Jim Knight, author of “Culture that Rocks!”

Creating a culture that rocks

8 ways to transform your corporate culture.

April 25, 2022

A little girl wearing a princess dress approaches a counter to buy an ice cream cone. When she nears the counter, the man working the register bows and announces her arrival. The rest of the staff stop what they’re doing, bow, and greet the princess. 

The employee wasn’t trained to deliver that memorable moment for the little girl. His behavior created the memory. 

“The ultimate customer outcome has to rock, and it all starts on the inside,” says Jim Knight, former Hard Rock International executive and author of “Culture That Rocks!” 

Knight addressed the 2022 CUNA HR & Organizational Development Council Conference Sunday in Orlando. He offers eight ways to transform an organization’s culture: 

1. Celebrate heritage but focus on today. Culture isn’t about your history or the past. It’s about the present and the unique learned behaviors each employee brings to the team, Knight says. As some employees leave and others join the team, the culture changes.  

“You can change stuff, but it’s all about the people,” he says. 

2. Be like U2 and have everyone sing off the same sheet of music. Every employee has a role to play in the organization, Knight says, and it’s critical to work toward the same goal. Create a shared mindset with communication that provides direction. This will produce aligned actions and result in organizational productivity. 

3. Deliver personalized experiences. People crave differentiation. Deliver personalized experiences through personalization, customization, and individualized attention. This allows employees to create an emotional attachment with consumers.

“People want to be different,” Knight says. “Personalize, customize, and individualize the experience and you can’t go wrong.” 

4. Obsess authentically about members to create life-long raving fans. When creating personalized experiences, make sure the actions are unapologetically authentic. This will create memories and experiences for consumers and increase their likelihood of returning. Behaviors can’t be canned or fake. 

5. Look for moments to surprise and delight. A strong culture blows people away, Knight says. Competitors can copy your products and atmosphere but not your service. Service makes an organization different and creates value. 

6. Realize the true path to cultural nirvana is through “3C” team members. Your brand is only as good as the people who work there, Knight says. Look for team members who have solid competence, strong character, and are a cultural fit. 

7. Amp up the band with rock stars who own the show. Your credit union may have new products and services to offer members, but it’s not the new things that initially drew members to the credit union, Knight says. Consider fans of the Rolling Stones. They’ll pay money to see the band perform today, but they want to hear the classics, not the band’s new releases. 

8. Bring the inspirational flame thrower every day and light it up. There are moments when it’s appropriate to reflect on your heritage. But Knight advises looking ahead and focusing on the good things that are currently happening.

“There’s a difference between thought and action,” he says. “Don’t just think about it.”