January 16, 2015

What Have Dignity And Respect Got To Do With It?

Recently a large organisation we work with launched a Dignity and Respect workshop for its staff. Why? Well customer feedback suggested that this was an area for improvement. The workshop took 90 minutes and underlined why it's so important for customers to be treated well, and the sorts of behaviours that are expected of the organisation's staff. Sounds like good recruitment/induction material, right? But no, this was rolled out to all customer-facing staff at considerable cost (not, I hasten to add, through Leading Beyond). The result? Fuming staff who felt it had been condescending, resource wasting and that it flew in the face of so much else that had been going on in the organisation.


The problem here is that management had made the assumption that if customers are not being treated with dignity and respect, it's down to employees' attitudes (and consequent behaviours). However the employees' perspective is they're understaffed, left having to deal with far too many customers and new extra paperwork, having to fight for resources in order to serve their customers in the first place, and that if they didn't have dignity and respect as core values then it would be unlikely that they'd have chosen to work for this organisation in the first place. (Ed: smacks of a knee-jerk lack of diagnostics before taking action!)


Surely if the organisation is recruiting the right sort of people then this kind of initiative is just plain surplus to requirements (and worse, getting in the way of them doing the job they want to do). What managers could be asking is, "How can we facilitate making it possible for our employees to treat customers in the way they'd naturally like to? What's getting in the way, and how can we deal with this?"


At the same time this organisation has stopped providing milk for employees' tea (if they even get the time to have a tea break…) whilst at the same time giving the Chief Executive a substantial pay rise. So employees are already thinking, "How about treating us with a bit of dignity and respect?!!" 


Over the past 10-20 years we've seen so many organisations 'get on the Values bandwagon', and whilst this can paint the picture of a fantastic organisation on a website, so many organisations we come across paint a very different picture when it comes to the day-to-day reality of working there: in our view values on paper are worth nothing if day-to-day behaviour and attitude doesn't support them, and most particularly when this is happening at senior levels in the organisation.


“Eighty-five percent of the reasons for failure to meet customer expectations are related to deficiencies in systems and process…rather than the employee… The role of management is to change the process rather than badgering individuals to do better.” Dr W Edwards Deming


Some things to reflect on:

  • If your organisation has core values, to what degree are they truly brought to life, day in, day out? 
  • If there are any mismatches between behaviour and values, what could you do to address these?
  • Where employees struggle to meet the demand for their service, what could you do to help improve the process and remove obstacles?

If you'd like help aligning organisational values with day-to-day behaviour, we have a wealth of experience to draw on from work we've done with a wide range of organisations. Feel free to contact us for an informal chat.

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