Comparison between Cultures

The Taj Hotel case is an interesting and amazing case to me. This is because despite of the knowledge of the hospitality and tourism industry cultivating their employees to go-the-extra-mile for the customers, I had never thought and expect that the employees of an organization will be willing to go all out for its customers even at the expense of their lives. As the case and theory have suggested, Taj’s culture was formed though the hiring criteria, top managers’ actions to set out the general climate, training employees’ with the organization’s values and providing incentive systems that supported the values to show appreciation. With these knowledge, it leads me to think about the important of an organization’s culture.

The thought of this leads me to the Enron case as it is in contrast with a strong, good, ethical and successful culture of the Taj, and instead is a strong, bad, unethical and unsuccessful culture that may had leads to the fall of Enron. When looking at Enron, I looked into the similar aspects of hiring, general climate of acceptable behaviors and rewards systems. Firstly, Enron typically hires employees based on merely the academic credentials, innovative ideas and raw ambition. In comparison with the Taj which looks for integrity in their supervisors and junior managers, Enron focus was more towards ability rather than character and virtues of the employees. Secondly, according to Sherron Watkins, Enron’s have an unspoken message that drives what is deemed to be acceptable behaviors in the organization. This message was to ‘Make the numbers, make the numbers, make the numbers—if you steal, if you cheat, just don’t get caught. If you do, beg for a second chance, and you’ll get one.’ This eventually promotes little integrity and instead promotes the value of profitmaking. Finally, Enron also have a performance review policy of “rank and yank”. Employees in Enron was rated 1 to 5, where 1 is the best and 5 is the worst, depending on how much money they had made. Additionally, Jeffrey Skilling mandated that 10 to 15 percent of the employees had to be rated 5 and get fired. Thus, this rewarding system had implies that profitmaking is valued by the organization. Ultimately, all of these contributed to the organization’s culture of risk-taking, entrepreneurial work culture which has led to the fall of Enron.

The contrasting culture between the Taj and Enron has enable me to understand that organizational culture is important for organization’s success and can be cultivated through selection of employees to the organization, development of values of acceptable behavior, training and rewarding systems, which is in line with the theory that I had learnt from this class. This means that the human resource department (HR) hold a very important responsibility to ensure that selection, training and reward systems are in line with what the organization values and to ensure that what the organization values are ethical. HR and other managers will also need to be observant so as to be able to detect any possible unethical behaviors or misbehaviors that may occur given the implementation of certain systems which have influence on the organization’s culture. Last but not least, the comparison between the two cases had allowed me to realize that strong culture may not always be a good thing as an organization may have unethical yet strong organization’s culture which can leads to employees within the organization sharing similar bad values and conforming to it without realizing it. Overall, these has provided me with insights and alertness to detect possible systems that may have bad influences on the organization’s culture.

Moreover, I have an additional thought about organizational culture. As organizational culture can be influenced by hiring of employees, this leads me to think about the Attraction-Selection-Attrition (ASA) model I had learnt from another module. As the ASA model suggested, people tends to be attracted by people who are similar to them. For the organization’s case, people may be keener to work in an organization’s culture that they find suitable for them, while the interviewers may tend to hire candidates who are more like them. Therefore, this leads me to the question of what an organization which is changing its culture do. Should they fire their current employees who might not fit the new culture? Or train them to adapt to the new culture? And if they are not fired, will they continue with the existing culture and influences the new hires through socialization? For me, I would think that there is possibility that the change in reward systems and general climate of acceptable behaviors may cause employees to adapt to the new culture. But are there anything besides these that can help employees change their values to adapt to a new culture?

References:

  1. http://www.bizjournals.com/houston/stories/2006/04/10/focus2.html?page=all
  2. https://books.google.com.sg/books?id=kSNkvFv1OYAC&pg=PA30&lpg=PA30&dq=sherron+watkins+enron+make+the+number&source=bl&ots=bSnwk2onVu&sig=ekV2qzrWt6E3mMGC6KonHz5fkMY&hl=en&sa=X&ei=PpMbVabHIpWkuQTXuoCwCw&ved=0CE0Q6AEwCA#v=onepage&q=sherron%20watkins%20enron%20make%20the%20number&f=false
  3. http://boingboing.net/2005/04/25/documentary-enron-th.html

Motivation, Life Cycle & the Appropriate Mix of Extrinsic & Intrinsic Rewards

Motivation is the desire that constantly drives a person to work hard towards his/her goal and what actually motivates people to wake up every morning to go to work really arouse my interest. This interest grew much more when intrinsic and extrinsic rewards was introduced to me, and when I personally experience changes in what motivates me to go to study or work. Thus, I would like to share my perspectives and thoughts on this topic.

