Human Resource Management
In her article entitled “Taking the Pulse of Workplace Culture” published in The Wall Street Journal Online, Milani writes about the importance of organizational culture and how a business enterprise could encourage its development. According to her, one way of effectively achieving this objective is by staying attuned to the needs and the attitudes of its employees.
To prove her point, she cites as a specific example the human resource practice which is being employed by Healthwise, Inc.: the employee surveys which the Boise, Idaho-based non-profit health-information provider conducts two times a year since 1990 to measure its employees’ job satisfaction. Milani explains that the ...
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...company has been utilizing the employee surveys to provide it with valuable feedback when its workforce started growing from its original strength of 12 (it now has a present complement of 215 employees).
In her article, Milani underscores the value of a strong workforce culture by quoting Don Kemper, the 61-year-old founder of Healthwise: “You can’t be great without a great employee culture, and the survey helps you get there. ” Milani’s reason for writing the article is undoubtedly to persuade small businesses to replicate what Healthwise has been doing, knowing that a strong organizational culture is essential to the life of a business. Pursuing such objective, Milani proceeds to present the six-point advice which she was able to obtain from Mr.
Kemper. First, keep the survey simple. Kemper says that the survey which they have been using since 1990 consists only of nine questions which ask employees to rate the level of their overall satisfaction with the company as well as their perception regarding the extent of their freedom of speech concerning company policies and procedures. The survey also utilizes some open-ended questions like: “What can Healthwise do to improve? ” and “What is valuable to you at Healthline? ” Second, “Ask for constructive feedback.
” While warning employers and managers to expect criticisms from employees, they should also do their best to explain that the survey should not be used as a dumping ground for their complaints. Rather, they should treat it as “a place for respectful, constructive suggestions for improvement. ” Third, the survey should assure the anonymity of the respondents to ensure frankness of responses. Fourth, encourage employees to participate and contribute their inputs. A survey is not successful if participation is low.
Fifth, management should promptly act on the employee suggestions collected from the survey. This will give them the feeling that their comments and suggestions are not taken for granted and will result to greater participation in future surveys. Finally, after acting on the recommendations of their employees, the company should “track the outcome. ” According to Kemper, they are conducting the survey two times a year utilizing the same set of questions in order to see which of the recommended solutions are or are not working (Milani).
The article by Kate Milani emphasizes the value of nurturing a strong organizational culture. By referring to the practice of Healthwise, Inc. , she successfully presents a situation where a certain organization makes use of surveys in establishing their own culture. Her efforts merit at least the concurrence of those who are interested in employing organizational culture to strengthen their organizations. Healthwise, being a non-profit organization, could not afford to compete with other entities in offering good wages. However, since employees are contented, it is able to retain them.
Organizational culture has been defined as “a system of shared meaning held by members that distinguishes the organization from other organizations” (Robbins). One of the primary characteristics of organizational culture, according to Robbins, is people orientation. This means that employers always bear in mind the effect of its management decisions on its employees. Healthwise, in conducting its employee surveys and religiously acting on the results of such surveys, shows that it is people oriented. This is one aspect of its organizational culture which sets it apart from other organizations.
In other words, employees of Healthwise could take pride in the fact that their comments and suggestions are not taken for granted by their employer and that as much as possible, the latter aims to institute improvements based on the suggestions coming from the workforce. I have to agree with Milani and Kemper that a strong organizational culture is essential to the health and growth of an organization. It is true that culture only describes the employees’ perception of the characteristics of their organization. It is not concerned with whether the employees actually like what they see.
However, when an organization succeeds in “selling” its organizational culture to its employees and the latter reacts positively – meaning that they decide that they like what they see – job satisfaction results. When employees are satisfied, they work harder, teamwork becomes stronger, and productivity increases. Organizational culture is the main reason why employees identify with their organization, giving birth to highly loyal employees (Robbins). I once had the opportunity of working with an organization which had a rather strong organizational culture.
Management was people-oriented and like Healthwise, conducted employee surveys every year. I observed that when the results of the survey proved meaningful and management decided to take action, the morale of my co-workers would immediately rise – everybody was happy and eager to work, thereby increasing productivity. However, whenever it became apparent that management was not inclined to act on the recommendations of employees, morale would actually dip. In such cases, management had to meet with the employees and explain why their suggestions and recommendations were not carried out.
During such meetings, management would emphasize that the fact that the results of the survey were not implemented did not mean that the survey failed. The company president would reiterate that the mere fact that employees participated in the survey made it a successful undertaking and would express his hope that employees would continue taking part in future surveys. More often than not, candidness on the part of management worked.
Milani, Kate. “Taking the Pulse of Workplace Culture. ” The Wall Street Journal Online. 2 October 2007. 12 October 2007: http://www.careerjournal.com/hrcenter/articles/20071002-milani.html?cjpos=hrcenter_whatsnew