Fitness Australia, an association based in Sydney, is an organization that has taken the principles we laid out in Humanize and is now showing amazing results in their revenue growth, employee engagement and retention, and other success metrics. I wanted to share what they are doing and how it’s been working through this interview with Robert Barnes, General Manager, Operations at Fitness Australia.
“The new brand deserved intentional work on our culture, so that we would develop an authentic relationship with our industry and mimic that authenticity in our relationship with our employees.”
1. Tell us the circumstances surrounding why you decided to focus on your organizational culture in the first place.
Robert Barnes: The merger of nine Associations into one national organization was too good an opportunity to pass up, not only creating a high performance association but also establish it as a “best in show” employer. The new brand deserved intentional work on our culture, so that we would develop an authentic relationship with our industry and mimic that authenticity in our relationship with our employees. The primary factor was the chance to truly decentralize the ongoing management of the association so it would not rely on the three executive team members (who drove the change management program) to thrive in the future.
RB: I was searching for language that would help us describe “the vibe”. The Humanize trellis displayed potent words and did so in terms of culture, process and behavior domains. This was the critical learning. The Vibe is the synchronicity between organizational culture, the processes the organization employees to create value and achieve objectives, and the behavior of the individuals within the system. Beforehand I had taken a fairly myopic view that, regardless of structure, a focus on behavior would do the trick. It is clear that individual behavior is affected by the processes they are engaged in and the structure of the organization they work in; that behavioral change alone is not enough to shift cultural imperatives.
“”The Vibe” is the synchronicity between organizational culture, the processes the organization employees to create value and achieve objectives, and the behavior of the individuals within the system.”
3. How did you start and what did that first exercise teach you?
RB: Completing the organizational Humanize Assessment was critical to the process, for it created the shared learning opportunity for all employees. The heightened awareness of the results of this assessment underpin every experiment we have undertaken since.
The survey gave a clear indication to all of us where we can improve our processes and performance. But importantly in the context of the behavioral shifts that were needed. We realized, for example, that our business processes would improve if we have better mechanisms to deal with conflict resolution and experimentation.
4. And you then took those conclusions and hired Jamie to help with performance review process… Why did you pick that process?
RB: I chose performance reviews for two reasons. First they are a lot of work and they need to offer greater value to the employee for the amount of time and effort that goes into them. Secondly, it was a timing thing. They were the next big team-related activity we were undertaking since our annual team meeting, and it was at this team meeting that all employees agreed they would like the performance review tool amended to create greater value for them in their development.
5. What other processes did you tackle using Humanize-related ideas?
RB: We have been looking at the way our daily, weekly and monthly team meetings occur and how they are structured with particular reference to using them as learning opportunities, how effective feedback can be offered and received in them and how we can actively promote collaboration as a result.
We also flipped our hiring process for two roles we desperately needed to fill. This was an awesome experience in getting to know the people first and then working out whether or not they can do to the job.
“behavioral change alone is not enough to shift cultural imperatives.”
6. And the results were…
RB: Since our new hires started two of my team approached me already saying they feel like the new hires have been with us a year not two weeks and “they are killing it.” To have the colleagues of the new hires already feel like they are killing it will make for an exceedingly positive environment for them to be welcomed into so they should feel safe to try new things, ask silly questions and all with the best interests of our customers at hand.
We completed another financial year at June 30, 2013 and exceeded all our Budget and Balanced Scorecard targets for the year.
Alignment of people, processes and performance comes quickly within a culture that embraces the same behaviors that have made social networking thrive. As Robert and his team discovered, there is a direct link between organizational performance and individual behavior. Enhancing and encouraging these elements of individual behavior will directly impact growth in organizational performance:
Appetite for experimentation within the whole team
Less fear of failure in the eyes of peers
Team feeling empowered to make decisions
Higher levels of collaboration which created new ideas, products and programs which built value around the brand and ultimately had more people joining the organization