It’s hardly the best kept business secret in the world — the path to superior organizational performance necessitates a skilled, motivated and engaged workforce. Okay so everybody knows that! The hard part is making it happen. Businesses today face bigger challenges than balancing the ‘simple’ economic fulcrum of supply and demand. They need to align for sustainable and profitable growth by ensuring that the right people are working in a strategic fit to win. This is a big ask in and of itself. But it gets tougher.
Businesses just got emotional
Firms also need to build an operational foundation that is underpinned by a culture where business performance is aligned to (and driven by) the values, beliefs, thought processes and attitudes of the employees. Yes, it really is an emotional thing.
But capturing the spirit and psyche for growth is tough. It is important to understand the ideologies and principles of an organisation. Work culture plays a crucial role in extracting the best out of the employees and making them stick with the organisation for the long term.
Discretionary (often unrestricted) effort
Demand and supply is just the start. It is now vital to create a passionate work culture to drive business success. Rackspace’s experience demonstrates the value of engaged employees — where energized, motivated people are more likely to put in the extra discretionary (often unrestricted) effort that can raise productivity and create superior experiences for customers, which in turn leads to better financial performance.
The planet is turning towards more service-oriented business models. In this new world order, employees determine the difference between successful companies and the ones that fail to utilize their potential — the difference often being that high-performing, admired companies have engaged employees.
A new human backbone for business
There is a positive correlation between employee engagement, work culture and the performance of the organisation. Employee engagement is the backbone of any organisation. To stay agile and competitive, businesses need to breed innovative thinking and creativity into the culture of the business and make it part of every employee’s mandate.
Human Resources has a huge part to play in fostering a culture of innovation. But you can’t just ‘get the religion’ overnight; a firm has to be born out of (or reinvent itself for) a new way of working.
At Rackspace, we have a large subset of software engineers, software developers and quality engineering working all together under one space. They have different personalities, different backgrounds, and different strengths. We realised that as our population is shifting and changing, we want to make sure that our culture was a place that fostered everyone’s strengths and every type of personality, including our engineers and developers. Across our robust technical community, we have implemented specific awards that recognise our technical ‘Rackers’ (Rackspace employees) on their technical achievements, whether it is writing code, a patent, or going out and explaining to our customers how to use our technology.
Many companies with highly engaged employees like Rackspace take an approach that insists supervisors talk often with their teams to solicit feedback, identify the root causes of their concerns and then follow through with meaningful changes to the work environment and processes in which work gets done.
Technical roots, human faces
In spite of the company’s technical roots, ‘Rackers’ are the perfect ambassadors of the customer-centric culture at Rackspace, which we refer to as Fanatical Support®. Fanatical Support flows from the strength of a workplace culture. It is measured carefully by surveying about 1,000 of our 300,000 customers every day. Support teams are assessed and rewarded based on those surveys and on the proportion of their customers who stay with them, grow with them, and recommend them to their friends. Fanatical Support flows from our belief that exceptional customer services can’t be commanded. It can only be volunteered by Rackers who are empowered to spend time and resources to serve their customers, without asking anyone’s permission – who get to know their customers and find fulfilment in helping them succeed, grow, invent things and create jobs.
The highest recognition a Rackspace employee can receive is a straightjacket, given monthly as an award to the person who can’t be restrained in pursuit of great customer service!
Employee engagement is an individual-level construct that is a good predictor of individual-level outcomes like job satisfaction, loyalty, discretionary effort, and job performance. At Rackspace, the cornerstone of our operations thrives on encouraging new ideas, coming up with new processes in cloud computing and developing our evolving culture.
We need aptitude, plus attitude!
We believe in giving our employees the opportunity to express themselves creatively, work flexible hours and follow their passion. It is because of this freedom and chance of expressing their work creativity that Rackspace has been ranked in the Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For awards and been awarded Great Place to Work in multiple locations. Our culture attracts talented applicants worldwide. Rackspace has a stringent hiring process in place that ensures that each hire fits into the company because of their attitude and aptitude.
We believe that while skills can be acquired, attitude is inherent. Lately there has been a drive towards hiring based on cultural fit over skill set. When you hire for cultural fit you end up with a more cohesive workforce and it helps in improving engagement and retention rates. Our Rackers are interviewed with a focus on behavioural indicators. We have diversity in our corporate culture because we recruit people with widely different ethnicities.
Cultural matchmaking, business 2.0 style
We are self-assured in our training capability, which pays off the costs incurred by evolving a fine-tuned workforce, geared for excellence. Our recruiting process is comprehensive and designed to identify inherent propensities so that we can be assured of hiring the right people. The cultural fitness of the candidate and the readiness to align with our core values determine the selection.
The new employees at Rackspace undergo an Orientation program, which includes modules like ‘Welcome Home’, ‘Rookie-O’ and ‘Tools of the Rack’. We deliver a wide range of technical training, sales training, business skills training and manager training programs to ‘Rackers’ every year, via the learning portal, classroom training and sharing sessions. We believe that talent will thrive only in an atmosphere of enjoyment. Our workspaces are conceived to impart an ambience of collaborative effort.
An organisation should thus recognize employees, more than any other variable, as powerful contributors to a company’s competitive position. Rackspace too cultivates a pure sense of belonging in their ‘Rackers’ so that they deliver the best output and the company can position itself as a premium service provider.