Only Rock Stars Need Apply

Change culture one hire at a time, ex-Hard Rock International trainer says.

September 24, 2015

How do you transform organizational culture? One rock-star hire at a time, says training and development expert Jim Knight.

In that sense, adjusting a culture is more evolution than revolution, says the former Hard Rock International staff training and development chief, who will address CUNA Tech/OpSS Council Conference attendees in a Wednesday morning keynote speech.

“My core definition of a company’s culture is that it is simply a collection of individual behaviors,” Knight recently told Retailer Now magazine. “As one person joins the company, the culture changes. As one person leaves the brand, the culture again changes. The culture is in constant flux, as people come and go.

“Therefore, you want to make sure that you hire and retain the absolute best brand ambassadors you can find—people who deserve to be in the band—versus the ones that are simply going through the motions. Surrounding yourself with people who are committed to an inspiring collective mission is one of the greatest ways to positively affect company culture.”

That said, organizations must have the foresight to commit their cultural ideals to paper and adhere to that game plan, advises Knight, author of "Culture That Rocks: How to Revolutionize Your Company's Culture.”

“One of the best ways to get everyone singing off the same sheet of music is to have the culture written down for all to see, adopt and exemplify,” Knight says. “If the brand’s story, mission, vision, values, service experience, and the like are clearly communicated and modeled, then it positions everyone to understand, live, teach, protect and perpetuate the culture.”

In determining that culture, credit unions should seek differentiation from their competitors, becoming not just a preferred destination for consumers but also an employer of choice.

“Consumers only want to do business with companies that make them feel good. They want memorable experiences, which are going to be comprised of great service, quality products, fun atmosphere and a fair price per value,” Knight says. “Employees only want to stick around with organizations that they trust, admire and respect.

“Brands that can consistently deliver on these fundamental platforms create a strong culture, which in turn attracts more people—internally and externally,” Knight continues. “And you definitely know it when you see it in the totality of a company’s business outcomes and eventual lifespan.”

Knight came up through the ranks of the hospitality industry, starting as a restaurant-level staffer for Olive Garden and Hard Rock Café. He climbed the ladder and became head of the School of Hard Rocks, running point on all training and development functions for Hard Rock International.

During his 21 years with Hard Rock, he handled many facets of organizational training, including creating and managing all staff and management training materials and programs, facilitating its corporate university, overseeing management training locations, and directing company e-learning initiatives.

A strong proponent of the value of processes, Knight nevertheless gravitates back toward people as the key determinant of organizational success.

“Hiring is certainly an art form, but it’s one of the greatest skill sets a true culture catalyst can develop,” Knight says. “Surround yourself with an army of giants—people who are so committed to the brand that it becomes a lifestyle for them versus a job—and you virtually ensure the continuation of the company’s culture.”