to demonstrate how wrong-thinking that can be and make the case for the power of culture and why it should be at the top of every CEO’s list.
I was prepared to make a compelling case to convince CEO’s that culture is every bit as important as strategic planning. I was ready to cite all kinds of studies and dazzling statistics that prove that positive cultures create positive financial performance.
But now I know I don’t have to thanks to a four-letter word: Uber. Uber’s toxic culture is front and center this week in the news.
According to recent reports, Uber has engaged in everything from sexual harassment to stealing driverless technology from Google. Even some of its own investors claim the company fosters a toxic culture.
There is that four-letter word again. You know, the beer for lunch, don’t bother with culture mind-set. Culture can be a four-letter word if it is ignored. Culture can be a four-letter word if is toxic. And toxic cultures kill more businesses than recessions. And it is liable to kill Uber too.
So what went wrong with Uber? How can a company that claims its values are “making communities safer” and “standing up for its driver community” go so horribly wrong? That is because those are only what I call “bumper sticker” values. Values that look good in an annual report but have no real meaning inside the company. Wells Fargo is a perfect example of this. Two of Wells Fargo’s key values are “ethics” and “what’s right for customers”. And yet they defrauded their customers by creating over 2 million ghost accounts.
There is often a difference between bumper sticker slogans and the real values that lie beneath. Value statements are always warm and fuzzy. But a company’s real values are manifested by how they act, not how they claim they act. And at the end of the day, the culture is nothing more than a collection of values. And values dictate how employees will behave. Such was the case with Wells Fargo. Such is the case with Uber.
If you’re a CEO, don’t wait until an Uber-like disaster strikes before you do a values check-up. But don’t have the human resource people ask employees what the company values are. Don’t declare what you think the values are and expect people to behave accordingly. That never works. Here is what you should and shouldn’t do:
Bottom line, make values a key part of performance evaluation. Don’t make this a check off the box exercise. Make values the standard for promotions and compensation increases. And make values a key determinate in terminations. By instilling the right set of values, you’ll save your company from becoming a four-letter word too.
Steven L. Blue is the President & CEO of Miller Ingenuity, an innovative company revolutionizing traditional safety solutions for railway workers, and author of the new book, American Manufacturing 2.0: What Went Wrong and How to Make It Right. For more information, please visit www.SteveBlueCEO.com,www.milleringenuity.com and connect with Blue on Twitter, @SteveBlueCEO.