The importance of “how things get done around here”

By Anita Mitchell, General Manager Sustainability – Barangaroo South, Lend Lease and current student of the University of Sydney Business School’s MBA program

Attending lunch with visiting senior executives from global powertool giant Hilti was a fascinating experience for Masters of Management, Masters of Finance and fellow members of my MBA cohort last week.

The round table lunch was hosted by the University of Sydney Business School and is part of a series of boardroom lunches that aim to allow students deeper insights into corporate challenges by speaking with senior executives in an informal setting.

Coming straight out of our Leadership Practice and Development subject, it was interesting to see the focus on corporate culture and how it makes or breaks employee engagement in a real world business context. Clearly, Hilti lives and breathes the importance of culture from the top down as it was first on their list of key competitive advantages, ahead of innovation and their unique business model.

As three times winners of the AON Hewitt Employer of Choice awards, Hilti must be doing something right and the three senior executives present spoke passionately about providing a culture of engagement, where people feel valued, where they are not just doing a job, they are contributing to the success of the organisation and how this leads to pride in brand, and pride in product.

Their reasoning is that harnessing the collective efforts of their employees can only be done through having a positive culture. Interestingly, they discussed their roots of being a family owned business and the sense that this created a people oriented culture. This was equally balanced by being a high performance and driven culture and they believed they had the balance right.

How often do we hear the soft and caring side of business being put at odds with the results oriented more driven side of corporate culture? The secret to success, in their view, was providing a balance of the two, resulting in a safer, faster, more efficient, innovative and supportive environment. For Hilti, a caring culture and hard-nosed business focus can and must work in harmony as you need both to be successful.

On the question of how to ensure that this culture is consistent across countries and a large employee base, they stressed that culture was something that has to be lived and breathed every day, it was a matter of “how things get done around here” rather than words written up on a corporate wall.

They described how this culture permeates their innovative direct supplier approach to business and flows to customer interactions as well as internal interactions. Being close to the customer they argue, allows feedback to be heard and responded to in house rather than relying on third hand information. To Hilti, a complaint is “a moment of truth” offering them the opportunity to turn the often uncomfortable interaction into chance to go the extra mile for a customer in need, leading to greater customer loyalty.

If only all businesses had the same view as Hilti, for them success motivates, and by valuing what people bring to work everyday, they are confident that their 22,000 people are singing from the same hymn sheet, to that I say halleluiah.

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