How to ensure human-centred habits stick!

by Mariane Power

Creating culture habits that stick can seem like an impossible task amongst competing workplace demands. How can we ensure our efforts to build a ‘people and purpose matters’ approach to culture extend beyond a fad? In his book “Excellence Wins: A No-Nonsense Guide to Becoming the Best in a World of Compromise”, Horst Schulze, Co-Founder and former President of the Ritz-Carlton reminds us of the power of positive reinforcement. His approach struck me for it’s simplicity and consistency, and I hope it serves as a reminder that the small, frequent habits pieced together truly matter.

In creating a culture of excellence, Horst applied the approach of repeat and reinforce. Upon commencement with the hotel, the company vision, to be the global leader in the services industry, was always immediately known to staff . On-boarding consisted of day long trainings that unpacked company and personal purposes, and introduced the twenty company standards that supported the greater vision. These standards formed the basis of service expectations each and every day, each  related to delivering exceptional customer experience.

Horst and his team created clarity around the company values and culture, and ensured customer obsession stuck with behaviour habits that could be applied and repeated day in and day out.  At the top of each shift, the staff would be reminded of the standard in focus for the day (e.g “always walk a guest to where they want to go, instead of pointing for directions”). To reinforce the importance and value of staff efforts, guest feedback would be shared out loud, and staff would be commended for exceptional service. Horst knew that in order for habits to stick, they needed to be regularly practised and reinforced, so that everyone understood how much their behaviour mattered.

Horst successfully applied the principles of positive reinforcement at a company wide level. Let’s break down the steps.

  • Clarify the vision of the organisation, and each team and individual’s role within it. This will help ensure that everyone is working toward a common overarching purpose and create with it a sense of meaningful belonging.
  • Define set behaviours with your team that demonstrate action around your purpose.  Check in with your team on a regular basis. What works well for them? What obstacles do they notice getting in their way of actioning these behaviours?
  • Create examples of what successful application of these behaviours looks like. Who benefits, and why? How do things change? Share feedback, and practical examples of how the desired behaviour or habit matters, and offer tips to employees on how they can action the behaviours in new ways.
  • Celebrate your team wins publicly, and often. Survey the staff and get them involved in the celebrations, to ensure you match the fun to the culture. A team of conservative, quiet workers won’t necessarily appreciate your enthusiastic and spontaneous dance rave in the staff kitchen, but a simple morning tea with their favourite snacks or an achievement announcement is likely to go a long way.

Your turn.  Time to rinse and repeat, and share your wins out loud. We’d love to hear how you help to make human-centred habits stick in your workplace!