Thu, Jul 02, 2015 - Page 8 News List

Firms must reconsider job culture

By Chris Hubbard

I have been working professionally in Taiwan for years now and have observed something similar in almost every workplace I have been a part of.

Young Taiwanese wish things at work were different. They wish their workplaces were more fun, creative and collaborative. They would like for the work that they do and the ideas that they have to be valued. They are looking for a change in workplace culture, but few seem willing to do anything about it.

At the same time, many Taiwanese brand owners wish things were different, too. They wish the world saw their brands as more international, innovative and relevant. They are looking for a change in perception. While many are willing to do something about it, they are just not sure what.

Here is the bottom line: If Taiwanese employees are not able to realize their dream of more creative, collaborative workplaces, where the work they do and opinions they have are valued, then the brands they work for will in turn never gain the international perception they deserve.

Many of my young Taiwanese friends see only two options for finding better workplace cultures: Move abroad or start their own businesses.

Many are doing just that, which is not a bad thing in itself, but it means that larger Taiwanese brands are missing the opportunity to benefit from what these young people have to offer.

For example, imagine a company that makes sporting goods. It has always been known for its ability to make goods quickly, but it wants to be known for more than that. It wants to be visible, seen for making the best sporting goods equipment available. It has even embarked on an expensive marketing campaign to show the world how innovative and inspiring it can be.

Now imagine this same company provides its employees with no access to sports or health-related activities. In fact, it discourages too much movement. Its offices are dark, damp and built around one activity only: hammering away at a computer all day.

Leaders in the company do not talk about sports or health — outside of their own products — and opportunities for employees to share passions and ideas simply do not exist.

Do you imagine, even for a moment, that employees of a company like this actually believe in their brand? How do you think conversations they would have with friends and family about work would sound?

Now think about Nike.

I asked a few Taiwanese brand owners why they feel Nike is such a successful brand. They mentioned things like amazing products, the famous logo, creative marketing campaigns and superstar athletes — all of which are true, of course, but represent only half of the story.

The other half is that Nike has built an internal company culture that aligns impeccably with its brand perception. That means that working at Nike is just as inspiring, innovative and cool as the brand appears.

How does Nike create a culture that aligns so perfectly with brand perception? The answer is surprisingly simple: communication.

In 2013, James Elmer Neiderhauser conducted in-depth research specifically on how Nike’s leadership affected brand image internally and externally.

“Through [chief executive] Phil Knight’s communicative leadership, which is considered visionary, he indirectly communicates freedom to his employees, allowing them the independence to experiment, take calculated risks and continue to strive for innovation. He trusts them and that is displayed through his communication, or rather, his lack of communication at times. Since Nike is an incredibly competitive environment, Knight welcomes the thought that employees should be able to see what they can do in their own divisions. If they create something great or have an idea that could provide more value to the consumer, then useful and meaningful communication can occur at that time,” Neiderhauser said.

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