Know Your Role So Your Organization’s Culture Can Rock

Different performers working toward the same goal create great cultures, says conference keynoter

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek April 18, 2016
Know Your Role So Your Organization’s Culture Can Rock

SHRM Foundation Chair Tom Darrow poses with opening session speaker Jim Knight prior to his general session that kicked off the conference on April 18. (Photo by: Bailey Yeager)

ORLANDO, Fla.—To create a great culture, businesses can apply the same methods the rock band U2 uses to create great music, said training and development veteran Jim Knight during a high-energy opening session at the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM’s) Talent Management Conference & Exposition on April 18.

U2 bass guitarist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. make up the band’s rhythm section, tasked with keeping the musicians together in time and striving to duplicate their past performances, said Knight. The front men, singer Bono and lead guitarist The Edge, want to give attendees at each concert a different, memorable performance. All the members of the band, though, understand their role so that collectively they support the band’s goal to create great music every time, Knight said.

2016 Talent Management Conference & Exposition
2016 SHRM Talent Management Conference

The former head of Hard Rock International’s training and development function who spent 21 years with the company, Knight knows bands and he knows about company culture. He is the author of the how-to business book Culture That Rocks: How to Revolutionize Your Company’s Culture (Knight Speaker, 2014).

He pointed out that people often confuse “heritage” with “culture.”

“Culture is about the present; heritage is about the past,” the former Florida public school teacher said. A company’s heritage is its origin story; the culture develops from the people in that company, he explained. During the conference session, he shared pointers for how HR professionals can create a “culture that rocks.”

  • Celebrate heritage but focus on culture, which come from today’s behaviors. “Everything is learned behavior. I can’t train people to smile; I can’t train people to have a good personality. Culture is all behavior-driven.”

  • Be like U2—get everybody singing and playing from the same sheet of music. Individual agendas produce random action. Top companies continually communicate—in formal and informal meetings, group settings, and one-on-one—so that employees are informed and involved with the organization’s inner workings and its culture.

  • Deliver personalized expectations. Knight used fast-food restaurant Chick-fil-A as a prime example, noting that it has surpassed McDonald’s in single-store sales revenue, despite being closed on Sundays—a reflection of the company’s faith-based heritage. Onboarding at Chick-fil-A consists of a two-day orientation on the company’s mission and purpose. That includes a heartfelt video, which Knight shared with attendees, that underscores the message that every person—whether employee or customer—is an individual with a story. Keeping that topmost in their minds helps employees deliver an authentic, personal experience to each customer.

  • Avoid four-letter words when measuring service, delivery and performance. Great service fuels success; settling for “fine,” “good” and “okay” means lowering the bar to mediocrity.
    “Everyone serves vanilla. Be the chocolate,” and add sprinkles and whipped cream, he said.

  • Memories create raving fans. Empowering employees to provide great service is an important component to creating unforgettable positive memories and customer loyalty.

In addition to his experience with Hard Rock, Knight is a member of the Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers, has served on the Certification Governing Board of the National Restaurant Association, and has started a regional training forum and networking group in central Florida.

Kathy Gurchiek is the associate editor at HR News. Follow her @SHRMwriter.


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