Building a “How vs. Why” Organizational Culture

Are you focusing on the function of your work or the true purpose?


Diana Oreck, Vice President of the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center, uniquely understands the way in which a “why-oriented” culture drives employee engagement –- which in turn builds long-term customer relationships. She also discusses the difference between a satisfied customer and an engaged one.

Watch and listen as Diana explains the correlation between an organization’s clarity around its why and its success with customer satisfaction, as she shares real stories from the Ritz Carlton’s own highly-valued organizational culture.

If you’ve ever pondered why employee engagement is important and decided it’s because they’ll be easier for managers to deal with, you’re not thinking hard enough.

The payoff you and your company get when you’re properly motivating employees is much bigger than that. Here’s how Diana Oreck, Vice President of the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center, explains it.

“A leadership point that I think is critical for any company is we're spending way too much time talking about the ‘how’ of work, the checklist. We need to talk about the ‘why’ of work,” says Oreck.

‘Let me give you an example. The backbone of the hotel business is the housekeepers. Depending on what brand you're in, on average they're cleaning 14-16 bedrooms and bathrooms in a day. Contrary to popular belief in the hotel business, we don't spend most of our time guzzling champagne and eating bonbons with the stars. It's very backbreaking work. Without housekeepers we have to shut the hotel company down. They're critical to the operation.”

First, Oreck noted, motivating employees isn’t a simple matter of telling them how to do their job; they already know that. “We don't motivate them by saying ‘Oh Susie, you've gotta put your hand in the toilet 16 times today,’ explains Oreck.

“That's their function. We are concentrating on their purpose. Service is all about making personal connections.”

Once you’re properly motivating employees by focusing on the “why” of their job, you get the big payoff from genuine employee engagement. Oreck has one of the best employee engagement examples we’ve hard in a long time:

“Little Samantha is 5 and she is at our gorgeous Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, in Florida, visiting with her parents on holiday. She has been swimming around in the pool on the ocean for four days. She has made great friends with Michael, the lifeguard. So on day four, Samantha swims up to Michael and says, ‘You know Michael, I am really worried.’ Luckily Michael played along, but he’s thinking, ‘What could she be worried about? Five years old in this gorgeous resort, swimming in the sunshine.’

“But he played along and he said, ‘Samantha, why are you so worried?’ She said, ‘Well listen, last night I lost my tooth. And the problem is I’m here. I’m not at home. How is the Tooth Fairy going to find me to give me my money?’

“He was thinking. He had his radar on, antenna up. And he said, ‘Don't worry about it, Samantha. The Tooth Fairy has a GPS, and it's going to find you.’ With that he gets one of our ladies, a colleague, who dresses up as the Tooth Fairy and stands in the lobby because they know that the parents are taking Samantha to lunch. After lunch Samantha sees the Tooth Fairy, runs over to her, grabs her knees and also grabs her basket full of money and Ritz-Carlton swag.

“Do you think we've created a customer for life? You better believe it.”

And there’s the ultimate payoff from excellent employee engagement: Customer satisfaction!

Oreck concludes, “If you have a satisfied customer you've only met the expectation. If you have an engaged one, they are going to give you fantastic word-of-mouth. And there is only one step between a satisfied and an engaged guest, and that's the heart.”

Diana Oreck

Ms. Diana Oreck is a Certified Hospitality Trainer (CHT) and an international advisor in corporate culture, branding, leadership, employee engagement and legendary service. She has over 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry ...

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