Motivators throughout my life

When I was young, my family and relatives told me to study hard so that I could get into a better job to earn huge amount of money to lead a better life. So I aimed to work in the banking industry as it have always been said to provide the highest salaries, and thus I studied banking and finance as I was motivated by the extrinsic rewards that I will be able to get in the future. During the period of studies, I realize that I do not really like that industry and does not have any passion in it. As such, I became less motivated to study more about it and changed my specialization to what I have passion in, so I changed to go towards what intrinsically motivates me. Additionally, my life journey leads me to think more thoroughly about what I want from my job such as money to support my family, work-life balance, meaning, empowerment and career advancement. By reflecting the motivators throughout my life and combining with what I have learnt in class, I agree with Ariely that motivation should be the combination of extrinsic and intrinsic rewards. Yet, the question here is which motivator is more important in today’s world and what is the appropriate combination, which I seek to address below.

The More Important Motivators: Intrinsic or Extrinsic?

As Daniel Pink, Ariely and Kanter have suggested, intrinsic rewards are more important today in the 21st century and I agree with it. According to McKinsey (2009) survey, over 60% of the employees stated that nonfinancial incentives like praise from immediate manager, attention from leaders and opportunities to lead are more effective in motivating them to work harder compared to financial incentives such as cash bonuses, increase in base pay and stock or stock options 60% or less effectiveness.

Mckinsey 2009

Furthermore, I had also found similar results from the employee engagement survey done from my previous internship. The top categories that employees stated as things that can drive them to work harder in sequence are Career Advancement, Empowerment and Immediate Supervision. Having said that, it does not mean that extrinsic rewards are not important. By referring to the Malow’s hierarchy of needs, it is important that people have enough money to ensure their basic needs are met before they pursue for more. In the 21st century, the phenomenon is that people are getting more affluent drives person to seek more intrinsic rather than extrinsic rewards. This may be why intrinsic rewards is a more important motivator nowadays, but does everyone values intrinsic rewards more than extrinsic rewards?

The Combination of Extrinsic & Intrinsic Rewards

In my opinion, everyone at a different stage of life have different things that are important to them just like what I had illustrated through my reflection of my own life journey. During our class discussion, there are also differences in what each of us values. Thus, I would like to bring in the concept that Warr suggested, that perhaps what motivates us depends on our stage of life cycle. For instance, an employee who have just married might requires more money to support the family and in this case extrinsic motivators may be more attractive to him/her. Therefore, it is important for organization to find out the life cycle stage of the employee to tailor the appropriate balance of extrinsic and intrinsic rewards for him/her. So how do we know what is the appropriate balance of rewards? One suggestion I have in mind is that HR should always be clear about each of the employee’s stage of life cycle and communicate to the immediate supervisor, while immediate supervisor should be like their friends to understand through daily communications to find out their needs at that life stage so as to tailor rewards specifically for them.

In conclusion, through my reflection, I think that both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards matter even though intrinsic rewards may be perceived as more important these days. The determination of which is more valued depends on individuals, and this may be due to their life cycle stage in which they are currently at. Thus, it requires much organizational efforts to find out the best rewards combination to be customized for each employees.

So what other suggestions do you have for determining the appropriate mix of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards?

References

Dewhurst, M., Guthridge, M., & Mohr, E. (2009, November). Motivating People: Getting Beyond Money. Retrieved from Mckinsey & Company: http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/organization/motivating_people_getting_beyond_money

Kanfer, R., & Ackerman, P. (2004). Aging, Adult Development, and Work Motivation. Academy of Management Review, 440-458.

Palmer, A. (2012, August 30). Study: Money Not a Top Motivator: Incentive Magazine. Retrieved from Incentive Magazine: http://www.incentivemag.com/Strategy/Engagement/Study–Money-Not-a-Top-Motivator/