Organizational Culture Must Be Lived Every Day

Many organizations think they have a strong culture. They may have a mission, vision and values. They may even have some posters on the walls to remind employees about those mission, vision and values. But unless your culture is lived by your leaders and your employees—it’s nothing more than a bunch of nice words.

Diana Oreck, Former Vice President of The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center, emphasizes that “Your culture must be enlivened every day. It’s not enough to talk about your organizational culture when your P&L has gone south.” You must find a way for your culture to go from employees’ heads to their hearts. When they internalize the culture they then “live” the culture consistently. You know you have a timeless culture when the company President moves on, but the culture lives on.

To check the vital signs of your organizational culture, consider these 10 questions:

1) Is your culture visible?

At The Ritz-Carlton, every employee has a Credo card (includes the Credo, the Motto, Employee Promise, Three Steps of Service and the Service Values), and a Pyramid (includes the foundation, Key Success Factors, Mission and Vision of The Ritz-Carlton). In addition, posters of the Motto, Credo and Employee Promise can be found at every Ritz-Carlton hotel.

2) When are new employees introduced to your culture?

New employees at The Ritz-Carlton learn about the mission, vision and values throughout orientation. They are given Credo cards on the first day and are asked to memorize the Credo. On the third day of orientation, new employees are asked to recite the Credo in front of the group.

3) Do your employees talk about “we” or “us” vs. “them”?

Do your employees feel like management and the front line are working together to fulfill your mission? Or do your employees feel a disconnect? Two Service Values at The Ritz-Carlton that foster a collaborative atmosphere are: “I am involved in the planning of the work that affects me” and “I create a work environment of teamwork and lateral service so that the needs of our guests and each other are met.”

4) Do employees understand their role in upholding your culture?

The Service Values at The Ritz-Carlton establish accountability because they all start with “I.” The Service Values carefully and concisely spell out each person’s role in enlivening and living the culture of The Ritz-Carlton.

5) Are your employees engaged?

The Ritz-Carlton not only measures employee engagement, but also conducts follow-up meetings to ensure that any shortcomings are being addressed. When employees see that their feedback results in improvements, they feel valued. This makes employees more vested in your organization and more committed to upholding your culture.

6) Is leadership walking its talk?

One of the primary ways that The Ritz-Carlton enlivens its culture is through a morning meeting called Daily Line-up. This meeting happens at every Ritz-Carlton around the world, and leaders—including Hervé Humler, the President and Chief Operations Officer (COO) at The Ritz-Carlton—participate in this daily meeting.

7) Do employees know the difference between their function and their purpose?

The Ladies and Gentlemen—the employees of The Ritz-Carlton—understand that their highest mission is the “genuine care and comfort of our guests.” Their job function may be bellman, server or housekeeper, but their purpose is to provide legendary service. Having a common purpose unifies your team and strengthens your culture.

8) Does management create strategic plans without any employee input?

Each year, The Ritz-Carlton creates a SWOT (Strengths, Opportunities, Weaknesses and Threats) that feeds into the strategic plans. The Ladies and Gentlemen all participate in this SWOT process. This collaboration reinforces that we are all responsible for the maintenance and development of The Ritz-Carlton.

9) When creating long-term plans, does your organizational culture impact decisions?

When The Ritz-Carlton develops long-term plans, the Key Success Factors—the five goals that we focus on to support our culture and brand—guide the decision-making process. The Ladies and Gentlemen are encouraged to weigh every decision against the Key Success Factors to ensure that the organization remains true to its mission.

10) When you open a new branch or new location, how is your culture being shared at the new facility?

When The Ritz-Carlton opens a new hotel, Hervé Humler, the President and COO at The Ritz-Carlton, or Bob Kharazmi, Global Officer, Worldwide Operations at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C.— fly to the new hotel and introduce the culture to the new employees. They believe that the best way to maintain a strong culture is to have the founders share the inspiration and impetus behind the culture.

The Ladies and Gentlemen at The Ritz-Carlton live the Service Values. A phrase that is commonly used is: “That’s not Ritz-Carlton.” This is not used to police colleagues. Rather it’s used to invoke a common goal of upholding a culture that is maintained, preserved and enlivened by every employee. When you have a well-articulated culture that is enlivened, you will find more clarity and unity within your organization, and you will set yourself up for greater success. 

The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center offers advisory services, courses and presentations to organizations that wish to benchmark the award-winning business practices of The Ritz-Carlton. Your organization can learn about The Ritz-Carlton methodology for customer service, employee engagement and leadership development. We also guide organizations through a multi-step process in order to achieve sustainable culture transformation.