The view from the top, and bottom
Bosses think their firms are caring. Their minions disagree.
Sep 24th 2011 | NEW YORK | from the print edition
AS WALMART grew into the world’s largest retailer, its staff were subjected to a long list of dos and don’ts covering every aspect of their work. Now the firm has decided that its rules-based culture is too inflexible to cope with the challenges of globalisation and technological change, and is trying to instil a “values-based” culture, in which employees can be trusted to do the right thing because they know what the firm stands for.
“Values” is the latest hot topic in management thinking. PepsiCo has started preaching a creed of “performance with purpose”. Chevron, an oil firm, brands itself as a purveyor of “human energy”, though presumably it does not really want you to travel by rickshaw. Nearly every big firm claims to be building a more caring and ethical culture.
A new study suggests there is less to this than it says on the label. Commissioned by Dov Seidman, boss of LRN, a firm that advises on corporate culture, and author of “How”, a book arguing that the way firms do business matters as much as what they do, and conducted by the Boston Research Group, the “National Governance, Culture and Leadership Assessment” is based on a survey of thousands of American employees, from every rung of the corporate ladder.